Ask Cynthia Sutcliffe about her last job before getting a position at Caring Hands, and she will answer with an unintended pun.
She was working in a school cafeteria, the proverbial lunch lady.
“I found that unfulfilling,” she said.
She went looking for a new job. As she tells the story, she filled out an application at Caring Hands — and it was the best thing she has ever done for herself.
“If I were to look back over the last year, I would see a big change in myself,” Sutcliffe said.
A dog person, she loves animals. At Caring Hands, she gets to work with them every day.
Sutcliffe is an “Adoption Counselor” for the shelter, something she finds very fulfilling.
“Seeing them get adopted is one the best things in the world,” she said.
Caring Hands receives funding from the county, along with municipalities in Harvey County.
Currently, she is also coordinating the Community Cat Alteration Management Program, one of the shelter's on-going success stories.
Started a couple years ago, the program traps feral cats. Those cats are then spayed or neutered and returned to the territory where they are picked up. The idea is population control through reducing the number of cats born.
“The thought is once they are fixed, they will stay in that area and not go looking for other female cats,” Sutcliffe said.
“Most problems the community experiences with cats and free roaming cats is during mating season,” said Kevin Stubbs, director of Caring Hands. “They are yowling, spraying and traveling long distances to males and females. That eliminates the traveling those distances and cats becoming road kill. The Humane Society realized a long time ago that we had to attack this on the front end, and not just in the shelter.”
Staff and volunteers will trap over the course of about three days, spending their time in a singular neighborhood to try and catch as many free roaming cats as possible.
On her first weekend, she had a jailbreak.
“There was one cat I waited on for a couple of hours before he got into one of the traps,” Sutcliffe said. “I walked over to him and he was a little frantic. I covered the trap. He still did not like that. I was carrying the trap to the curb, and I felt the weight shift to the side. He powered his way through the trap and broke through it.”
That cat, a tomcat, has not been caught — even though staff and volunteers from Caring Hands have tried.
Sutcliffe said the program is in place because there are “so many” cats coming into the shelter that they can not find a home for — especially feral cats. They can be relocated to farms to be used as mouse control, but the number of places they can go for that is limited.
The program has trapped about 200 cats since starting up in 2016.
“If each one of the cats we trapped has three babies that survived, that is a lot of cats,” Stubbs said.
Currently there are about 16 volunteers who assist with the program. Sutcliffe coordinates their hours for trapping weekends.
“If we had more people that wanted to donate two hours of their time, that would make a big difference,” Sutcliffe said.