Ellen Quimper: A Cat In Need Becomes Her Cat, Indeed
Love-A-Stray volunteer turned her barn into a cat shelter
This was not what Ellen Quimper had in mind when she began volunteering to foster a few rescued cats in her Avon home for Love-A-Stray.
But nine years ago, the organization found itself in a dilemma.
A homeless woman living in her car had a chance to get into a facility. But she had 25 cats that could not come with her. Trying to find foster homes for 25 cats at once seemed impossible for Love-A-Stray to take on.
The solution could be seen from Quimper's kitchen window: The century barn on her land.
"We brought them here, and the rest is history," Quimper said.
That decision led to Quimper's barn becoming Love-A-Stray's cat shelter, where cats awaiting foster or permanent homes can live, where cats who have been fixed can recover before being placed, and where sick cats can have a place to recover or spend their last days surrounded by loving people.
Because of what she does for Love-A-Stray, Quimper has been chosen as Huffington Post's Greatest Person of the Day.
Running the shelter is a job, but it's not Quimper's full-time job. She works at Kaiser Permanente. Running the cat shelter is done for love.
"Ellen is totally devoted," said Love-A-Stray volunteer Marge Spaeth, who comes weekly to help out and also stars in Avon Patch's videos of cats available for adoption, such as James, Felicia and Smudge. "She gives her time, her home, her heart to these cats."
Volunteers ranging from kids to senior citizens help out at the barn daily. They clean the cats' cages, make sure they get the right food if they're on a special diet, keep on top of medications, take cats to vet appointments, handle adoptions and foster placements, and make sure that each cat gets personal attention. About 60 people volunteer at the barn.
The barn holds between 150 and 175 cats and kittens at any given time. Some of them will live out their lives there. These cats have special needs, or are unadoptable because of illness or past trauma such as abuse. Every cat in the barn gets a name.
"Our cages have numbers, but the cats aren't numbers," she said. "Each one is special."
Quimper keeps some cats in her home who need quiet or isolation. When Ivan was recovering from having a front leg amputated, he stayed in her laundry room. He had peace and quiet most of the time, but also had interaction with Quimper as well as volunteers who would be washing and drying the huge amounts of towels and blankets they go through each day.
Quimper has done more than provide the barn. Spaeth said Quimper pays for heating the barn in the winter, and paid to have air conditioning units installed as well.
"This barn wasn't designed for heating and cooling," Spaeth said.
A room for cats with feline leukemia virus, or FLV, is being set up they can live safely away from non-infected cats.
The rewards are every day, Quimper said.
"You get a cat that is so emaciated, so abused, you think there's no way they can survive," she said. "But you do everything you can, and they make it and end up finding a home."
But that happy ending doesn't always happen. Quimper said just knowing she and the other Love-A-Stray volunteers gave a cat the best final days and moments it could have is a reward, too.
"We can't save them all," she said. "We try, but sometimes I think we were simply meant to come in at the end so that they don't die a horrible death outside, alone, hungry and cold. At least they know they were loved for whatever period of time they were here with us."