Animal DREAMS needs money, volunteers, and more to meet its mission to care for feral and abandoned cats. It hopes to broaden its donor base with a fundraiser on Thursday.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — A unique fundraiser Thursday for Animal DREAMS is operating on the concept that while it's good to give, receiving's not so bad either.
Yvonne Borsody and a cadre of dedicated volunteers have been shouldering this non-profit venture to care for and neuter feral felines for 12 years. During that time, she said, Animal DREAMS has aided 3,500 cats and humanely prevented untold thousands of kittens from being born in the wild.
"We've always been very short on funding," said Borsody. "Our reputation has been word of mouth. People tell other people about the work we do. That's how throughout the county we've been working all these years. It's just become a very busy organization but we've always been struggling financially."
Enter Berkshire Money Management in the form of Allen Harris and Stacey Carver to promote "Paws With Dignity." The couple have been strong supporters of animal welfare — and Borsody and Carver (president of New England Basset Hound Rescue) did some bonding over bassett hounds.
"We've always kind of been kindred spirits," said Borsody. "They were very generous when we got our storefront and underwrote the cat 'playpen.' That was a really wonderful thing they did for us. And they sponsored a cat colony."
Harris, also a member of the city's Animal Control Commission, said the work Animal DREAMS (Dignified Rescues, Education, Advocacy and Medical Services) does deserves support.
"Here's an organization doing good but they don't necessarily have the funding behind them," he said. "We are trying to work with them to get a spotlight on them."
His idea is not disimiliar to his efforts last year to aid the Sonsini Animal Shelter — for every business that joined the Berkshire Chamber of Commerce, Berkshire Money Management donated $1,000 to the shelter. The total: $25,000.
During Third Thursday, anyone who stops by Animal DREAMS' storefront at 441 North St. and donates to the cause could receive one of up to 100 money envelopes donated by Berkshire Money Management.
"Money is a tool that gets people moving," said Harris, with anticipation karma will do the rest. "Hopefully, a bunch of people are going to make donations ... We have 100 envelopes full of cash and one is going to have a thousand bucks in it."
The goal is raise awareness of what Animal DREAMS does beyond word of mouth and develop a strong donor base by inviting people in to see what the group does.
"They exist through donors and there's a difference between existing and thriving," said Harris, who hopes this will be a "teach how to fish" moment.
Borsody founded the group after discovering an abandoned kitten. It focuses on "TNR," or "Trap-Neuter-Release," because many of the cats are too feral to adopt. The animals are trapped, spayed or neutered by veterinary partners, and returned to their "colonies." The group provides shelter and food and re-traps them at regular intervals for vaccination updates and checkups. Borsody said three of the cats the group first helped are going strong at age 13.
"There are a lot of misunderstandings about feral cats," said Borsody. "One of our big pushes is to advocate for these cats. They're not attack cats or diseased, and they have a right to live. ... They fall through the cracks and shelters won't take them."
Many are abandoned pets, dumped at farms and along roadways and left frightened and traumatized. Kittens, and adults when possible, are fostered for adoption. Borsody said the placement rate has risen since the storefront opened on North Street.
"We had our 15th adult adoption today, which was really exciting for us ... We've had so much more foot traffic since we moved to North Street," she said. But it seems an unending battle when she mentions trapping yet another mother and three kittens last week. "People think nothing of just leaving their cats behind."
Harris said he'd learned working on the Animal Control Commission how expensive it is to neuter cats. Animal DREAMS is going where the cats are to provide humane population control and help the living animal. Now, if people do good for the animals through a donation, he said, "we'll do something immediately good for you."
Borsody is hoping that raising the group's profile will bring in more money, more volunteers and more adoptions.
"We always worry are we going to stay in business and if we're not there, what will happen to these cats?" she asked. "We've helped so many animals and people, too."
Paws For Dignity runs from 5 to 8 p.m. during the July 19 Third Thursday. Animal DREAMS is located at 441 North St.
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