AMHERST, N.H. -- Having no brick-and-mortar headquarters location for its 30 years of existence has meant that Kitty Angels, the no-kill cat shelter founded by Joan Abbott, must rely heavily on its network of volunteers. These unpaid foster-care providers carry out the organization's mission, taking rescued stray and abandoned cats into their homes to care for them day by day, year-round.
As much as Rick and Sherry Tobin, owners of Treasures Antiques, Collectables & More! have long admired Abbott and her team of volunteers for taking in hundreds of endangered cats before placing them with compatible owners, the Tobins would make "lousy" foster cat parents themselves, Rick Tobin said.
"I tell Joan, I can't foster any cats because if they come into my house, they're not leaving," Rick Tobin said. "We have six rescue cats living with us now: Kodak, Rajah, Havanna, Diamond, Chessie, and Ocean. They work in the office with us."
The Tobins found another way to make a major contribution to the shelter's ongoing health and vitality. Every May for two decades, the couple has organized and hosted the "Kitty Angels Fundraiser and Adoption Days" at their antiques store, an event that has grown in popularity and attendance each year.
The 2013 event had 138 vendors. Rick Tobin predicted that a new record-high number of vendors will set up their tables at this year's milestone, 20th annual 2014 Kitty Angels Fundraiser, being held 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, May 4 and 5, rain or shine, on the grounds surrounding Treasures' store location at 106 Ponemah Road/Route 122 in Amherst.
The vendors will offer all varieties of crafts, jewelry, candles, soaps, florals, gardening fare, sporting goods, clothing, and other flea market/yard-sale, bargain priced items, plus food and refreshments, and face-painting, in a county-fair type atmosphere.
In addition to the vendors, the New England Brethren of Pirates, a reenactment and improve troupe will entertain guests as characters from the "Pirates of the Caribbean" movies, selling hand-made and pirate themed wares and playing fun, pirate themed games with children
New this year will be car displays: the "General Lee," the Dodge Charger seen in the "Dukes of Hazzard" TV series, and "Son of Trigger," the 1981 Pontiac Trans Am Turbo driven by Burt Reynolds in the cross-country car chase movie, "Smokey and the Bandit II."
Returning to the event by popular demand, Tobin said, will be the folks from Nevejans Farm of Tyngsboro, bringing along their petting zoo, including lambs, sheep, turkeys, chickens and goats.
As always, all pets are welcome to attend the Kitty Angels fundraiser along with their owners, Tobin said.
Just how big has the Kitty Angels Fundraiser become exactly? Well, it can now officially be called an international event.
"People come annually to this event from Maine, Vermont, and Massachusetts, and we have one couple that comes from Japan," said Tobin. "We have another couple from Sweden that travels to the States every year and make they sure to do it the first week of May so they can attend, too."
Kitty Angels founder Joan Abbott said the Tobins became the two "biggest cheerleaders" for the Kitty Angels organization from the moment she became acquainted with them in 1994, when they adopted their first kitten from the shelter.
It seems fitting now, looking back 20 years, that the first kitten Rick and Sherry Tobin chose to adopt from Kitty Angels was the biggest -- or actually littlest -- underdog of a cat imaginable, Kameo.
"Kitty Angels was established to take in cats and kittens that don't stand much of a chance in other places. We take on some really difficult cases," said Abbott, who credits Amherst Animal Hospital with helping Kitty Angels by treating the worst-case, sadly mangled or critically ill kitty patients to give them a second chance at life.
Kameo was among those very fragile kittens.
"Rick and Sherry are great people, and dedicated pet owners, but 20 years ago when they first came over to my house, it was the first kitten they had ever adopted from us, and there was still the matter of having trust in new owners that we needed to establish," Abbott recalled.
"There was this tiny little kitten, the runt of the litter, that the Tobins focused in on. Very fragile and so tiny, they carried him around in their pocket -- and that was the one they wanted to adopt. I remember we went back and forth on it. 'Are you sure you want to take that one,' I asked them."
Kameo turned out to be the first of many best-choice kitten adoptions from Kitty Angels that the Treasures Antiques owners would go on to make over the years, Rick Tobin said.
"Kameo actually became the 'spokesperson' of our shop," said Tobin. "He was the runt of the litter, a 'Dumpster kitty.' His mother was found in a Dumpster and he was born at Joan Abbott's."
Kameo was lovingly cared for by the Tobins and lived happily among the antique aisles and shelves and on Treasures grounds until he finally succumbed to health issues at 14 years old in 2008.
He was first in a long line of Kitty Angels adoptees the Tobins took in. Kameo's birth also coincided with the birth of the annual fundraiser, which has generated over $40,000 in donations for Kitty Angels since the inaugural event in 1995, Tobin said.
"My wife and I are both big on the idea of 'no-kill.' That is, everybody deserves to have a chance," Tobin said. "The ones shelters put down simply because they have 'too many' -- that just doesn't fly with us."
What the Tobins may lack as foster care volunteers, they more than make up for as fundraiser festival organizers, Abbott noted.
"I can't imagine what a nightmare it is to organize all these vendors and make everybody happy, and then pray to the weather gods for two nice days -- which really makes or breaks the weekend," said Abbott.
Rain or shine, however, she added, "it's a great, fun event, always interesting, always offering something new."
After last year's festival, Treasures handed Abbott a donation for $7,000, including cash and donated cat care materials, and food.
"I feel like after so many years of hard work, things have really pulled together with the people who volunteer for us, the agencies we work with, and the Tobins. We've reached a really good spot," Abbott said. "But I am still amazed that after 30 years there is still such a need for the work our organization does. And that propels us to continue on."
Readers who cannot come to the Kitty Angels Fundraising festival next weekend but would like to make a donation through Treasures, may send a check or money order made out to: Treasures (with a note in memo section: "Kitty Angels, Inc."). The mailing address is: Treasures Antiques, Collectables & MORE! 106 Ponemah Road, Amherst, NH 03031.
Those interested in being a vendor at the event may contact Sherry Tobin at 603-672-2535. A donation of $30 for an outdoor space will cover both days.
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