Celebrate the Season While Helping Cats in Need
By Elizabeth Wasserman
Do you have good cheer, a hearty laugh and a love of felines? Then the Cat Adoption Team (CAT), a nonprofit cat shelter in Portland, Ore., has a volunteer opportunity for you.
CAT, which cares for 400 to 600 cats and kittens on a daily basis, relies on the generosity of the public and the hard work of volunteers, especially during the holiday season. That's when some volunteers are called upon to don a red suit and hat, a white beard and jingle bells before posing for pictures with kitties at a busy local pet store. It's all for a good cause, since $5 from each picture-taking session with kitty is donated to cats in need. “We are fortunate to live where people really do demonstrate their support for both cat and dog shelters,” says Kimi Christiansen, CAT's development manager, who started out as a volunteer.
You may be surprised at how you can turn some of your own holiday activities -- such as baking cookies, shopping and even socializing -- into fundraising for your local shelter.
How to Help During the Holidays
- Find homes for homeless cats While making the rounds at holiday parties, spread the word that many shelter animals need good homes. You’ll be part of a growing effort. In 1999, the Helen Woodward Animal Center, a non-profit, no-kill shelter in San Diego County, Calif., teamed up with 14 other local shelters to start the Home 4 the Holidays program. They found homes for 2,563 orphaned pets that year. The program has since grown into the largest pet adoption drive in the world. This year, they hope to facilitate 1.5 million adoptions.
- Organize a feline food drive Encourage your church, school, company or other organization to set up a food drive to help your local shelter. Some, such as CAT, operate food banks for families with pets who are having economic difficulty. "Get a giant box and put it in the lobby or send information in the company newsletter," suggests Tim Crum, of The Philanthropy Team, a fundraising and marketing company for animal shelters.
- Collect pennies for pets Recruit your elementary and middle school students to collect coins to help a local shelter. "Make it a contest between classrooms or between schools," says Crum. He worked with one school in Pittsburgh that raised $2,500 in pennies for the Animal Rescue League a few years ago.
- Bake cookies to help cats While baking holiday cookies, fruitcakes or other delectable treats, make enough to hold a bake sale to raise funds for a shelter. If possible, set up at a local library or in the school cafeteria.
- Buy gift cards for shelters During your holiday shopping outings, don't forget to pick up a gift card for your local shelter. "If you know a shelter shops at a particular store, get them a gift card or certificate, since they are a business," says Kimberley Intino, a certified animal welfare administrator and the director of shelter services for the Humane Society of the United States. The options include pet stores, office supply stores or discount chains.
Spreading Holiday Cheer
Thanks to picture-taking with Santa, an annual holiday auction called Whisker Wonderland and an online giving campaign sponsored by a local weekly newspaper, CAT expects to raise more than $150,000 this holiday season. They couldn't do it without help from the community.
In addition to opening their wallets and pocketbooks,
Portland residents donate cat trees, pet sitting, artwork and other items. If
the economy has made funds tight, residents are encouraged to donate their
time. "We're always looking for people who want to make a limited time
commitment," says Christiansen.
Elizabeth Wasserman, a Washington, D.C., area-based freelancer, has been writing about pets, among other topics, for more than 15 years. Her love of dogs, in particular, was handed down through the generations from her great-grandfather, Eric Knight, who wrote the book Lassie Come Home in the 1930s.