In the spring of 2003, Peter DeVines eighth grade year, he and his mother were on their way to pick up schoolmates Pete and Maggie Winslow on the way to Alexandria Country Day School. Mom said that it was time for Peter to begin thinking about a project to serve others during the summer before ninth grade. She suggested that he might want to include Pete and Maggie.
The Winslows liked the idea, and the three decided that helping animals was a worthy venture. They settled on finding a way to help Alexandrias animal shelter, from which both families had adopted pets.
As the plan developed, the teenagers decided to do something to help the dogs, cats, birds, and rabbits at the Alexandria shelter and King Street Cats, a no-kill cat sanctuary above the Unique gift shop on King Street. Dubbing their project Paws for a Cause,the threesome headed to the Old Town Safeway, where the manager consented to their placing a collection box in front of the store.
That summer, Paws gathered two station wagons full of pet food, kitty litter, toys and leashes for the two shelters. Five years later, Peter and the Winslows have gone off to college, and Peters younger brother, Ben, continues to carry out the mission they started.
The central collection point for Paws for a Cause is the Old Town Safeway, where a hand-drawn sign by eight-year-old Ben decorates the grocery basket where donors put their items. This summer, Ben secured permission from the current Safeway manager, Cindy French, to continue the project, and the pet-friendly charitable tradition continues.
My mom and I have to empty the cart almost every day because it is so full, Ben said. This year has been one of the best Paws for a Cause has ever had.
Allen Schiattareggia, an employee at the Old Town Safeway store, says that he loves the annual project and he talks it up to customers in line when they ask about the decorated collection cart. Every year, I put something in the Paws for a Cause shopping cart every day because it makes me feel as though I am helping one animal out each day, Schiattareggia said.
Bens deliveries of feline goodies get a warm reception at King Street Cats. Unique employee Carol Richelsoph, an avid cat lover, is enthusiastic about the Paws project. Ben has covered all of the bases. You have no idea how much we appreciate all the food, kitty litter, toys and towels he brought us, Richelsoph said gratefully.
We have lots of cats and kittens to feed while they are in transition and waiting to be adopted, she added. This definitely helps.
Over the past five summers, the Paws for a Cause project has provided more than 700 pounds of dog food, over 650 pounds of cat food, more than 275 pounds of kitty litter and scores of dog and cat food cans and pouches. The Winslow and DeVine families have also collected leashes, pet food dishes, animal play toys, 10 pounds of peanut butter, and more than 30 pounds of bird seed in addition to miscellaneous raw hide chews, hamster wheels, bleach and other pet items.
Ben plans to continue the project again next summer, and older brother Peter said that he is pleased my brother is keeping the project going because the animal shelters need help, especially when the economy is going through a rough patch.
Pete Winslow agreed: I am glad that Paws is continuing because I love this community and pets are a part of it. I never imagined that wed get so many dog and cat donations when we started Paws five years ago. The fact that Paws is still going makes me feel as though Im giving back something to Alexandria in a small way.