Helping humans through horses, Jr. Scouts learn to be agents of change

Junior Girl Scout Troop 90231 recently earned their Agent of Change Journey Awards by helping humans through horses. Part of Heart of New Jersey Girl Scout Council, the troop has 13 girls, mostly fourth graders (there’s one sixth grader) from Lopatcong and Phillipsburg.

The troop’s “Journey” began in January and wrapped up in late April at the Help A Horse Day event that benefitted Mylestone Equine Rescue in Pohatcong Township.

“This is a Journey about Leadership. The Journey is in three parts, The Power of One: Discover, understanding self and values. The Power of Team: Connect, inspiring and teaming with others. And The Power of Community: Take Action, acting to make the world a better place,” said Pam Thomas, who leads the troop along with Joanna Slagle and Loren Campbell-Clark.

To help them track their journey, The Kiwanis Club of Phillipsburg donated the Agent of Change guide book for each girl in the troop. They also met with the troop to discuss leadership traits and working as a team, Thomas said.

One quote from the book is “Who’s an agent of change? A person who discovers how to use the ‘power of one’ and the ‘power of team’ to create the ‘power of community’ that improves the world.”

With that in mind, the troop visited both the Norwescap Food Bank in Phillipsburg and Mylestone Equine Rescue. These community organizations were founded or a currently lead by women.

“As our Take Action Project the girls decided to team up with Mylestone Equine Rescue and their Help A Horse Day. Our troop spearheaded the Horses Helping Humans portion of the event,” Thomas said.

Help a Horse Day, sponsored by the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals is a nationwide competition is for equine rescues and sanctuaries to raise awareness about the work they do year-round to care for at-risk horses in their community who have often been abused or neglected. Horses have been central to the ASPCA’s work since its founding 150 years ago, when Henry Bergh stopped a cart driver from beating his horse, resulting in the first successful arrest for the mistreatment of a horse on April 26, 1866.

Grants are awarded based on public participation at the event. The scouts collected non-perishable food to be donated “from the horses.” The food was donated to a local food pantry that serves 300 people every month. More than 800 people stopped by the event despite the cool, rainy weather.

The girls designed flyers to promote the event enticing visitors to come to Help A Horse Day, held at Horsemen’s Outlet to bring food items in exchange for free samples of Girl Scout Cookies. To increase the amount of food collected and widen the circle of involvement the troop sponsored a competition among area riding facilities located in Somerset, Hunterdon and Warren Counties. Twelve barns agreed to set up non-perishable food collection boxes, decorated by the girls for their clients to fill, according to Thomas.

A bag of peppermint candies was given to each barn participating. The candy was donated by a local school board member who heard about the project. Prizes were awarded to the barns collecting the most food. A bag of horse feed, donated by Mid-Atlantic Equine Hospital was the first place prize. Second place, was a 10-pound bag of carrots and third was a bag of apples which were purchased using a donated Costco gift card.

Changewater Stables in Stewartsville won first place and donated their prize to Mylestone. Second place finishers, Star D Farm in Phillipsburg also donated the carrots to Mylestone. Third prize went to Mill Stone Farm in Asbury.

The barn competition resulted in an additional 294 items of food being donated. Overall the total for the event was over 668 food items, as food continued to be dropped at Mylestone bring the total to more than 700.

Additionally, letters were drafted and sent to area equine veterinarians requesting monetary donations to purchase grocery gift cards usable by the pantry for the purchase of items like bread and milk, according to Thomas.

To wrap things up, “thank you” letters were written and sent, prizes delivered, boxes picked up and a celebration was held.

“Girl Scout Troop 90231 did an amazing job collecting food donations from local barns to be donated to a local food pantry as part of our Horses Helping Humans theme! Over 700 items of nonperishable food were collected for those in need. The girls had such great spirit and the leaders were terrific. We are so proud at how successful the food collection was,” Mylestone Founder Susankelly Thompson wrote on the rescue’s website.

Although the scouts’ journey may be over, their service will continue. They are already working on their next award.

For more information about Mylestone see www.mylestone.org

For more information about the NORWESCAP food bank see www.norwescap.org

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