Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

December 16, 2012

Annual shelter drive underscores residents generosity, compassion


Bluefield Daily Telegraph

— — Mountains of dog and cat food, boxes of squeaky toys, bags of towels and bedding. For one week each December, pet supplies are stacked throughout our building. The event is the annual Prerogative-Daily Telegraph Shelter Drive, a campaign designed to stock the shelves of local animal welfare organizations.

The event started on a small scale the first year the magazine was launched. Our goal was simply to provide toys and treats to dogs and cats housed at the Mercer County Animal Shelter during Christmas. However, our readers’ generosity expanded the concept. Not only did the animals receive toys and treats, the shelves were stocked with enough food and bedding to last for weeks.

Through the years, a continued outpouring of support from our readers has allowed us to expand the event and help other shelters and animal welfare organizations. This year, we donated items to four animal shelters — the Mercer and Tazewell county animal shelters, the McDowell County Humane Society and Pet Haven in Bluefield, Va. — as well as the Save a Pet Food Bank.

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Each year, I continue to be amazed when watching people unload bags of food and goodies for our region’s homeless pets. I know there are many animal lovers in our region, but this overwhelming generosity during such tough economic times is a testament to the compassionate nature of those who reside in the two Virginias.

This year, Debbie Goforth of Bluefield was one of the individuals who brought in a large donation. She was kind enough to leave a letter for me explaining the motivation behind her actions. The beautiful sentiment deserves to be shared:

“Our family is donating these items in memory of our son, Nathan, who was born on Christmas Eve and had a great amount of love for the dogs in his life; he died from the effects of two brain tumors six years ago.

“We had three dogs between 1995, when he was diagnosed, and 2006, when he passed away. Bonnie, our Scottish terrier, would lay at the foot of his bed at night while he slept, as if she were a sentinel watching over him and protecting him against these unseen forces of seizures, chemo and radiation treatments that were threatening his life.

“Later, after she passed away, we adopted two tiny Pomeranians who seemed to make it their goal to entertain Nathan the last year of his life with their hysterical wrestling-like antics and chasing of each other’s tails. These animals all contributed to a better quality of life for our son, and we are very thankful for all the happy moments they provided.

“As your readers know so well about your love for animals, I would also encourage anyone who is considering adopting a pet to open their home and their heart to a dog or a cat; trust me, you won’t be disappointed with a fuller, happier life!”

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The shelter drive is one of those events whose ultimate purpose is like a magnet, pulling in volunteers and helpers from all those who come in contact with it.

The folks in our maintenance and circulation departments are a huge help with the drive. Throughout the event, they help unload, carry and log donations.

The newsroom staff is also great, helping to load the massive quantities of food, treats and supplies into the trailer on the final Friday of the event, and coming out on Saturday to help with the distribution.

And speaking of the trailer, Charlie Cole, of Cole Harley-Davidson, and his driver Mike Peak deserve a big thank you. Several years ago when the amount of items donated exceeded the size of our personal SUVs, Charlie volunteered to provide the trailer for easier transport.

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On Saturday, we once again gathered at the Mercer County Animal Shelter to distribute the donated items.

As always, it was a great day. Shelter representatives and staff mingled with volunteers in a spirit of camaraderie and charity. Toys were given to some of the dogs at the shelter — and, not surprisingly, they were smothered with affection from the visitors.

As vehicles and storage room shelves were stuffed with giant bags of food, boxes of toys, cleaning supplies and more, I was struck once again by the generous spirit of the people of southern West Virginia and Southwest Virginia.

Moments such as this — the giving, the good cheer, the friendship — is what Christmas is all about.

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This Friday, the compassion and generous nature of the region’s residents will once again be on display during the annual Community Christmas Tree party.

Sponsored by the Daily Telegraph since 1917, the Community Christmas Tree campaign provides toys, treats and other items to local children who might otherwise go without during the holiday.

Hundreds of volunteers work behind the scenes to ensure the success of the “Little Jimmie” campaign and party. From shopping and set-up to party planning and gift distribution, the volunteers work hard to ensure all the children served have a merry Christmas.

This year, more than 825 children will receive gift bags through the Community Christmas Tree campaign. It’s an incredible charitable act that would not be possible without our generous readers and tireless volunteers.

Samantha Perry is editor of the Daily Telegraph. Contact her at sperry@bdtonline.com. Follow her @BDTPerry.