Building shelters for community cats

Girl Scout Troop 70158 partners with Bordentown City Cats for their Bronze Award

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Photos Courtesy of Girl Scouts of Central and Southern New Jersey
Photos Courtesy of Girl Scouts of Central and Southern New Jersey

Thanks to Girl Scout Troop 70158, cat colonies can escape the cold this winter.

The troop partnered with Bordentown City Cats (BCC) for their Bronze Award project by creating shelters for the community cats.

“Besides providing our colonies with much needed winter shelters where the cats can escape the wintery elements, this project will help us by increasing the community’s awareness of the BCC mission,” said Gretchen Stricker, treasurer for the BCC.

After doing research and chatting with members of BCC, Troop 70158 identified a critical need within the community – the welfare of stray cats. As part of their Bronze Award project, the Girl Scouts dedicated themselves to creating shelters for the Bordentown City Cats. This initiative was more than just a craft; it was creating a lifeline for the feline community during the harsh winter months.

“Shelters are important to assure that feral cats don’t freeze over the winter months,” said fifth-grade student Victoria Chapman, of Hamilton.

Photos Courtesy of Girl Scouts of Central and Southern New Jersey

BCC was formed in 2003 and is dedicated to rescuing, spaying/neutering, fostering and finding loving homes for their feline friends, according to its website. It became a not-for-profit organization in 2014.

Through targeted TNR (trap-neuter-release) they were able to get the feral cat population under control. The organization now serves all of northern Burlington County and still does TNR, but they have added services like caring for cat colonies (feeding, winter shelters) and foster and adoption.

“If we trap kittens or cats that aren’t too feral, we will place them with one of our fosters and work on socializing them, feeding, and medical care, and then we offer them up for adoption, Stricker said, adding, “TNR is still the heart of what we do, and we are prioritizing that for 2024.”

“…This [Girl Scout’s] project will help us in managing and keeping an eye on those colonies. We will be able to track which cats are coming and going, and if there are any new cats that need to be ‘TNRed.’

“We are also really working to improve our visibility with younger people. We’ve also recently started working with The Ballet Studio’s senior dancers in order to create interest for future volunteers. The energy that these younger people bring is electric and catching. By working with these different groups, BCC will ensure that it continues as an organization for at least another 20 years.”

The purpose of Girl Scouts working to achieve a Bronze Award is to inspire and empower them to take action and make a difference in their communities, according to a press release through the Girl Scouts.

This award, the highest honor a Girl Scout Junior (grades four and five) can achieve, focuses on leadership development, community service, and personal growth. By working on the Bronze Award, Girl Scouts learn to identify community needs, collaborate with team members, create a plan, and implement a project that has a positive and lasting impact on their community. Additionally, pursuing the Bronze Award encourages a sense of civic responsibility and a commitment to service.

On Dec. 17, the Girl Scouts worked as a team to build the shelters. The Troop’s project included selecting shelter designs to managing budgets. Every detail was thoughtfully considered. The troop’s recent call for material donations via Facebook illustrated their proactive approach and connection to the community.

Photos Courtesy of Girl Scouts of Central and Southern New Jersey

The Girl Scouts shared diverse motivations and personal connections to their project:

“It shows we are good at helping others,” said Grace Lozito, a fifth-grade student from Bordentown.

“It’s important to me because I want to help the cats who don’t have any home,” said fifth-grade student Mika Vergara, of Hamilton.     

“I love cats. It’s important to help them,” said Ashlynn Smolarek, a fourth-grade student from Hamilton.

“Working on our Bronze Award is important because it helps our community and helps stray cats,” said fifth-grade student Adelyn Fernandez, of Hamilton.

Beyond cat shelters, the Troop’s project was about empowering Girl Scouts to become empathic leaders. 

“Through Troop 70158’s endeavors, we see more than just community service; we witness the early actions of future leaders who understand the value of kindness and community care,” says Ginny Hill, CEO of Girl Scouts of Central and Southern New Jersey.   

Troop 70158 Roster also includes:

Annabelle Tylutki, a fifth-grade student from Hamilton; Madelyn Smolarek, a fourth-grade student from Hamilton; Veronica Chapman, of Hamilton.