Girl Scouts raise money for Mission Valley Animal Shelter

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Bozeman Girl Scout Troop 3517 raised thousands of dollars in donations, materials and labor to benefit the Mission Valley Animal Shelter. Pictured (from left) are Kirsti Hahn, Sara Zowada, Alyvia Leipheimer, Tayler Cossins, Erika Haines, Analise Belasco, Berlyn Guthrie, Alivia Bergland, Mandie Leipheimer, Martha Aloise and Mark Giacoletto. (Jeremy Weber/Lake County Leader)

The Mission Valley Animal Shelter will be getting some much-needed upgrades thanks to the efforts of a Girl Scout troop from Bozeman.

Troop 3517 has led a project that has raised between $15,000 and $20,000 to help the shelter construct a new puppy room, a proper intake area and a new quarantine area to properly care for sick animals.

According to Shelter Director Filip Panusz, the project will address several needs the shelter has been struggling with for some time.

“There are a lot of dogs running around this area that are not spayed and not neutered. When people bring those animals to us, we don’t want to have to turn them away,” Panusz said.

Panusz says the upgrades not only help deal with the issue of limited space at the shelter, they will also help stop the spread of disease among the animals.

“Every shelter needs to have an intake room where people can bring animals into the building in such a way that they do not mingle with other animals along the way. We have not had that before, and now we will,” he said. “Unfortunately, in our area, parvo and distemper are very common in our stray dog community. We don’t want to expose healthy animals to the infected ones when they come in the shelter, and an isolated intake area and quarantine room will help keep that exposure to a minimum.”

The project was the brainchild of Girl Scout Alyvia Leipheimer, who spends much of her summers at her family’s cabin on Flathead Lake. Leipheimer, along with her mother, have been volunteering at the Mission Valley Animal Shelter for several summers and knew of the needs the shelter was looking to address.

“I’ve worked here in the summer and I noticed that they get a lot of dogs in. We picked them (Mission Valley Animal Shelter) because they have less space and fewer volunteers than many other shelters,” Leipheimer said. “It was important for us to learn that everyone can make a difference, even if you feel like you are small and you can’t do much, you can if you try.”

According to Troop Leader Kirsti Hahn, many of the troop members had doubts about being able to complete the project, but hard work and perseverance helped them see the project through.

Using bake sales, garage sales, a dog wash and door-to-door sales, the 12 members of Girl Scout Troop 3517 raised $4,000 in cash for the project and much more in donations and labor commitments. A Partnership with Native Americans grant in the amount of $7,500 also added to the project funds.

“I find it tremendously inspiring that these girls have taken the time and used their energy to bring this about. The vision that they had to see what could be done here is inspiring. I had my doubts that such a small group of girls could do this, but I am amazed by what they have done,” Mission Valley Animal Shelter Vice President and Assistant Treasurer Russell Cruickshanks said. “I hope this is a trigger that helps others take action in their communities. I want people to see what these girls have done. I want them to respond to and think about what they, themselves, can contribute to their communities.”

The puppy room planned for the shelter was originally designed to be an 8-foot by 12-foot addition, but general contractor Mark Giacoletto (who has volunteered his time and expertise to the project) says that the funds and materials donated should be adequate to build a 12-foot by 14-foot facility. Panusz and Giacoletto say the shelter hopes to begin and finish the project within just a few days in late August.

Girl Scout Troop 3517 will be returning to Polson to help with the construction work.

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