SURGOINSVILLE — A local Girl Scout with Troop 912 recently earned a Bronze Award and recognition from the CEO of the national scouting program for her Take Action Project which she called, “Happy Paws”.

In the summer of 2018, Arayah Altman became concerned about critical needs at the Hawkins Co. Humane Society after reading about the shelter’s plight in the local newspaper.

She decided to help by starting a project to collect much-needed supplies, and by volunteering her own time at the shelter.

The then-Rogersville Middle School sixth grader’s project soon took on a life of its own as Arayah reached out through letters, phone calls and personal visits to family members, friends, and local businesses.

In documentation that was submitted for her project, Arayah said that she believes her idea mattered because it helped both the animals and staff at the shelter.

“I wrote letters and handed them out asking for donations then I went around and collected the donations,” she said. “I delivered the donations to the shelter and stayed behind to help clean up, then I wrote thank you cards to everyone involved.”

During the three-month project that ended in September, 2018, Arayah was able to collect and deliver a literal truckload of supplies to the shelter and help with clean-up chores there.

“The shelter workers were very excited,” she said. “My project will continue because I brought awareness to people and local businesses that the shelter was in need, so they will continue to donate in the future.”

But the road wasn’t always easy, she admitted, because some people she approached didn’t want to donate, or were unable to do so financially.

“I just went on until I could find people who could donate,” the undeterred Arayah said.

The top items on the shelter’s “most needed” list included food, treats, cat litter, household cleaners, blankets and towels, dog and cat leashes, collars and harnesses, toys, kennels, houses, cat scratching posts, brushes, combs, and cash donations.

“I discovered that I love animals more than I thought I did,” she said. “I also learned that I enjoy helping at the shelter.”

Jennifer Gilbert, Administrator for Girl Scout Troop 912, told the Review that Arayah basically wanted to “do something great for her community”.

“She choose to collect supplies for the Humane Society as well as donate her own time,” Gilbert said. “She spent 30+ hours working on this project. Normally, the projects are done as a group but she was the only one at that level so she did it by herself.”

The Take Action Project is to be girl-led and girl-done with minimal help from an adult, Gilbert said.

“She started with her idea then presented it to the director of the Humane Society. She found out what exactly the shelter needed and then wrote letters asking people for donations and went around to all the local businesses asking for help. She also asked family, friends, all her fellow girl scouts and her brother’s Cub Scout group to give donations as well, which they did!”

Her goal was to get a truckload of donations and that she did ... more than 1,000 pounds to be exact.

“Arayah not only filled a truck but she also had supplies in my SUV and the front seat of the truck,” Gilbert added. “She had a lot of each item that the shelter said they needed.”

But that wasn’t enough for the determined Girl Scout ... Arayah felt she didn’t have enough supplies so she earned money at home and bought some additional supplies using her own money.

“Once she gathered up all her donations, she delivered them to the shelter and then her and her family stayed and each worked for four hours cleaning the shelter,” Gilbert said. “She was very excited to be able to help the shelter out. She also spoke to anyone that would listen about her project to encourage more people to want to get involved.”

Although Arayah’s project culminated in September of last year, she was just recognized in April, 2019, during the High Award Spring Ceremony with a Bronze Award from the CEO of the Girl Scouts of America.

“She is currently working on her Silver Award, and this new project is simply amazing,” Gilbert said. “She has a heart of gold and really does represent the Girl Scouts well. Girl Scouts strive to make the world a better place and Arayah is truly doing that.”

Currently 11, Arayah is the oldest Scout in the Troop and their only Cadette.

“She spends a lot of her time during meetings and activities working with the younger girls and helping the leaders as much as she can,” Gilbert said. “She is a true G.I.R.L — Go-Getter, Innovator, Risk-Taker, and Leader — Scout.”

Arayah is planning to continue volunteering at the shelter.