What do you do when you want to make a difference at the local animal shelter but aren’t quite old enough to volunteer?
For Emma Cowart, 8, and Riley Huelsman, 7, the answer was entrepreneurial.
Per its safety policy, volunteers at Manatee County Animal Services must be at least 18 years old to handle animals. However, “junior volunteers” of 16 or 17 are allowed to do “dishes, laundry, cleaning and enrichment,” according to the site’s volunteer page.
Since Cowart and Huelsman are both too young to get involved, they came up with a creative way to raise money for the animals they love.
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At first, they wanted to make a lemonade stand, Emma’s mom Joy Cowart said.
“But you know what? People don’t really want lemonade. Let’s do popsicles,” she told the girls.
Two posterboards decorated with paint, gel pens and stickers advertised “Popsicles $1 each” and “All money donated to an animal shelter.”
That was when customers — mostly neighbors — started rolling in with support.
“We didn’t expect them to make any money,” Cowart said.
But once people saw where the proceeds were going, they started paying in 5s, 10s and 20s.
By the end of the day, the girls had collected $72.31 and used it to purchase pet supplies for Downtown Kitty Town, a group of volunteers at Manatee County Animal Services’ downtown adoption center, where Emma’s mom takes the girls to visit every summer.
Cowart says although the girls are too young to handle animals, the volunteers have always been kind and patient with them when they come to see the cats. To extend their thanks, the girls also treated them to vegetable trays and other snacks.
“The girls don’t care about money,” Cowart said. “They just care about the kitty cats. They’d rather do that than go to Disney.”
Animal services spokesman Hans Wohlgefahrt said the girls’ donation this week came as a complete surprise.
“It was much needed,” he said. “MCAS is always looking for new ways to interact with the community, especially our youth. ... These young women are a great example of finding a creative way to help the homeless pets of Manatee County.”
For more information about Manatee County Animal Services or to register as a volunteer, visit their website or call 941-742-5933.
Follow Emily Wunderlich on Twitter @EmilyWunderlich.