Leanne Jankelunas goes for the gold

| 15 Feb 2012 | 09:56

Help a Girl Scout help the animals: Friendly's fund raiser planned for Nov. 1, By Vicki Botta Chester — Leanne Jankelunas has a heart of gold when it comes to people and animals. That's why her Girl Scout Gold Award project benefits both. “I just need the community’s support,” said Leanne, a senior at the Chester Academy. She wants to make safer trails for the Warwick Humane Society volunteers who walk dogs behind the animal shelter. A creek blocks their access, forcing them to walk along a busy road. Leanne's mission is to build a bridge across the creek. Many of the shelter dogs are victims of abuse and neglect. “If they panic on a busy road while people are walking them, it makes it dangerous for both the dogs and the volunteers,” said Leanne. The damage caused by the recent hurricanes presented one of Leanne's biggest challenges. The economy frustrated her quest for donated materials, and new laws regulating corporate donations complicated matters so much that Leanne said it was “like hitting a wall.” She had hoped to raise money for her project at local festivals but found this was not an option. A fundraiser is being held at Friendly’s Restaurant at 31 Matthews St. in Goshen. Friendly's will donate a percentage of the check of anyone who eats there between 5 and 8 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 1, if they present a copy of a flyer that can be downloaded from www.friendlys.com/media/pdf/fundraising/poster.pdf. Participants may also bring a copy of this article and fill out the flyer at the restaurant. Tractor Supply in Chester donated basic supplies like gloves and poison ivy killer. ShopRite donated a bench, and Lowes is helping with wood for the bridge. Chester's department of public works is donating mulch made from yard clippings, which will make the project eco-friendly. Months of intensive planning Leanne chose the Warwick Humane Society for her project because she loves the people there. She loves the animals too, and plans to become a veterinarian. She's working with the humane society's director, Suzyn Barron. Leanne started the project in May. Much of the planning and coordination is behind her, but she's got a lot more to do before presenting her project to the Girl Scouts Council by the end of December. She's confident it will be completed in time — but if she misses the deadline, her project will not count toward her Gold Award, the highest award in Girl Scouts. Like the boys do when working toward Eagle Scout, Leanne had to create a proposal that factored in hours and costs, and develop leadership skills by raising funds and recruiting help. She managed to do all of this while keeping up with a dizzying array of obligations: as member of the National Honor Society, class secretary, yearbook editor, and varsity player in soccer (making it into sectionals), basketball, and softball. In the New Vision Medical Program, she takes college-level classes through SUNY Orange. She also works part time at ShopRite and at a veterinary office. She teaches Sunday school at the Methodist Church. This is Leanne's 13th year in Scouting. Six of the nine girls in Troop 392 have been together since kindergarten, when they joined as Daisies. Their leader is Sandy Nagler. Leanne earned her Bronze Award by making a sign for the humane society, and her Silver Award by collecting and sending 1,000 books to the children in Belize. The eldest of two girls, Leanne said there is no one person who has inspired her to be such a dynamic person, involved in so many positive activities. She said she’s lucky to have had many wonderful people in her life, too numerous to name. All she needs now is the community's help to get her over the finish line — and to keep the shelter dogs and their devoted caretakers safe from harm.