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West Jefferson Hills Girl Scouts claw their way to the bronze award

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By Brittany Goncar

Published: Tuesday, July 2, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

Members of Girl Scout Troop 50428 of West Jefferson Hills earned their Bronze Award by helping animals.

After brainstorming ideas at a late December meeting, the girls decided to complete the Project Paws and Claws to earn their Bronze Award through the scouting organization. The project was completed in mid-June and focused on the Western Pennsylvania Humane Society.

Katerina Vergallito, Ashley Werner, Erin Mykich, Julia Freedman and Annika Zangrilli, all age 11, spent 60 hours completing a three-part project to earn the highest award available to Girl Scout Juniors. Requirements for the award include: 20 hours of service decided upon and carried out by troop members and a completion of badges focused on one theme.

The group has a history with animals. A group of pet therapy dogs from Therapy Dogs International came to the troop and the girls read to them, troop leader Darcy Vergallito said.

“Those animals did service so they in turn wanted to do service for them,” she said.

For the first part of their project, the girls collected pet supplies at the Pleasant Hills Pet Hospital and the Pleasant Hills Fire Station. They were even visited by the executive director of the Western Pennsylvania Humane Society, David Janusek.

“It was good to see a bunch of young people doing something for the community, especially animals because they can't help themselves,” Janusek said. “You feel good that these kids are involved doing that.”

The second part of the project included making four dozen dog biscuits and 45 catnip sock toys. The Juniors were allotted $45 earned from cookie sales to buy supplies. Not only did they make an abundance of goodies, but they stayed under budget by only spending $38.25.

They made the catnip toys by stuffing toddler socks with catnip and drawing colorful designs on the fabric with non-toxic fabric markers.

Janusek provided the girls with a dog-friendly biscuit recipe for their pumpkin flavored treats.

“I think it was pretty interesting to do a big project,” Katerina said. “It was a lot of fun to work with my best friends to help change the community.”

During the third part of their project, Troop 50428 reaped the benefits of its work by visiting the Western Pennsylvania Humane Society to meet the animals that they were helping. They took a tour and listened to a presentation led by Dara Krom, director of humane education and training at the North Shore shelter.

Not only did the girls provide comfort to the animals, they helped spread the word about the Humane Society, which played a role in finding some of the older animals new homes.

“A couple days after they came down and took the tour, we had four dogs adopted that have been there for a while,” Janusek said.

“One of the leaders posted that the girls were excited because those were some of their favorite dogs. I can tell you just by that reaction that they listened and took an interest in the animals at the shelter.”

Brittany Goncar is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-388-5803 or



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