Pawing for Purrrses: Handbags to be Auctioned off to Support Humane Society

By ARIADNE WILL

BURLINGTON — The fifth annual Purrrses for Paws event is set to take place on Thursday, Feb. 7 at the Burlington International Airport. Hosted by the Humane Society of Chittenden County (HSCC), the event aims to raise funds for their animal shelter in South Burlington. New and ‘like-new’ purses, clutches and handbags will be auctioned off at the fundraiser, where ticket-holders can also purchase raffle tickets for a chance to win an emerald ring valued at $8,000. Tickets for the event are on sale for $30 and can be purchased through HSCC’s website, chittendenhumane.org.

 Powered by over 200 volunteers and a small staff, HSCC was founded in 1901 by June and Herb Davis and has grown tremendously since. Today, HSCC serves Chittenden and Grand Isle counties, taking in and caring for 974 animals in 2018. The Purrrses for Paws event has reflected the shelter’s growth.

 “Our first Purrrses for Paws raised around $18,000,” said Erin Alamed, Director of Volunteer and Community Outreach at HSCC. “In the last two years we have raised between $40,000 and $50,000 at the event. It has grown significantly in the way we’re executing the event, the event’s location and the purse options, and we are honing in on what’s working and what isn’t.”

 As a nonprofit organization receiving no city, state or federal funding, HSCC depends entirely on donations from the community. 

“We are constantly asking a lot from the community, and most of our donations come from one-on-one donor support,” said Diana Hill, director of development for HSCC. “We have our annual campaign fund that is always requiring gifts, but we also have specific funds that we always want to keep full so that we can do everything we do, both here at the shelter and in the community.”

 Though a large percent of HSCC funds go toward veterinary bills, money is also needed to keep facilities in order and to provide food and other amenities for the shelter’s animals. The impact of Purrrses for Paws extends beyond monetary support, however. 

“The events we host spread the word about our mission to people attending, people who might not be familiar with what we do,” Alamed said. “We try to incorporate an educational aspect into it and try to tie the event back to our mission.”

 Right now, that mission is the accessible education of animal treatment. “If we educate people early on, hopefully we will put ourselves out of business,” said Alamed. “Hopefully we will soon turn into something different, but for now it’s about education and figuring out the best way to care for animals.”

 The effects of this mission are seen in HSCC’s army of volunteers. Carrie Prat, a self-proclaimed animal lover, began volunteering in May 2018 after she and her husband adopted two cats from the shelter.

“I felt like working full-time didn’t allow me to express my volunteer self. I really wanted a consistent volunteering opportunity,” said Prat. “I have had such a great experience adopting animals from HSCC, and I wanted to help out even more.”

 Volunteering in a facility that services 50 to 75 animals at any given time, Prat quickly observed the commitment of HSCC’s volunteers and staff. “I have learned how dedicated the staff and volunteers are,” she said. “Everyone works so hard to keep things going. It’s a 365-day job; it’s not something that ever stops.”

 The importance of volunteers is not exclusive to the shelter’s daily runnings. Purrrses for Paws requires a massive volunteer effort as well.

 “We don’t have a large expense for these events,” Alamed explained. “All of the people who will be working Purrrses for Paws are volunteers, except myself. We couldn’t do events like these without our volunteers.”

 With the Feb. 7 event quickly approaching, the staff is busy planning the event and preparing the purses. “We have about 300 people come to bid on new and like-new purses,” said Hill. “I just sat through my first purse processing meeting.”

With excitement building as the date draws nearer, the shelter’s staff and volunteers look forward to another interaction with the people who allow HSCC’s goals to become reality. While preparing, however, the staff and volunteers at HSCC will continue to evolve their operation.

“Events have changed, staffing has changed, and [they] will continue to change over the next hundred and twenty years or so,” said Alamed. “We are always learning new things about how to enrich our animals, the processes that are working for some organizations and not for others, demographics, animals we’re taking in, adoption rates, all of that.”

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Pawing for Purrrses: Handbags to be Auctioned off to Support Humane Society