Pinecrest Girl Scout Lauren Blackwell is undertaking an ambitious project, and she needs your help.
Blackwell, a 13-year-old Palmetto Middle School student, is dedicating 50 hours of community service to The Cat Network, a Florida not-for-profit corporation committed to humanely and affordably reducing the overpopulation of stray and feral cats through sterilization, vaccination and release. Her project is to organize a donations drive that solicits cat food, toys, litter and other useful feline-related items.
The collection is underway and continues until May 15, with collection sites located in the Pinecrest library and in the main office at Palmetto Middle School.
“I volunteered to work at The Cat Network and I noticed they needed more volunteers and the cats needed more food,” Blackwell says. “I thought if I organized a collection it might bring attention to the charity and get more volunteers and supplies.”
The donations drive represents Blackwell’s effort to earn her Silver Award, one of the three highest honors that can be earned as a Girl Scout, along with the Bronze and Gold Awards. For her Bronze Award, Blackwell joined Troop 100 girls at St. Louis Catholic Church in a massive recycling project to collect cans, paper and boxes at their schools.
When deciding on what to do to earn her Silver Award, Blackwell had to choose between working alone or with a group on a mission that would continue past her involvement. She chose to work alone and, after some consideration, decided on establishing an enduring precedent for The Cat Network.
“You have to make sure, somehow, that you create something that can happen every year, even when you’re not there working on it anymore,” she says. “Hopefully, if this project is successful, it will keep going on.”
Drawn to the organization through her love for animals — despite being allergic to cats and forced to wear a mask and gloves while working with cats to prevent a reaction — she hopes that her efforts will bring more attention and create a precedent that will live on long after she has passed the care of her “pet project” on to someone else.
“Sometimes cats are neglected,” she says. “If you see a dog or a puppy on the street, people will come over right away, pick it up and help it. But if they saw a cat, they may not do that. I hope my project raises awareness that cats need help, too. I encourage more people to help at
The Cat Network by dedicating their time or by donating needed items.”
Blackwell says she is still thinking about what she will do to earn her Girl Scout Gold Award.
For more information, call 786-280-7901or go to www.TheCatNetwork.org.