Help wanted at humane society

A book store with 20,000 books and a thrift shop packed with clothes need a lot of people to run them but the Humane Society’s bank of volunteers is running low. 

The Humane Society, which runs a shelter for animals in North Sound Road, raises about a third of its funds through its two stores, but is currently operating with a skeleton staff of volunteers and is appealing to public to pitch in and help out. 

“We always see a drop off in the summer so we really need more volunteers over the next few months,” said Kim Blackwell, manager of the Book Loft. 

Both shops are stocked with items donated by the public. 

Although the Book Loft has a list of 40 volunteers, about 15 of those are regulars and several of them leave the island over the summer months. “That’s why need help. When we do the sales, we really need more people,” she said. 

At The Clawset thrift store, there is just a regular group of about four volunteers who are able to donate a lot of their time each week to the store, so they work long hours, often not even getting a chance to take a break for lunch, explained volunteer Janette Fitzgerald. 

“We’re desperate at the thrift store. We only have four regulars. It gets so busy on Saturdays and on Monday mornings after big drop-offs [of donated items],” said Ms Fitzgerald. “People don’t have to be able to work all day, just a couple of hours would be fine.” 

Running the Humane Society costs between $45,000 and $50,000 a month, said Ms Fitzgerald. Much of this is raised through donations and fund raising, but she hopes that with more volunteers working at the stores, the book shop and thrift shop might be able to bring in more revenue to keep the dogs at the shelter healthy and fed, as well as help pay for the spaying, neutering and treatment of animals referred to the organisation by owners who cannot afford to pay for that care. 

“In an ideal world, we would to be able to raise that $45,000 to $50,000 in the bookstore and thrift shop, but in reality we only make about a third of that,” said Ms Fitzgerald.  

The organisation knows that it has plenty of supporters in Cayman, as evidenced by the turnout of people who lined up to foster animals that needed emergency housing when the Humane Society shelter was flooded in heavy rains last month. “It was incredible. I was overwhelmed by the support that day. People took home 204 dogs and cats. We had people queueing up down the street. It shows that people are behind us,” said Ms Fitzgerald. 

She hopes that this support will translate into volunteers for the shops. The organisation is also looking for people who can help its fundraising efforts. 

Most of the books in the Book Loft cost $1, although bargains can be had for just 25 cents. Other more expensive books are also on sale at a fraction of the price one would pay for them in a commercial book store. It also sells DVDs, CDs, toys, games and puzzles, said Ms Blackwell. 

The subject matter of the books vary from school and college text books to romance novels and best selling thrillers to adult books.  

“We’ve had people drop off 10 or 12 boxes of books at one time. When people move to the island, they bring everything with them, so when they leave, they leave a lot of it behind. We think a lot of people have been leaving recently because of the number of books we’ve been getting in over the past few weeks,” said Ms Blackwell. 

If people want to donate items to the thrift store, they don’t even have to come to the store, volunteers will go and pick up the items from their offices and homes. Some companies have established their drop-off centres within their offices for donated books and thrift store items and then give the Humane Society a call to come and collect them, Ms Fitzgerald said. 

Items as large as washer/dryers and furniture sets have been donated. No matter the size, the organisation will be able to pick up the donated items, she sad. 

She discourages people from dropping items outside the Humane Society’s designated donation box because it’s not unheard of for people to steal the donated goods. “If they call me, I’ll go and pick it up,” said Ms Fitzgerald. 

As well as volunteers to sort through books and man the Book Loft, Ms Blackwell said the store also needed some strong men to help carry boxes of donated books, left on the ground floor upstairs to book shop. 

The Humane Society is also considering expanding its book shop by setting up more sale points at the airport or at hotels or the hospitals. “We need people to help us do that,” said Ms Blackwell. 

Its website has newly acquired a “Donate” button which will enable people to make one-off monetary donations or monthly donations. “Some people aren’t comfortable or get upset around all the animals, so don’t want to come here, but still want to help, so this enables them to donate in a different way,” said Ms Fitzgerald. 

 

To get information on how to volunteer or to donate items or money, visit the organisation’s website on caymanhumanesociety.com 

Cayman Islands Humane Society store

From left, Kim Blackwell, manager of the Book Loft; Sharon Watler, manager of the thrift store; and volunteers Christine Ricketts and Janette Fitzgerald inside the Cayman Islands Humane Society’s treasure trove of a thrift store. – PHOTO: NORMA CONNOLLY
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