Two separate community service projects in Kenai and Nikiski have a couple things in common; both ideas originated from students and were directed to help make a positive impact in the lives of pets.
Two sophomores at Nikiski High School raised $1,500 to buy 20 emergency pet oxygen mask kits and donated them to the Nikiski and Kenai Fire Departments. Cousins Marguerite and Evangeline Cox presented 12 kits to the Nikiski Fire Department at their board meeting April 16.
Marguerite and Evangeline Cox wanted to ensure first responders were prepared with life-saving equipment for everyone in a household – pets included, said Denise Cox, Evangeline’s mother. After doing a little research, the cousins found an organization that sells oxygen mask kits intended for pets.
The two girls contacted all the fire stations in the central peninsula about the pet masks and raised money through bake sales in Nikiski at the craft fair and M&M Market, Denise Cox wrote in an email.
“When a fire breaks out, the first thing an animal usually does is to hide in fear,” Denise Cox said. “When a firefighter discovers an animal in distress, (the pet) usually needs immediate help and there is often little to no time to call a vet or shelter to receive help.”
The specialized masks, purchased through Wag’N 02 Fur Life for $75 each, come in three sizes designed to fit small animals and large dogs. The girls earned $900 from the bake sales and used their permanent fund dividend as well as received donations from family and friends to buy 20 kits, said Lindy Cox, Marguerite’s mother.
The two girls stuck with the project, even though their teacher informed them a community project wasn’t required for the class, Lindy Cox said.
“They are compassionate girls and worked so hard to raise enough money,” she said. “We are so proud of them. The response from the community was incredible.”
Earlier this year, kindergarteners at Mountain View Elementary School in Kenai collected $308.66 in pennies and donated the money to the Kenai Animal Shelter to be spent on blankets and toys for the animals. The City of Kenai will appropriate the funds to the shelter at the May 7 council meeting.
The penny drive, organized by the four kindergarten classes, was a way to get the students more involved in helping out in their community, said Cindy Thomas, a kindergarten teacher at Mountain View.
“Kindergarteners are mostly aware of themselves and their close surroundings,” she said. “This was a way to get them to reach outside their immediate world and realize they can make an impact.”
The kindergarten teachers’ brainstormed ways their students could help contribute to something meaningful in their lives. The project coincided with lessons about pets and the value of coins and students decided what the money could be used for, she said. Using large pickle jars set out in front of each classroom, students from every grade brought in pennies for two weeks culminating on Feb 14.
“February is a month to show your love and care for others,” Thomas said.
The four classes filled up five and a half jars full of pennies and took them to a bank and poured the coins into a counting machine, which jammed up several times, she said.
The school presented the Kenai Animal Shelter with a check for $308.66 to be used for animal food, dog and cat toys and blankets, she said.
Cora Chambers, chief animal control officer at the Kenai Animal Shelter said the money will go to buy animal enrichment toys to keep dogs and cats busy while in their kennels. She said with the donation the shelter plans to buy cable runs for the dogs to get outside in the summer.
“The kids wanted the money to go specifically for animals and we will make sure to go along with their wishes,” she said.
The Kenai Animal Shelter took in 105 animals in the month of March, with 26 dropped off in overnight kennels. Chambers said the shelter typically takes in 100 animals a month and last year more than 1,400 animals went through their doors.
The shelter is required to hold strays for three days to allow time for owners to find them. After that period, the animals are available for adoption, she said. In the month of March, 25 stray dogs were brought into the shelter while 26 dogs were adopted out. Chambers said the staff works hard to find a suitable home for the animals.
Often times, animals are brought in by owners who cannot take care of the animal for various reasons while other pets are dropped off overnight. Chambers said it is unfortunate when animals are brought in without the owner informing the staff about the animal.
“If we have more information it helps us out and is better for the animal,” she said. “People feel worried about fees or may feel ashamed giving them up but in the end that just hurts the animal.”
For a safe capacity the Kenai shelter can hold up to 37 dogs and 21 cats, but Chambers said they have had to double up some dogs in the kennels. If an animal has been in the shelter for more than two months, the staff will reach out to rescue groups or other shelters to try to find them a home, she said.
“Some dogs do great at the shelter because it’s like a big party, while other animals don’t like the noise and don’t adapt as well as others,” she said. “If an animal starts getting kennel crazy, we network with other groups to find them a home because it is not healthy for them to be caged for too long.”
Chambers said they have had tremendous adoption numbers the last couple months but still have great animals available. She suggests anyone who is interested in adopting a pet to do their research on what type of animal would fit their lifestyle. Knowing a pet’s health, temperament and personality helps the staff place the animal in the right home.
“Certain breeds will fit some families better than others,” she said. “Don’t get too concerned with the look or size of an animal that may not fit your lifestyle.”