WATERTOWN — Despite the gray, rainy weather on Friday, spirits were high at the Jefferson County SPCA during the shelter’s first ever Lifesavers Life-a-thon.
Beginning at 8 a.m., SPCA Executive Director Heather Spezzano and Development Manager Tim Greening, along with shelter staff members, were locked inside dog kennels in an effort to drum up donations and sign ups to the Lifesavers Club.
A big part of the fundraiser was a livestream aimed at not only raising money, but educating the public about the services the shelter offers and how much they cost. Unfortunately, the Wi-Fi does not work well out in the kennels, so the livestream had to be moved to the shelter’s more cheerfully decorated lobby.
“If you’ve ever gotten a dog, a cat, a hamster, a guinea pig or a bird from us, you know what an adopted animal does for your family,” Mrs. Spezzano said during the stream. “It brings you love, it brings you joy, and that’s priceless.”
Though Mrs. Spezzano, Mr. Greening and various staff members were uncaged, they remained dedicated to the cause and spoke to viewers for hours about the shelter, animals up for adoption, and the importance of donations to keep operations running until the stream ended at 5 p.m. Shelter staff and doctors went through services offered at the shelter and procedures done, discussing things from microchipping to the large cat population in Jefferson County.
The goal of the fundraiser was to get 500 Lifesavers members to sign up and pledge to donate $10 a month to the shelter, which would work out to $60,000 in donations for the SPCA. By the end of the livestream, about $5,000 had been raised for the coming year, according to Mrs. Spezzano, though a total of donors and the amount raised will not be available for a few days due to a lag between the time of donations and when they show up on the shelter’s server.
In front of a sign reading “Happy Life-A-Thon Day,” each hour of the broadcast a new, adoptable animal was featured, along with different staff members. The goal, along with raising money, was to get visibility for available animals and get them adopted. According to Mrs. Spezzano, money raised during shelter fundraisers stays local and goes to general operations and medical for the animals, and community support is huge.
“We have like an army of volunteers that help us out, we couldn’t do this without them,” Mr. Greening said. “There’s no way we could pay 50 people to do this, it takes a village.”
For those wishing to still become donors to the Lifesavers Club, a support link on the SPCA’s website takes visitors to the monthly donation option through PayPal. Many people signed up to give $10 a month as a member of the Lifesavers Club, but some decided to step up and donate $30 a month to the cause.
Toward the end of the livestream, Mr. Greening and staff members decided to eat dog treats if people donated, which gained at least five more donors for the club and entertained viewers.
At different points through the day, the question of what the donations would buy came up; so what will $10 buy? Either one vaccine set for a canine, two small bags of cat litter, three bags of treats, four bottles of bleach, or five comfy blankets for the animals. For the cost of a few coffees at Starbucks, necessary items can be purchased to further the work done by the local shelter.
After his morning broadcast at The Border 106.7, Mrs. Spezzano’s husband Johnny came out to help the shelter gain Lifesavers members.
“The animals that they save here at the SPCA didn’t ask for their lives,” Mr. Spezzano said. “When you come in and you adopt a pet, you really do make a difference. Thank god we have the Jefferson County SPCA here in the north country, because it really does help the quality of life here.”
According to Mrs. Spezzano, the shelter does not receive any state or federal funding, so animal lovers are really what keep the shelter running.
No pet leaves the shelter without being spayed or neutered, which decreases the amount of unwanted pets out on the streets in the county, and due to the shelter having such a high adoption rate, it doesn’t take in just local strays, but animals from across the country.
“Our total operations, I mean it can be up to $200,000 a year just to operate,” Mrs. Spezzano said. “That money goes directly to helping us stay afloat and keeping the lights on and providing food and shelter and love for these animals.”
In 2018, the SPCA took in 1,135 cats and 500 dogs, and so far in 2019, has taken in 1,389 cats and 563 dogs. According to Mrs. Spezzano, it costs approximately $15 a day to care for each animal.
“We do everything we can from the bottom of our hearts because we just love these animals,” she said. “We get it a lot where people say they came in to save an animal’s life, but the animal ends up saving theirs.”