When people look back years from now on the current renovation of the Princeton Civic Center at 503 N. Ninth St., they will find that one of Princeton’s young women earned her Girl Scout Gold Award through the project.
Samantha Janssen, 18, of Princeton, Girl Scout Troop 578, graduated in June from Princeton High School. It was during much of that year that she spent more than 80 hours compiling and writing up the history of the civic center that goes back to 1954 when it was opened new as an outdoor sportsmen’s club meeting place. Completing the community service project was her final work to earn her Girl Scout Gold Award, the highest achievement in Girl Scouting. It recognizes girls who demonstrate extraordinary leadership through “remarkable take-action projects that have sustainable impact in their communities and beyond,” according to the Girls Scouts organization.
Local pastor Bob Hasinfelt, who was Janssen’s adviser for her Gold Award project, pinned the Gold Award pin onto Janssen’s Girl Scout uniform on the civic center property on Aug. 16.
Hasinfelt has worked with local Girls Scouts for many years, including chairing Girl Scout cookie sales. Hasinfelt recalls having assisted Janssen with Girl Scout work as early as first grade.
The civic center is still under renovation. Some years ago it was turned over to the city and it served for some years as a senior dining center. It has been the site of city government meetings, and for more than a few years was where the Civic Betterment Club conducted Santaville. The city has also rented it out for private events and even garage sales.
But the building slowly deteriorated to where the City Council decided that it would either have to renovate or demolish it. It decided on renovation and closed it for rentals until further notice as the work goes on. The renovation, which began a few years ago, has relied on some city funds, but more so on donations and/or discounts on labor and materials to renovate it inside and out.
Early on it was decided to transform the low, flat ceiling in the center’s main part into a vaulted ceiling. The city is hoping that the center will be completed this fall so that Woodcock Herbst American Legion Post 216 can begin using it as their meeting place. The Legion post donated $100,000 toward the renovation.
Janssen decided that her part in the renovation could be to write the history of the center and also put together a time capsule of area Girl Scout history to place inside the building. Janssen said that when she saw the civic center’s field stone fireplace, she “fell in love with it.” She noticed that it has two metal vents, one on each side on the face of it. It was determined the vent on the left side could hold her written history of the civic center. The right vent, she decided, could hold a time capsule of the history of Princeton Girl Scouts and be locked until opening in 50 years on May 24, 2064. Besides containing the swaps and written Girl Scout memories, it will contain items Janssen collected when she was a Minnesota delegate at the Girl Scout National Convention in Houston, Texas, in 2012.
The fireplace, which once burned wood, is to have a gas insert so the vents won’t be needed for their original purpose. On May 24 the time capsule was placed into the right vent. The written history was to be placed in the left vent this month.
Janssen arranged for donations to alter the vents, getting Brand Manufacturing to do the metal work, and Distinctive Door Design to make the wood doors over the old vents. Tim Patten with Distinctive Door Design designed the doors. Kim Valshing who has a painting business, did the finish work for the doors.
Janssen said in her speech that the Gold Star ceremony was not just a milestone for her, but a time to celebrate Girl Scouts in Princeton because of her becoming the first Gold Award recipient in 20 years here.
“This project has taught me a lot over the last two years,” she said, explaining that she learned about organizing, time management and communication. She worked with the civic center renovation committee in the project, deciding she not only wanted to compile the center’s history but devise a way to share it with the area.
Her ferreting out the information for her compilation included spending many hours at the Princeton Union-Eagle and at the Mille Lacs County Historical Society depot center in Princeton looking at archived stories.
Janssen also interviewed some people in town who knew something about the civic center’s history.
Janssen participated in the renovation of the civic center in another way, working with family members, friends and Hasinfelt. Work included removing the old cabinets in the civic center kitchen, stripping the wall paneling of nails, scraping old paint off the outside of the center and planting flowers alongside the building.
As part of tying the Girl Scouts into the civic center project, she arranged a game night for Girl Scouts, asking them to bring Girl Scout swaps for placing in the time capsule. She also set up a table at the annual Girl Scout Court of Awards to place the swaps and share their memories in writing.
(Girl Scout swaps have traditionally been known as keepsakes, but now “swaps” are Special Whatchamacallits Affectionately Pinned Somewhere.)
Janssen said she also learned to ask for help and thanked the many who helped her. They include Hasinfelt, workers in the Union-Eagle office and depot museum, various Girl Scouts, friends and family members – her parents Werner and DeNice Janssen, and sisters Miranda, 16, and TaLeah, 14.