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LAKE HUNTINGTON, NY — First, Jenna Kratz convinced herself that she could do it, then she convinced the naysayers. Now that her ambitious public works project is almost complete, she admits the latter was the most difficult part of the project.
A senior at Sullivan West High School in Lake Huntington, Kratz, daughter of Frank and Kasey Kratz of Cochecton, decided to cap more than 13 years of scouting with a bid for the Girl Scout’s highest award: the Gold Award. That honor is equivalent to the Boy Scout’s Eagle Scout award (and was formerly called the “eaglet” award). Only 10 U.S. candidates are selected to receive the Gold Award each year. To be considered for it, a senior or ambassador scout must complete a project that demonstrates extraordinary leadership, has a measurable and sustainable impact and addresses a local challenge related to a national and/or global issue. With the encouragement of Troop #736 in Callicoon and its leader Joanne Rosenberger, Ambassador Scout Kratz sought a project that would satisfy those criteria and improve quality of life in her community.
That project was staring Kratz in the face: the Cochecton Men’s Club Field complex. Located beside the river in Cochecton, the complex is one of three baseball fields with playground areas in the Town of Cochecton. Kratz grew up next door to it, playing there during her childhood, so she knew that it badly needed a facelift as well as updated equipment, play stations and seating. Kratz estimated the project’s cost at approximately $4,000, all of which was raised through a capital campaign she organized, the sale of cupcakes she baked herself and the help of project co-sponsors, the Men’s Club of Cochecton (MCC) and the Cochecton Fire Station. Lumber and other equipment was donated by Callicoon Supply. Hofer’s Sawmill donated lumber and mulch.
Placing flyers she designed beside donation cups in local businesses and opening a PayPal account for online donations, Kratz pleaded her case to anyone willing to listen. “A lot of people said it was a lost cause, but many of those same people came through with donations after I’d raised $3,500,” said Kratz. “I guess they just needed to see that I was serious and that others had faith in me.”
The project included demolishing the old bleachers and building new ones, which Kratz did, using manual and power tools, under her father’s guidance. She also updated the park’s most distinctive feature, a wooden truck play station, and built two new pieces of play equipment, an airplane teeter-totter and a climbing dome. In addition, she repainted refuse containers and purchased and installed a new net for the tennis court.
The project will be complete after Kratz puts the new truck play station in place and documents the park’s grand reopening ceremony, planned for mid-December. MCC member Sean Nearing, who served as chair of the project’s advisory board, offered the use of a Cochecton Mills forklift for the truck placement. Asked if a heavy equipment operator will come with it, Kratz said yes, but added that she’s capable of operating it herself, if need be.
Self-starter Kratz conceived the project in August 2018. With her mother’s help, she developed the financial skills necessary to complete it. Now, 100 work hours later, she’s almost there. Whether or not Kratz receives the award (only 5.4% of eligible applicants are successful), she will pursue her dream of teaching physical education and kinesiology, the science of body movement. She will also become a lifelong Girl Scout, promoting the organization and its ideals, donating to its causes and recruiting future generations to its ranks.