It was 2004 and the idea came to Christina Antonini, as so many brilliant ones do, at a Macaroni Grill in Edgewater. The tsunami had just hit Indonesia and Antonini and her fellow Girl Scouts wanted to do something to help.
The troop soon realized the complications of overseas philanthropy, so they thought they’d do something a bit closer to home. The idea born on that day—to build a thrift store for the Chrysalis House in Park Heights, a residential treatment facility for low-income women—just won Antonini the Gloria Barron Prize for Young Heroes.
“We contacted the Chrysalis House and they said they needed a shed,” Antonini says. “But that shed turned into a 1,700-square-foot thrift store, where the women can sell clothes and gain job skills.”
Just 12 years old at the time, Antonini led her troop in designing, fundraising, and building the $275,000 store, which features a resale store on the first level and a job-skills training center on the second.
The troop raised the money by selling imprinted bricks that would eventually be the boutique’s walls. The troop also contacted local companies, like Home Depot, which donated a $500 gift card toward the project.
In addition, Antonini painted a mural on the inside of the boutique, which depicts the image of a caterpillar becoming a butterfly.
“I wanted to tell the story of someone coming from the dark side and then becoming a new person,” she says. “The last picture is a big butterfly flying away.”
The Butterfly Boutique opened in October 2010. The store is a place where people can donate gently used items and the women sell them back to the public. The income from the boutique supports the residents and the recovery program.
At the store’s grand opening—in front of donors, friends, family, and politicians—Antonini gave a speech about why they created the boutique.
“I told a story about one of the ladies in the house who got into drugs and ended up having two kids at age 18,” says Antonini, now 19. “I wanted to do this to help give women like her a second chance.”
This past fall, Antonini, along with 10 other national winners, was awarded the Barron Prize and $2,500 to apply to her education.
“I’ve always loved helping people,” says Antonini, who is now pursuing a nursing degree at Towson University. “I was shocked to win the prize. I felt grateful that someone noticed.”