Hurricane Sandy donation overdrive

Event raises supplies, money and awareness for rescues and pets in need.

By Denise LeBeau

The evening air adds an extra chill to an already-brisk day, but the vehicle packed with cat food and litter offers a warm glow. The supplies are going to one of the area’s most affected by the hurricane — Staten Island. Best Friends volunteer and animal lover Peter Dega, former NYPD and FBI member, has accepted the mission to deliver the much-needed supplies to Staten Island Feral Initiative. He’s loading the car with a smile. “I’ve always loved animals,” he says, “and I’m so glad to be able to help here today. If we don’t look out for them, who will?”

The main event
The bounty of supplies going to Staten Island Feral Cat Initiative is just a drop in the bucket of what the people of the tri-state area have donated in support of shelters and rescues that are short on provisions due to the storm. Best Friends Animal Society has been accepting donations at three key locations, two in Manhattan and one in New Jersey. The day-long Donation Drive for Hurricane Sandy Victims, organized by Tammy Heeber of Best Friends Animal Society – New York, was held on November 10 at longtime animal advocate Diane Mancher’s offices at One Potata Productions. The event was a testament to the commitment of those living in New York and beyond to helping animals in need. The supplies are going directly to the No More Homeless Pets Network partners and other Northeast rescues and shelters that are in crisis mode due to the storm.

Caring and sharing
Peter Maywald, Jamie Reed, Patti Vandia, and Lisa Robin (founder of Blankets & Bowls) bring donations from Connecticut and Westchester, New YorkDonations arrived by the car- and truckload. Lisa Robin (founder of Blankets & Bowls), Patti Vandia, Jamie Reed and Peter Maywald drove down a cargo van full of beds and other supplies, along with a huge haul of dog kennels donated by Adopt-A-Dog in Armonk, New York. Lisa’s organization, based out of Ridgefield, Connecticut, is an all-volunteer group whose mission is to help homeless pets while they wait in shelters for their forever home by gathering, organizing and distributing pet supplies to enrich their lives and help relieve the stress of life in a shelter. This relief drive is right up their alley. Lisa says, “We’re so glad to be here today. Helping smaller groups is another avenue to helping save more lives.”

Katie Aubry and Smokey Wolert drove down an SUV full of supplies from Putnam Valley, New York. Katie appealed to her colleagues, friends, and friends of friends to donate all they could to the event. “I just have to thank everyone who donated,” she says. “Their generosity and reaching out to others in their time of need just means so much to me, and of course the animals. I think people felt good about giving because they knew it would go straight to help the most at-risk pets during this dire time.”

Sisters Roberta and Michelle Ashkin filled their car at Le Pet Spa in Battery Park City. The local pet supply store had incurred losses due to the storm as well, and the sisters wanted to give back to the boutique by shopping till they dropped. Le Pet Spa, in turn, made their own donation, including bags of treats, chews and bones. As Roberta puts it, “It’s a double mitzvah!”

The kindness of volunteers
There were approximately 25 volunteers at the New York location and five in New Jersey. Many of the New York volunteers were fairly new to the Best Friends family, and they were beaming as they manned the table accepting donations, stepping up to be part of an assembly line and unloading cargo and helping educate the pedestrians on what the donation drive was about as well as the mission of No More Homeless Pets.

Nora Ryan, who attended the No More Homeless Pets Conference for the first time in October, was watching the storm unfold from Las Vegas. When she got back to Brooklyn, she hit the ground running to help the homeless pets. For the donation event, she took to the streets with the flyer to drum up more foot traffic. “I’m going to be ‘that person’ — the flyer person people want to avoid. But I’ll be picking off dog lovers, and you know they’ll want help. We just need to identify the need and give them a solution.”

First-time Best Friends volunteers Devon Waller and Valeria Blasco pitched in.Valeria Blasco and Devon Waller make volunteering look sexy. The happy couple came by to drop off some donations and stayed there all day putting a lot of muscle into making the event a success. “I saw the email (about the donation drive) and we have two kitties, and I was thinking if we were uprooted from the storm, we would want to know someone would help us,” she explains. “So we brought down donations because we are so fortunate that we can give back.”

Donations and allocation
The donations poured in: food, treats, collars, leashes, beds, blankets, towels, crates, carriers and cleaning supplies. As the tally continues, hundreds of bags of dog and cat food are ready to be distributed along with over $500 in cash and gift cards that were donated.

Getting the donations to the groups with the most urgent needs is being organized in real time. Betsy Goldman, founder of Friends of Animal Rescue and staunch Best Friends supporter, helped hook up the cat supplies with Staten Island Feral Initiative. “Best Friends is in such a unique position to help out. It’s an organization people trust, and it’s wonderful to be able to know that your contributions are going straight to the groups, and that they are getting what they need most.”

As the mid-to-long-term effects of Sandy continue to unfold, the need for pet food and supplies for area shelters, rescues and the individuals who look to those organizations for help will remain a priority. We are very grateful to our members, volunteers, business partners and No More Homeless Pets Network partners who continue to make this type of direct giving an important part of Best Friends’ relief effort.

Here is a list of the first organizations to receive pet supplies from the donation drive. Please support them.
Best Friends volunteer Julia Lam at Donation Drive for Hurricane Sandy Victims
Staten Island Feral Cat Initiative, New York
Animal Protection League of New Jersey
Husky House, New Jersey
Animal Anarchy Rescue, Staten Island, New York
Town of Hempstead Animal Shelter, New York
Little Shelter Animal Adoption Center, Huntington, New York

How you can help
A large, one-day donation drive is to be held by Best Friends volunteers on Saturday, November 17, 10 a.m. – 4 p.m., at Patsy’s Pet Store, 142 Furler Street in Totowa, New Jersey. For more information, contact Tammy Heeber at tammyh@bestfriends.org.

Donations can also be dropped off and/or mailed to:
One Potata Productions
80 East 11 Street
Suite 301A
New York, NY 10003

Midtown donations can be dropped off 10 a.m. – 11 p.m. at:
530 West 43rd Street (between 10th and 11th Avenues)
New York, New York
Call Muji at 646-206-7465 and to meet someone in the lobby.

You can also donate directly to the Best Friends Emergency Relief Fund.

If you are a rescue group in need after Hurricane Sandy, click here for information on applying for a No More Homeless Pets Network micro-grant.

Photos by Denise LeBeau

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