With a little help …

By on December 10, 2014

 

Volunteers from Leo’s Helping Paws gather around the Christmas tree. The tree is covered with ornaments that list items needed by local rescues. The group encourages the public to come in and choose an ornament and make a donation. Shown (from left, front row) are: Kathy Styer, Beth Buchter, Spokesdog Leo, Deb Fisher, Joanne Ressler, and Katie Siebel; (back row) Joyce Wilhide, Dave Wilhide, Rick Ressler and Joyce Nettke.

Volunteers from Leo’s Helping Paws gather around the Christmas tree. The tree is covered with ornaments that list items needed by local rescues. The group encourages the public to come in and choose an ornament and make a donation. Shown (from left, front row) are: Kathy Styer, Beth Buchter, Spokesdog Leo, Deb Fisher, Joanne Ressler, and Katie Siebel; (back row) Joyce Wilhide, Dave Wilhide, Rick Ressler and Joyce Nettke.

A local organization is hoping Christmas will be going to the dogs this year.
Leo’s Helping Paws is an all volunteer organization dedicated to helping puppy mill, abandoned, abused, injured and stray dogs.
The group currently has 25 volunteers and 10 years experience in fundraising. Its spokesdog, Leo, was rescued from a puppy mill in Lancaster County, according to member Kathy Styer.
Styer said the group became incorporated this year and describes its mission as providing financial assistance to dog rescue groups in Pennsylvania and neighboring states for veterinary care with a primary focus on puppy mill dogs, in addition to abused and neglected dogs and to educate the community about puppy mills.
She said the group also provides grants to other non-profit organizations.
Fundraising is what makes it possible for the organization to continue its mission and it is asking the community for help.
There is a Christmas tree at the Pancake Farm restaurant on South State Street in Ephrata decorated with ornaments. Each ornament has an item listed on it, such as dog food and treats or dog toys. The group will even accept donations of cat food.
“A lot of the rescues are all-humane,” explains Styer. “We help with food and supplies and the rescues have dogs and cats both.”
“So the Christmas tree is to help all rescues by providing much needed supplies,” Styer said, inviting the public to stop by and pick up an ornament or to make a financial donation.
Styer said they also have a food bank where rescues can come and get food and supplies.
The organization just recently helped 30 rescues when it received a donation of 3,500 pounds of dog food. Styer said Pet Smart donated the food to Karen Gerth of KPets, who in turn donated it to Leo’s Helping Paws.
Styer said some of the food was distributed to rescues in western Pennsylvania and New Jersey. She said the rest was given to local rescues, who came to Ephrata and picked it up.
However, the food bank is only a small part of what the organization offers.
“Our main mission is with our grants,” Styer said. “We have provided almost $10,000 in grants in the past four months.”
And that number is climbing. Styer said four more requests have recently come in.
“Basically our mission statement is to provide grants for vet care,” said Joanne Ressler. “This food kind of fell into our lap and we didn’t know there was such an extreme need for all these rescues. We had 8,000 hits on Facebook, so that was kind of a revelation.”
“We were just going to be this little group that had fundraisers and raise money to help other rescues pay for their vet bills because we knew that was a need,” Ressler said. “But then it exploded and we realized, “Oh my God, they need food, too.’”
Ressler said she made a food delivery over the weekend and the rescue said, “Thank you, thank you, now we have enough food to feed our dogs this winter.”
“Even though supposedly there are other resources out there, they obviously aren’t providing (enough),” Ressler said.
“Once we got that large donation of food, it opened up our eyes to how many rescues actually struggle to provide the food and vet care and people don’t know about these rescues,” Styer said. “We didn’t even know about them and we’ve been in this.”
Styer said the group struggled with deciding whether they wanted to be a corporation or a foundation.
“A lot of people don’t know where to donate to, but want to help the animals,” she said. “They give to the bigger ones, places that are more well-known.”
Styer said with their organization, when a rescue group applies to them for a grant, they research it and see if it fits their criteria. It must be all volunteer.
“We wouldn’t give a donation to a rescue that has a lot of paid volunteers,” she said. “None of us are paid. We are all volunteers so we wanted to provide to the smaller rescues.”
So far, the group has given grants from $300 to $1,500, all local.
“The lowest request was a $200 vet bill,” Styer said.
“Vet bills are what rescues struggle with and they are constantly having to fundraise,” Styer said. “I think we raise $1,000 a month here at the restaurant selling treats and toys and with our fundraisers that’s how we are raising the money. Everything that’s up there (at the Pancake Farm), we sell for the dogs. Everything is donated.
“I wish we could fill every request, but we just can do what we can,” she said. “Every single dollar donated will be going to the dogs. I really want to emphasize that.”
For more information or a grant application, visit their website at: leoshelpingpaws.org.
Financial donations are also accepted. Checks can be made out to Leo’s Helping Paws, 1284 Wheatland Avenue, Lancaster, PA 1760. All donations will be used toward the grant program.

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