By Denise LeBeau
The first day of December marks the holiday season in full force. It sure looked like Santa’s workshop at Charlie Chews Dog Treats
commercial space – the donated storage and staging area in Manhattan for Best Friends’ Hurricane Sandy relief efforts. But those weren’t elves bustling about with brightly colored toys. There were over 40 volunteers on hand, building community (aka feral) cat shelters to be distributed to devastated areas, where cats and their caregivers are facing extra hardships this winter.
The volunteers were also helping to unload the pet food from Del Monte next to the previously donated truckload of pet food that was being processed for distribution from our corporate supporter Blue Buffalo. Then it was time to load the trucks that were heading out to help people and pets. It was a busy day, but many hands make light work.Keeping our promise
During Thanksgiving weekend, Best Friends distributed over a thousand pounds of much-needed supplies to Staten Island, one of the most heavily hit areas. And true to our word when we said, “We will make sure everyone has what they need for their pets,” we were back on the ground, delivering pet necessities the whole week.
John Garcia, emergency response manager, led the team on December 2, providing support for the victims of New Dorp, Staten Island, by installing the recently constructed community cat shelters in protected areas where the free-roaming cats have seen their territories destroyed and delivering 3,500 pounds of wet and dry dog and cat food, cat litter, beds, blankets, sweaters, treats, and food and water bowls. Thanks to our amazing supporters, Best Friends has also been able to collect and distribute – via our volunteer efforts, led by Best Friends volunteer coordinator Tammy Heeber – over two tons of supplies to more than 15 other tri-state animal rescues and food pantries.
“I can’t believe Best Friends came here,” says Donna Solli, tearing up. Donna has been a Best Friends supporter for years, and her support just came full circle. She is one of the most passionate community cat caregivers in the New Dorp area. As she explains, “I’ve lived in this house for nine years, and I bought it because the property has a big wooden fenced yard. I can take care of the feral cats here.” Donna’s six housecats and seven community cats all survived the storm unscathed, as did her 16-year-old rescue dog, Lola. But her property, home and belongings were devastated.
“I didn’t leave because of the cats. I bought this house primarily for them, and they are free to come and go. I couldn’t account for all of them, so I wasn’t going to evacuate and abandon them. While I have lost so much, I didn’t lose the things that mean the most in the world to me – my animals. Thank you, Best Friends, for helping me care for them when I need it most.”
Derek Farrell of Neptune Avenue came by our donation truck to stock up on some much-needed supplies. He related how his son came home during the storm to care for their two dogs, Dufus and Lola, and their 13-year-old cat, Gord. Derek suffered tremendous loss, and he expressed his frustration at FEMA’s inability to process his paperwork, but he was appreciative of what he has. “I was very blessed that my family survived the storm by going to the second floor,” he says. “I’m so grateful for these pet supplies. It feels good to know the outside world hasn’t forgotten us. We can get through this if we all pull together.”
Pulling together is exactly what New Dorp neighborhood resident Ronnie Schriefer is doing. She identified five community cats living in the condemned building across the street from her home and has been caring for them. Ronnie explains, “There was a neighbor feeding the stray cats, but she hasn’t returned. I feel good about helping the animals; it’s the least I can do. Thank you for helping us help take care of our precious furry friends.” Best Friends left Ronnie a hefty supply of food and cat litter and coached her on ways she can get the cats to relocate out of the building that will be bulldozed.Season of giving
Best Friends volunteer coordinator Tammy says, “It’s really the volunteers that are the angels, going above and beyond to help their fellow animal lovers during this difficult time.”
Best Friends volunteer Diane Mancher exemplifies what the season of giving is all about. She has been involved with the relief effort since day one. She donated her downtown office space to be used as a donation drop-off and has been helping distribute the items for Best Friends.
“I love the animals first and foremost, and I love New York,” shares Diane. “I’m a lifelong New Yorker so it’s important to me to help. I’m blown away by how much support has come in from across the country. We’ve got boxes from Tennessee, Vermont, and as far away as Seattle, Washington. It’s heartwarming to know that people in this country really care.”
John Pungitore, another Best Friends volunteer, came out over the weekend to make a difference for the victims of the storm. While this is one of his first volunteer endeavors with Best Friends, he has been doing trap/neuter/return in his home state of New Jersey for over 10 years.
“I just wanted to help the animals and the people,” says John. “Anything I could do to help makes a difference. I’m so grateful that we were OK (he and his four cats who are FIV positive), and I just wanted to give back.”
Thanks to the generosity of our corporate supporters Arm and Hammer, American Nutrition, wag.com, and Del Monte, as well as our corporate partner Natural Balance and our dedicated volunteers and donors, the people and pets who suffered through Superstorm Sandy will not be forgotten this holiday season.Help bring holiday cheer to pets in need
Donate to the Hurricane Sandy relief fund
For information regarding animal organizations in need of emergency funds due to Hurricane Sandy, click here
.Photos by Brian Wenk