Caring Hands Humane Society (1400 SE Third St., Newton) spends all year making sure the animals it shelters are taken care of — from maintaining a healthy diet to allowing a steady regiment of exercise/playtime. Ultimately, the goal is to get those animals to a good home out in the community where they will continue receiving a certain level of care.

While local residents carry the torch once the animals leave Caring Hands, that support comes full circle as numerous donation drives see the community give back to the shelter, providing resources that help the humane society care for the four-legged friends in its ward throughout the year.

In particular, Executive Director Kevin Stubbs said the current Christmas drive goes above and beyond the normal requests Caring Hands makes in its call for donations.

"The public generally, all year long, supports the animals' needs fairly well with food and things like that," Stubbs said. "This gives an opportunity to help in different ways than that by providing items that aren't normally purchased, like puzzle games for the dogs."

Needs and wishes of the shelter and its animals are listed on a tree out in the lobby of Caring Hands — ranging from puppy pads to tennis balls to rawhide bones — starting just after Thanksgiving, and the holiday donation drive will run through the end of the year. Both Stubbs and public outreach coordinator Quette Graves stated it has already been a fruitful campaign, including donations of items that the shelter goes through quickly (like the rawhide bones) to some off-the-wall items — like coffee filters, to hold catnip — that are truly useful.

"It helps support that enrichment for them that we do all year long," Graves said. "We get a lot of the really neat toys, like the food puzzles and toys like that that are a little harder to come by, at Christmas time. (It) helps in a lot of different areas because those can help when the animals are bored and stressed and they just need something to focus on, but then it can also help when we're working with them on food behaviors and stuff. It helps out both ways."

On top of that, Stubbs said the shelter received 7,100 pounds of dog food this week through an anonymous donation by "Mrs. Clause." That, he stated, should be enough to last through the spring — which is a great benefit to Caring Hands.

"Monetarily, if we had to go out and purchase all the food, it would probably mean we employed one or two less people, and that would hinder our ability to provide for the needs of the animals and kind of have a snowball effect," Stubbs said.

Stubbs said the Christmas drive is probably the shelter's biggest of the year in terms of what it receives. Beyond the physical donations, he also said there is usually one local child who asks for donations to Caring Hands in stead of personal Christmas gifts.

Gestures like that and all the items received over the years have gone a long ways towards helping out the shelter and staff noted their gratitude for the level of support from the community.

"It's kind of overwhelming, and humbling. We are so thankful," Stubbs said. "We rely tremendously on the community for support, and without the community we wouldn't be able to provide for the animals like we do. It's just really been a blessing."

"To know that everyone, especially the last couple of years, have struggled themselves on Christmas, but then to watch the community come together and still be able to help out here with the animals is really amazing," Graves said.

For a full list of the shelter's needs, visit the Caring Hands Humane Society page on Facebook. The Christmas donation drive will continue through Jan. 1, 2018.