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Fundraising for Cat Rescues

Lee County Animal Shelter, in the middle of rural Lee County, S.C., shares the burden of countless other pet shelters and rescue groups across the country: too many dogs, cats, and other pets needing a home and not enough money to create the best possible circumstaces to help that happen. Doris Winstead helped start the cat rescue shelter 20 years ago, and for the first 10 was its director and sole employee, along with serving as the county’s animal control officer.

As most pet shelter employees and volunteers know, funding can be hard to come by. Still, Doris constantly sought financial help from the community to spay and neuter rescue cats to make them more adoptable and give them a better opportunity to find a “forever home.” But in tight economic times, the reply usually was “no.” Her quilting buddy, Judy Ingle, suggested an unusual, yet unique, fundraising idea that she learned from a crafter: make shopping bags out of livestock feed and pet food bags and sell them to raise money for cat rescue.

Many of the bags, which contain feed for birds, pets, and livestock, are made of woven plastic and decorated with bright colors and images of animals. Some are even made from recycled plastic.

Doris loved the idea and now, the two have perfected their process so they can sew a shopping bag in as little as 15 minutes. Donors who give at least $10 to the pet shelter get one of the distinctive, handy shopping bags in return.

Materials cost the pet shelter nothing; empty feedbags are donated by the community and collected by Doris, Judy, and their pet-friendly friends. Nothing is wasted and no new material is introduced.

“This is absolutely the most green idea you can come up with,” Doris says. And, the women say, anyone with a sewing machine can make these bags.

The new project has already saved the lives of countless rescued cats. “You couldn’t give the cats away before and now she’s getting $25 for the cats because they’re spayed,” Judy says. “So there’s thousands of kittens that are not born to be thrown away and thousands of rescue cats that don’t need to be taken care of.”

Doris’ dedication to homeless and unwanted pets began more than 20 years ago when she found a cat near death after being hit by a car.

She rescued the cat and took it home so it wouldn’t crawl back into the road and get hit again. The next morning when it was still alive, she took the cat to a vet. One vet after another saw the animal with a cracked jaw, punctured eye, and unsteady walk and suggested Doris have it euthanized. “This cat has survived all night long with no medical help,” she replied. “I’m not killing this cat.”

At her last stop, she walked in and told the vet, “Do not tell me to put this cat down. Give me what it needs and if it dies, God will take care of it.”

The vet provided antibiotics and Doris repaired the broken jaw with a rubber band. She fed the cat human baby food and “Sampson” lived another four years. “That’s when I decided we needed an animal shelter,” she says. “When you have nothing, anything is better than nothing.”