Sep 08, 2020

Holmdel Girl Scout Senior Making a Difference for Shelter Animals

By Lori Draz and Elina Patel

Welcome to Teen Scene. Each month our young authors write, in their own voice, stories that will educate and inform fellow students and parents. If you are a teen who would like to write your story, contact The Journal. We’ll help you polish it up, so don’t worry, let’s just get to sharing.

This month’s author is Holmdel’s 15-year-old Elina Patel, a rising sophomore at Holmdel High School. Elina joined the Girl Scouts when she was 10 years old and currently is ranked a Girl Scouts senior. Elina is a real friend to all, even the animals. Several members of her family are allergic to dogs, so she can’t adopt the pet she wanted, but that didn’t stop her from making sure all the animals awaiting adoption are living their best lives. She turned her Silver Award project into treats for animals and got the biggest gift of all, learning how many animal lovers are out there in her own backyard. Here is Elina’s story.

I have been extremely fortunate to have been raised in a family that has instilled the values of volunteering and trying to make a difference to better our surroundings. This is part of why I decided to become a Girl Scout. Last year, I decided to pursue my Girl Scouts Silver Award and make a difference in an area that’s near and dear to my heart. I first came into contact with the Monmouth County SPCA when my older sister volunteered there a few years ago. On my first visit, I fell in love with the adorable animals. I saw firsthand how much this wonderful organization depended on donations and public volunteering. I wanted to educate everyone about these helpless animals that needed loving homes. When I was selecting my project for the Jersey Shore Girl Scouts, I knew I wanted to focus my time and energy on making a difference for the Monmouth County SPCA, so I created a project geared toward spreading awareness about shelter animals.

In the summer of 2019, I hosted an Animal Shelter Awareness Day to inform and raise awareness in my community. This project was the first time I had taken on such a responsibility. Over quite a few months, I assembled a team that shared my dedication to shelter animals. Together we organized an entire day of hands-on educational events, including teaching little kids how to make fun toys for shelter animals. We had a blast creating dog-friendly toys. I loved how excited the kids were to be involved in helping these animals. It helped them feel good about themselves because they were making a difference in these animals’ lives. I believe this was a valuable lesson for them. In addition to helping others, they were gaining a feeling of accomplishment. They also listened intently as we did story times with various books that all revolved around adopting animals. One of the highlights was when the participants got to interact with dogs and experience first-hand the unconditional love of animals. We worked with an organization that handles therapy dogs, and we were able to line our two events up so that they could attend my Animal Shelter Awareness Day. Throughout the entire event, the kids learned how truly special pets are, and I was able to spread awareness through activities like speaking about the shelter and handing out pamphlets I had created to further educate my community. The pamphlets included different ways you could help animals at the shelter. We were able to reach a broad range of people from small children to grandparents.

I was amazed by how many people showed up for my Animal Shelter Awareness Day, and the amount of donations I received for the Monmouth County SPCA was unbelievable. I was overjoyed to see the community doing its part in contributing to better the living conditions for these innocent animals. I placed donations bins at local doctors’ offices, schools and organizations such as Bell Works. The bins were overflowing with donations which I was more than happy to transport with my team to the shelter. I collected a wide range of dog and cat items including food, toys, treats, beds, cleaning supplies and so much more! When I brought them to the shelter, they were so surprised by the large quantity of items I had obtained. They were so appreciative and took all the items eagerly. I was thrilled that these items were going to make a difference in these homeless animals’ lives.

Although taking on this project was quite challenging and overwhelming at times, I learned a great deal both about myself and my community. The feeling of making a difference and working hard for something I am passionate about has been beyond rewarding. I’ve also learned that my community is filled with caring people who are willing to donate both their time and efforts to make a difference. I am grateful for this and hope to continue helping those that cannot help themselves, starting with these adorable animals!

It doesn’t take much to make a difference. My advice to young kids who are trying to find ways to get involved in their community is to start by finding something they are passionate about. From there, they can identify how they can get involved and make a difference. You never know what it could lead to. Start small, and I guarantee your passion will take you further. This project has taught me to step out of my comfort zone, and because of that, I got to meet new people with common interests. The Monmouth County SPCA is always taking donations and could use your help. My project taught me to take initiative, be a leader and take action to accomplish the goals I want to achieve. Giving back to these innocent animals has definitely filled my heart with tremendous joy and happiness. I am ecstatic that I was able to make these animals’ lives a little better, but what they don’t realize is how much happiness they brought me!