GRAY — Two local Girl Scouts have earned a scouting award and praise for their work on a project to create veterans-only parking spaces at several public buildings in Gray and New Gloucester.
Abby Ladd and Charlena LaVallee, both 13 and eighth-graders at Gray-New Gloucester Middle School, got the OK from officials in both towns to put several signs up reserving town parking spaces for military veterans or their families.
The spaces are located at each town office, fire stations, the New Gloucester Veterans Monument, Gray Public Library and Wilkies Beach in Gray, the girls said.
Lavallee said the idea for the signs came after seeing two veterans have to park and walk from some distance to the town office and library.
“They did a lot of stuff for our country, and so people who are fine and are willing to walk shouldn’t be parking so close,” Lavallee said.
Both girls have family members who are veterans, and Ladd said her cousin recently returned home after being stationed in the Midwest.
“My cousin said that he was overjoyed by me doing this,” Ladd said.
Since the signs have been installed, Lavallee has seen multiple veterans use the spaces.
“It makes me proud,” she said.
The scouts said they raised about $100 for each sign and pole, did some of the installation work themselves, and had help from the Gray and New Gloucester public works departments. Lavallee’s grandfather, Steve Lavallee, is Gray’s director of public works.
The veterans spaces are not official in the way that a handicap space is, and will be used on the honor system, the girls said.
They designed the signs, which include the Girl Scout logo. Because of the project, Ladd and Lavallee were two of 19 Girl Scouts across the state recently honored at a Silver Award ceremony earlier this year. The awards is earned by showing leadership and citizenship skills.
“By earning this award, these young women reflect leadership in all its forms,” Girl Scouts of Maine CEO Joanne Crepeau said in a press release at the time. “They saw a need in their communities and took action. Their extraordinary commitment is making the world a better place.”
Jason Hall, the commander of American Legion Hall Post 86 in Gray, applauded the parking sign effort.
“It is a great honor that people are recognizing the veterans who volunteered to serve their country, I think you may see that many veterans will let others park in those spots,” Hall said, noting that able-bodied veterans “gladly leave that spot for someone not so fortunate” who might be unable to walk from farther parking spaces.
“The talks I have heard in our meetings have been on what a wonderful symbolic gesture it is,” Hall continued. “Some of my brothers and sisters at Post 86 were honored that the Scouts, school and town thought highly of them. We are fortunate to live in a community that supports the veterans and The American Legion.”
Matt Junker can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @MattJunker.
Abby Ladd, left, and Charlena LaVallee earned their Girl Scouts Silver Award for installing veterans-only parking spaces at several public buildings in Gray and New Gloucester.