A group of enterprising girls, a supportive community business, some cupcakes, and a good cause. This was the scene on Westward Drive on Sunday morning, March 30 when Junior Girl Scouts from Troop 594 set up shop outside of Pets Kingdom to raise money for some cats. Or, rather, C.A.T.S.
Caring About the Strays, the popular area animal advocacy group, was the focus of the Scouts’ endeavor, a service project designed to take them closer to their goal of helping a local cause while attaining a benchmark scouting award. The fifth-graders set up tables outside the pet supply store with their wares — baked goods of not just cupcakes, but also an array of cookies, doughnuts, muffins, cakes, and even some home-baked waffle cookies, a cornucopia of confections — in the hopes of raising money for, and public awareness of, the organization and its mission.
“This today is Junior Scouts, all fifth-graders, working on their bronze award,” said Troop Leader Elli Diaz. “It’s an award that recognizes them for a large, independent service project. The bronze award has to be earned as a team.”
“This is the first phase toward getting the bronze award,” added Maria Bishop, this year’s Bronze Program Coordinator for the troop, as well as the Juniors’ Co-Leader. “The next one is at the River Cities Festival, and the last one will be a video they produce. The idea is for them to do about 20 hours for the project. For this one, they did a phone tree, and have been putting posters around.”
The bronze award is the first in a series of recognized Girl Scouts accomplishments.
“It goes bronze for fourth and fifth grade; silver for middle school; and gold for high school students,” explained Diaz. “The gold award is the equivalent of the Boy Scouts’ Eagle Scout award. It is the highest award a Girl Scout can earn.”
The group brainstormed several ideas for a service project they could do, and quickly settled on focusing their attention on C.A.T.S.
“All of us love animals, so we decided to do this,” said Junior Scout Julianna Medina. The group contacted C.A.T.S. founder and director Laney Silver.
“I attended a meeting with the girls and discussed possibilities for different fundraisers. We decided on a bake sale,” added Silver, who is known throughout the community for her dedication and leadership to this cause.
C.A.T.S., with Silver at its helm and a handful of volunteers, takes on the responsibility of feeding over 300 cats in 36 locations in Miami Springs, and one in Hialeah. It is a privately funded nonprofit organization that also has a strong rescue, fostering, and spay and neuter program for both dogs and cats, as well as socializing them for future adoption. It is a full-service organization.
“Any animal we have has been vetted,” said Silver. “Spay or neuter is provided along with our adoption fee as well as vaccinations and, for dogs, a microchip. Adoption fees are $50 for cats or two for $75 — we prefer pairs — and adult dogs range from around $100-$150 depending on the breed, with puppies at $200. There’s a spay/neuter deposit if an animal is too young at the time of adoption, but this is refunded after the procedure.
“We are desperate for foster homes,” continued Silver. “We also can always use food donations. We’re constantly rescuing dogs. We’ll take them off the street and foster them, but we always need food for the puppies. We have donations from Pets Kingdom, a big supporter of C.A.T.S.”
Indeed, when it came time to decide for a location to hold this fundraiser, the Girl Scouts’ first thought was Pets Kingdom.
“It’s absolutely adorable to see this community group come together with a small business and raise money for a better cause,” said Pets Kingdom employee Paula Lozano. “We are always trying to help C.A.T.S. because we believe the animals need to be given a voice and we are happy to be involved.”
Apparently, there’s a lot of potential with those cupcakes. By the time the Girl Scouts wrapped up their project in the early afternoon, they had a final count of over $400 in donations — enough to spay or neuter eight animals, or to feed 300 cats for almost a week — a big success for C.A.T.S., and a step closer to that bronze award.
For more information on how to help C.A.T.S. or to adopt a pet, visit caringaboutthestrays.org. For information about Girl Scout membership, call 305-965-5536.