A Medford Girl Scout has completed her silver award by making hand-made planter boxes for the Animal Welfare Association (AWA) shelter in Voorhees.
The donation from Troop 20117’s Bella Pogoda was presented to the shelter on March 5. The Medford Memorial Middle School student has always wanted to help animals and desires to be a veterinarian. With her own two pets at home – a bunny named Daisy her family rescued from the shelter and Paisley the dog – her passion for giving back came naturally.
Before her donation, Pogoda worked with shelter volunteer Alicia Haley to come up with a silver project idea that would leave a long-term, sustainable mark on the AWA.
The shelter is a nonprofit animal welfare organization that operates the largest pet clinic, adoption center and no-kill animal shelter in South Jersey.
“I thought it was fantastic,” Haley said of Pogoda’s effort. “It’s really encouraging to see the Girl Scouts or any Eagle Scouts that we work with, how passionate they are about animals in general and just how hard they work, and the effort that they put into their project. You can tell how much it means to them and how important the project is.”
Haley also explained how great it is to see the next generation of animal activists come forward to help.
“To see the younger kids who realize there are needs out there … They are dedicated to finding ways to support our animals and support our organization overall,” she noted.
Pogoda’s planter boxes hold nutritious herbs, vegetables, and grasses for small cats and bunnies to snack on. She used wood to build them and white safe spray for color. The finished boxes were then part of the launch for the AWA’s new Adoption and Education Center, which had a soft opening last month.
“The planter boxes that she made are being used in our new ‘cattio’ and ‘bunnio’ that we’re going to have at the new building,” Haley explained, “so the cats and the bunnies can actually go outside into these enclosed patio spaces.”
The new shelter building will house classes, meetings, a merchandise shop, pet-supply shop, kitten nursery and other amenities for the animals. Pogoda’s donations will also help provide learning opportunities for AWA staff, such as TAP (Transition to Adult) students from the Lenape Regional High School District who get job training at the shelter that now includes harvesting the new planter boxes.
“It’s not only a way for the cats and the bunnies to have something to enjoy,” Haley said. “But it’s also a teaching piece for volunteers and for our P.A.W.S. (People Achieving With Support), where we can explain to them why it’s important for the cats and the small animals to have these in their space and the benefits they get from having access to the plants and the vegetables that are in these planter boxes.”
For Bella Pogoda, giving back is not limited to one project: She grows plants in her home sunroom for the AWA that are safe for winter weather and plans to continue passing on her knowledge of animal awareness to younger Scout Brownie troops, while encouraging them to work with their hands to even produce homemade enrichment dog toys from tennis balls.
“We’re going to be making dog toys with dog food in them, two types of those,” she noted. “And we’re going to be making bunny treat toys with Timothy Hay inside of toilet rolls. I’m hoping to make 100 or more enrichment toys.”
Pogoda said her favorite part of the whole project experience was making the boxes and visiting the shelter.
“I like to support the community, and I really like animals, so I thought it was just a great project to do,” she said
Bella’s mother Stacy is proud of her daughter’s amazing efforts to give back.
“It’s important to raise children with a wonderful awareness of our community and the way we can support others,” Stacy acknowledged. “To be wonderful individuals that want to support our community and our society as a whole.”
For more information on how you can support the AWA, visit https://www.awanj.org/about/