Supplying their needs

Ashby Lee Elementary School student Solangh Cuyuch, 8, stacks cat food cans inside the school on Friday while getting help from Nate Sibert, 10, left, and Allie Pool, 8, center, all of New Market. The students have been collecting money and supplies for "Love Your Animals Month" for the Humane Society of Shenandoah County. Rich Cooley/Daily

Last year’s donation by Ashby Lee Elementary School in Quicksburg was the largest the Humane Society of Shenandoah County had ever received, and this year’s looks to be even bigger.

The gifts of pet food and supplies for needy animals filled a whole pickup truck last February, said Humane Society President Melisa Miller-Piselli.

“This year they’re going to more than fill up the truck,” she said.

All donations will go to community members who can’t afford pet food, elderly or shut-in pet owners, and to feral cats around the area. Collection items include food, pet supplies and transportation of dogs and cats to be spayed or neutered, and monetary donations are encouraged, said Miller-Piselli.

By far the school’s most successful fundraiser last year, the effort brought in nearly 1,800 pounds of items like pet food, toys and blankets, said Julie Walthall, a speech pathologist who organizes the effort.

Usually teachers fund the school’s other community service projects through twice-a-month $3 denim days or other collections. But February’s Love the Animals Month challenges students to join in too and include their friends and neighbors in the effort.

The monthly fundraisers began with the school’s Relay for Life team, said Walthall.

“We wanted more people involved,” she said.

Walthall chose to support the Humane Society out of a love of animals and said activities arranged throughout the month keep children excited about the idea.

On Feb. 10, Sandy Hook Elementary School teacher Vicki Lutz brought her therapy dogs to Ashby Lee, and February “mascot” Luna, a Boston Terrier-French Bulldog belonging to Ashby Lee teacher Amanda Furman, has helped out with morning announcements with tips on taking care of animals.

Students from pre-kindergarten to fifth grade have participated in classroom competitions to see which class can collect the most items this month. Some have sparked their own families to donate, and others have inspired friends and neighbors.

“They understand that,” Walthall said. “How to be kind, how to be, you know, part of the community.”

For the Humane Society, a 401c3 reliant on donations, the effort is a tremendous help and very much appreciated, said Miller-Piselli.

Donations will most benefit its pet food pantry and the spay and neuter transport program, which meets most months at the Edinburg Park.

From there, animals are transported to Ancira Veterinary Center in Harrisonburg to be spayed or neutered. The following day, the pets are returned to the park where volunteers hold the food pantry.

The next spay and neuter transport day will begin with pet drop-off at 7:45 a.m. March 12. Pick-up is 7:45 a.m. March 13, when the pet food pantry will begin.

Celebrating its 10th year, the program has impacted the community’s pet overpopulation, said Miller-Piselli, who has seen a drastic reduction in the number of strays coming to the shelter and the number of animal euthanasias.

“So it is working,” she said.

The Ashby Lee fundraiser ends on Wednesday, and Walthall said the students are excited to count how much they collect. She said it will provide a lesson in math when students round donations to the nearest pound.

“I think the overall message is animals this month, but we at Ashby Lee are involved with the community. We’re giving back.”

The Humane Society has asked for dry kitten food above all else. It also needs dry and canned food for cats and dogs, and donations of blankets and sheets, comforters, old crates and pet carriers, which the organization also lends to pet owners. Monetary donations should go to the Humane Society of Shenandoah County at P.O. Box 173, Woodstock, VA 22664. To donate through Ashby Lee, please make checks out to the school and deliver them to 480 Stonewall Lane, Quicksburg.

For information on the spay and neuter transport program or the pet food pantry, call 540-421-4842.

Contact staff writer Josette Keelor at 540-465-5137 ext. 176, or jkeelor@nvdaily.com