Mia Dawbin talks Wednesday about achieving Eagle Scout rank as one of the first female members of the Boy Scouts in Hallowell. The West Gardiner resident provided aid packages to residents of homeless shelters during the COVID-19 pandemic. Andy Molloy/Kennebec Journal Buy this Photo

HALLOWELL — Mia Dawbin has always followed her own path in life, and now that path has brought her to a place where no other Maine girl has ventured.

Earlier this year, Dawbin, who lives in West Gardiner, became one of nearly 1,000 girls nationwide who became Eagle Scouts, the highest rank in the Boy Scouts of America. The organization celebrated the inaugural class with an online event earlier this month, just two years after the program was opened up to girls. She is the first girl in Maine to do so.

“We are very proud of her,” Danielle Hileman, Dawbin’s troop leader, said via email. “She is a trailblazer, role model and mentor to girls in Troop 1776.  She has shown daily what it means to live the Scout Law and oath in her daily life and community involvement.”

Mia Dawbin talks Wednesday about reaching the rank of Eagle Scout as one of the first female members of the Boy Scouts in Hallowell. Her father, Butch Dawbin, at right, is also an Eagle Scout. Andy Molloy/Kennebec Journal Buy this Photo

On a warm day near the end of February, Mia Dawbin and her father Butch Dawbin — an Eagle Scout himself and active in the Pine Tree Council — took a break at Granite City Park to talk about Scouting and Mia’s singular accomplishment.

When Mia and her older sister were young, Butch Dawbin wanted to get them involved in Scouting, and by the time their younger brother was old enough, the girls were bringing him along to Cub Scouts.

At that time, girls were allowed to take part in Scouting activities, but they were not allowed to earn badges or receive recognition for their efforts.

In 2018, the Boy Scouts of America announced the organization would start welcoming girls from first through fifth grades to the Cub Scouts that year, and girls from the sixth grade and up to join the Boy Scouts, and work to the rank of Eagle Scout if they wished, starting in 2019.

By the time the Eagle Scout program officially opened to girls, Mia’s older sister was too old for  the program. Scouts have to complete all the requirements, including earning a specific number of badges and finishing their project by the time they turn 18.

“Mia could go through the whole thing and make it. It was great,” Butch Dawbin said. “Having Mia establish herself was awesome. It was a really good thing.”

When she started thinking about what she would do last year, Mia put together care packages for people who are in homeless shelters.

“I realized how bad everything was for the homeless populations,” she said, “and it was in August when I started letting people know what I was doing.”

That was about five months into the global COVID-19 pandemic, which shuttered many businesses, either temporarily or permanently, and put a lot of people out of work. While a ban on evictions had been imposed, it wasn’t clear then that it would be extended.

“I knew (homelessness) was probably going to be more of an issue,” she said.

To flesh out her concept, she worked through the guidelines that the Boy Scouts established, and she started raising money pay for the items she would need for the care packages — cloth masks, soap, hand sanitizer, personal hygiene items like razors and tampons, socks, snacks, notebooks, crayons, and toys and games.

Mia Dawbin’s Eagle Scout uniform displays a Rosie the Riveter patch as the West Gardiner resident talks Wednesday in Hallowell about achieving Boy Scouting’s top rank. Andy Molloy/Kennebec Journal Buy this Photo

Mia also had to put together a plan to raise funds to pay for those materials, so she put on a bake sale and an online art auctions for paintings by her friends. While not a lot of the paintings sold, the effort earned enough donations to get her project underway.

Among the half-dozen shelters Mia donated care packages to was the Mid-Maine Homeless Shelter & Services in Waterville. The emergency shelter serves families and single adults, and provides case management and housing navigation services to keep people in housing.

Tanya Fossett, development and communications director at Mid-Maine Homeless Shelter & Services, said shelters have seen an increased demand for services, between the limited housing options in the region and the ongoing need for essentials.

“Having the bags on hand is good to give to someone who needs assistance but maybe not shelter,” Fossett said.

Matt Klutzaritz, Scout executive and CEO of the Pine Tree Council of the Boy Scouts of America, said other girls are pursuing becoming Eagle Scouts, but Mia is the first to have completed the requirements within the council.

Chuck Major, Klutzaritz’ counterpart in the Katahdin Council in northern Maine, confirmed that no girl in that area has yet reached that rank.

Klutzaritz said while it’s not typical, there are families with multiple generations of Eagle Scouts.

“Any time you make changes to an organizations like ours that has a lot of tradition to it, you have people who agree and disagree,” he said. “We had a lot of agreement from people who had school-age daughters who were in Scouts who said they would love to have their daughters have the same experience.”

Klutzaritz said Scouting is a character education for boys and girls that’s building future leaders. Mia’s project shows that kids can see the needs of their communities and develop leadership skills that they can carry through their lives.

Mia has always been able to find her own path. When other kids headed off to middle school, she enrolled as a seventh-grader in Maine Connections Academy, the Scarborough-based online academy, and graduated last spring. She could take subjects at her own pace.

“I was the kind of student that wasn’t necessarily getting as much enrichment for in-person school as other students,” she said.

When it came to completing her project to reach Eagle Scout, she said it doesn’t matter what anyone else has to stay.

“If you can find a support system of a few adults and a few kids who are willing to help you, then that’s all you really need,” she said.

After taking this year off to work to earn money for college and help out with her father’s recovery following a stroke, she’ll start college at the University of Maine at Machias to study education and psychology. She plans in the short term to be a teacher and eventually maybe be a child psychologist.

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