DENHAM SPRINGS — Girl Scout Troop Leader Lauren Altazin goes the extra mile for Scouts in Troop 10380 Juniors.
When Chloe Ashford, who is blind, needed to be able to read her handbook, Altazin set out on a mission to get her a copy of the book in Braille.
“It all started with trying to find out what Girl Scout publications were available in Braille,” Altazin recalled.
Altazin, of Central, initially contacted the Girl Scouts of the USA, but was told that books available in Braille would be phased out soon, she said.
Altazin was also told that other materials that Chloe would need to use as a Girl Scout were being worked on but that the GSUSA didn’t exactly know when the books would be available.
“Upset, flustered and downright angry, I decided I was going to get this book Brailled for Chloe if it was the last thing I did,” Altazin said. “How dare Girl Scouts say all girls are welcome, but they don’t have these new books available for all girls. I was on a mission.”
After sending several emails and calling all types of organizations, Altazin contacted the local membership executive, who got several women working on the project, she said. The group made phone calls trying to find a way to get the book in Braille, Altazin said.
“I emailed our Library of Congress,” Altazin recalled. “No help. I emailed the National Braille Foundation, no reply. I finally found an organization called the Braille Group of Buffalo. A women from the organization said she would be willing to Braille the book, but it was going to cost $100.”
Not willing to accept the book at more than the $7 it costs other Girl Scouts to purchase, Altazin approached membership executive Erica Ezell for help.
“She was excited that we had found someone, but the cost was still our hang-up and would we be able to get a copy for our council if another girl needed this book,” Altazin asked. As Altazin and other Girl Scout leaders decided what to do next, Altazin received a response from the State Library, which suggested she contact the Louisiana School for the Visually Impaired.
“I almost didn’t,” Altazin recalled. “But decided that one more email wouldn’t hurt.”
“I’m glad I sent that email,” she said. “The director of the LIMC contacted me and said that if I could type the book up in Microsoft Word, that she would be able to Braille the book for me and she would hand-Braille the parts that were not able to be put into Word.”
All of this, Altazin said, would be done at no charge.
“I was so excited,” Altazin recalled. “I couldn’t wait to tell Erica and Margaret (our co-leader), and most of all Heather (Chloe’s aunt), so she could pass the message onto Chloe.”
Altazin said that director Robin King will also provide other Braille materials at no cost to Chloe.
While Chloe and her aunt are excited about the new materials and her daughter’s ability to receive the needed supplies to become a Scout, Altazin said the lesson is one of hard work and determination.
This story helps the girls “understand how hard work can pay off, and that if there is something that they believe in, go for it,” she said.
“We will be doing several community service projects this year as Junior Girl Scouts, and I want girls to see how people worked together to complete a project — a project that is fast turning into something bigger and may one day serve other Girl Scouts who need these books in Braille,” Altazin said.
For more information about the Girl Scouts in eastern Louisiana, log on to http://www.gsle.org.