Beltsville Community Cats (BCC) hosted its Annual Volunteer Meeting on January 13th. After over three years of restricted meetings due to Covid, many of the 26 volunteers present had never met in person. Everyone enjoyed getting to know their fellow volunteers. It is always lively when you get a group of cat lovers together to talk about helping cats. (Many thanks to Emmanuel United Methodist Church on Cedar Lane for letting us use their Fellowship Hall.)
The meeting began with each volunteer present talking about the cat rescue activities they perform through BCC – which include trap-neuter-vaccinate-return/release (TNVR) of community cats, fostering kittens and friendly adult cats, feeding colony cats in industrial areas, and taking care of cats placed for adoption at the Laurel Petco (a partnership between Petco, BCC, and the City of College Park).
Other important volunteer roles include fundraising, grant-writing, updating BCC’s website (www.beltsvillecats.net), posting to BCC’s Facebook page, record-keeping, writing reporting, winterizing colony habitats, and transporting and overnighting cats going to the vet.
Fostering kittens and cats is a particular joy for many BCC volunteers. Kittens that are taken into foster care have their lives transformed from the precarious and relatively short life of a community cat into a loving pet who will spend its life in a comfortable home giving companionship and affection to its forever family. Some volunteers prefer to foster adult stray cats – most likely former pets that were lost or abandoned – and help them find their way to a safe and loving home once again. After being fully vetted, BCC’s foster kitties are advertised through Petfinder at: (https://www.petfinder.com/member/us/md/beltsville/beltsville-community-cats-md506/). Applications are carefully screened to make sure the cats go to people who are truly committed to giving them the care they need and deserve.
The volunteers doing TNVR work also find it very rewarding. They see the many benefits this work has for the cats themselves as well as the broader community. Benefits include reducing the number of kittens born in the wild (most would otherwise likely succumb to disease, predators, and/or cars); reducing spraying, aggression and injury from unaltered males; reducing the spread of disease through inoculation against rabies and other cat viruses; and mitigating cat predation of birds and small mammals by limiting the growth of feral cat populations.
BCC president Sallie Rhodes presented the group’s accomplishments in 2023. BCC rescued 140 kitties last year and found forever homes for 127 of those rescued. BCC also TNVRed 183 feral cats; fed 150 colony cats every day; and helped 73 sick cats with significant but treatable health problems (e.g., upper respiratory and urinary tract infections, injuries, ringworm, etc.). Many of the sick cats required multiple visits to the vet and follow-up nursing care provided by BCC volunteers.
Elections for vacant board positions were held during the meeting. Sallie Rhodes agreed to continue as president for one more year, stressing the need for someone else to step up to this critical leadership position within the next year. Earthel Williams agreed to be the new trapping coordinator, filling a position that has been vacant on and off since BCC started in 2019. Adaeze Offorbuike was selected as rescue coordinator. She will manage BCC’s foster homes and oversee adoptions (things she has been doing since last spring). All three were elected unanimously and enthusiastically!
More volunteers are needed to enable BCC to help more cats in need. The work is flexible, fun, and deeply rewarding. If you are interested in learning more about volunteering, reach out to email@example.com.