MONTVILLE, NJ – Montville resident Tianna Groelly has been a Girl Scout since she was in kindergarten, climbing through the ranks of Daisies, Brownies, all the way up and finally to the Ambassador level.

In January of 2017, she started volunteering at Strengthen Our Sisters, which is a network of homeless shelters that offers a refuge to battered women and their children, along with services to help them get on their feet. There are seven in northern New Jersey housing approximately 150 women, according to a source at S.O.S.

“The mission of Strengthen Our Sisters is to break the cycle of domestic violence, poverty, and abuse by restoring balance and harmony through individual empowerment,” Groelly said. “They help these women get back on their feet with workshops and seminars to complete their GED, build their résumés, gain job interviews, create a steady income, and eventually move out of the shelter.” 

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Groelly wasn’t sure what she wanted to do as her Gold project, so she took some time and worked at the West Milford location every Thursday. While the mothers would go to meetings, she would stay with the children and babysit.

But, she realized that the mothers at the shelter had very little in the way of work clothing for job interviews.

So she reached out to a powerful force – the Montville Moms community on Facebook. In April, she posted to the website a list of items that the shelter officials requested for the women for their job interviews, such as work clothes, costume jewelry and makeup. In addition, Groelly posted that the shelter was requesting general items such as sheets, feminine products, soap and toilet paper. Groelly wrote that if donators would place the items on their front porches, and text her the address, she would come and collect the items.

“The response was so unexpected!” she said. “It was practically viral. My mom and I had to drive around and then stop at home in between, to drop off what we had collected because our cars were so full. It took 12 hours! We filled our basement. People were so generous. Many people bought brand-new items to donate. I felt so grateful.”

Groelly said she was even more excited when she brought the donated items to the shelter, when she saw the look on the women’s faces.

“I felt like, ‘I made a change!,'” she said.

Executive Director for Strengthen Our Sisters Sandra Ramos said that Groelly’s project helped to “make a big difference.”

“We don’t have money for even little things like a decorative plant, and our workers have been at volunteer status for four years,” Ramos said. “It’s really a struggle.”

Groelly said that each Gold project involves a community-based portion plus a global-based portion. She was puzzled about how to tie in her project globally, but eventually found the solution.

“I’d like to study film production in college, so I decided to use the project to my advantage to raise awareness of domestic abuse,” she said.

Groelly therefore produced The Sisterhood Harmony, a two-minute YouTube video listing the alarming statistics on domestic abuse, explaining that both men and women can be abused, and showing how to find help if you are being abused.

Groelly, who just finished her junior year at Montville Township High School, is a member of Troop 195. She hopes to hear about the status of her Gold project by the end of the summer.

Strengthen Our Sisters is in desperate need of funds to “keep the lights on and pay the mortgage,” a woman at one of the shelters who did not wish to be identified told TAPinto Montville during the research for this article. If you would like to make a donation, please go to Go Fund Me. If you or someone you know is being abused, the Strengthen Our Sisters shelter is available 24 hours a day at 973-831-0898.