Columbus-area cats that otherwise were likely to face the brunt of winter without shelter recently were aided by the classroom work of close to 60 Pickerington junior high students.
Ridgeview Junior High School engineering teacher Amanda Honeycutt recently turned over eight custom-made cat shelters -- complete with insulation and removable, shingled roofs -- to the Lancaster-based nonprofit Forgotten4Paws.
The donation was the culmination of nearly a month of work by 56 of Honeycutt's students, who also collected food and other pet items so Forgotten4Paws volunteers can provide welfare to abandoned and other non-domesticated cats throughout this winter and beyond.
"I thought this would be a great community project," said Honeycutt, who noted a number of Forgotten4Paws volunteers are from Pickerington and nearby communities.
"This is the first time many of the kids have done anything like this," she said.
"It's a great feeling that we were doing this. The kids got to donate their time and skill and efforts to the community through this project, and they got to learn about working together and helping others from it."
Forgotten4Paws' (www.forgotten4paws.org) primary mission is animal welfare, and it focuses much of its efforts on reducing suffering among dogs and cats by promoting the need to have them spayed or neutered.
Additionally, the group's volunteers rescue abandoned and neglected animals and many times find that providing adequate, indoor space for them is a challenge.
What's more, Forgotten4Paws President Wanda Dailey said many of the animals that need help are not domesticated and are difficult, if not impossible to tame.
Therefore, the outdoor shelters can be lifesavers.
"Our volunteers often take care of these cats outside because (the cats) are not domesticated," Dailey said. "The shelters allow these cats to at least get inside and out of the cold.
"Some people can give us one or two shelters, but to get eight with winter coming on is incredible," Dailey said.
"It's a really tough time and a lot of animals don't make it, especially cats if they don't have shelter."
Honeycutt said students were put into groups of seven to eight to build the shelters, and they followed plans they discovered on the Internet.
Made from plywood, the shelters were insulated to provide warmth to the cats they'll serve, and the roofs, which can be removed to aid in interior cleaning, were shingled to keep occupants dry.
"They sit up on a little frame and we used special deck-sealant paint to keep moisture out," Honeycutt said. "They're about 3 feet by 2 feet and they're about 3 feet tall.
"You could probably fit three cats in each one."
Ridgeview eighth-grader Lexie Roessler said she enjoyed the construction process, but also gained appreciation for community service through the project.
"It was fun," Roessler said. "We got to learn to use new tools and we did a lot of teamwork.
"It feels good to know we're helping out the cats."
Matthew Pence, a seventh-grader at Ridgeview, said he learned the importance of making proper measurements to ensure good craftsmanship and added he enjoyed the philanthropic aspect of the work.
"I liked the fact we worked with other people in our group and I just feel really good that we could help out," Pence said.
"Not everyone gets to do this, or will do something like this, and it was fun to use the saws and knives to cut the wood."
Honeycutt and Dailey said they hope the project will resonate with others throughout Pickerington and the Columbus-area because it displays that people of all ages can support people and animals in need.
"It's hard to find shelter and homes for these animals," Dailey said. "There's only so many farms and barns for them.
"I can't tell you how grateful we are."