SPRINGFIELD – Children as well as adults volunteered to morph into "jailbirds" in Springfield on Saturday to help raise money for the Springfield chapter of the Elloree-based For the Love of a Paw.
For the Love of a Paw, a cat rescue charity, will use the proceeds from the fundraiser to catch, spay or neuter cats and release them back into the community.
More than 110 people attended the event, which raised more than $5,125, at the old Springfield Jail on Barnwell Street in Springfield.
Thanks to fundraisers like Saturday's, the Springfield chapter has been able to spay or neuter more than 117 cats in the area. According to the Humane Society website, “An average cat has one to eight kittens per litter and two to three litters per year.” With the average litter being around four kittens and the maximum litters per cat being three, that means at least 12 kittens per cat are being born each year in the Springfield area. Even if only about half of the 117 cats captured by the For the Love of a Paw chapter are female, the group has prevented approximately 700 feral cats from being born in the community.
Camille Proveaux, treasurer of the chapter, said some additional, promised donations are expected to come in, which would bring the total amount of funds raised closer to $5,500.
The volunteer "inmates" competed for the first place award and prizes as incentives.
Emily Fulmer, 6, who was joined behind bars by her father, Travis W. Fulmer. T.J. Bryant Jr., 9, was "incarcerated" for the good cause by his grandmother, Judy Walton, a deputy with the Orangeburg County Sheriff’s Office who also volunteers to help with trapping and transportation of the feral cats that the organization seeks to spay or neuter.
Travis Fulmer was also joined by his aunt, Josie Williams, and his uncle, Tom Murden, behind bars in the old jail, which was decorated with large photos of Deputy Barney Fife, the Don Knotts' character from “The Andy Griffith Show." The "prisoners" were guarded by “Deputy Furtick," wife of Springfield Mayor Edward Furtick, who was armed with a toy rifle and barked at the prisoners to keep them in line.
Walton noted, “Without this fundraiser, we could not have the (chapter). We have to have this to pay to spay and neuter the cats. We do this because we love the animals. This has been the best group I have ever been in.”
She cited at least one of For the Love of a Paw's many success stories.
“Emma Irick, 3, who is here, had a black feral kitten that was adopted for her after it was captured. She named her 'Sky,' and she sleeps with her and carries her around,” Walton said.
Children and youth also help in the organization's efforts alongside adults. Heath Burgdorf-Owen, who volunteered to oversee the bake sale at the event and contributed to it, said her fraternal triplets, Turner Owen, Rebecca Owen and William Owen, 14, help her trap the feral cats to be spayed or neutered. They trap cats for four hours in the morning and evening in the spring and for a smaller window of time in the summer because the cats remain hidden to stay cool, she said.
“We partially cover the trap to keep the cat from injuring itself trying to escape,” Burgdorf-Owen said.
Nicole Pittman, who will graduate with an associate's degree in applied science with a focus in photography from Trident Technical College in May, volunteered to take photographs of individuals with their pets during the event. She asked for a $5 donation for each photograph to give to For the Love of a Paw.
“I think the event is going very well. We have had a lot of people come by for the yard sale and bake sale, too," Pittman said. "Our 'inmates' have showed up on time with good bail money. They still have to spend their time in 'jail' (on average, about an hour). People come by and put money toward their bail. Some have mailed in their bail money prior to the event."
Jan White Reyes, Tammy Widener, Jim Fulghum, Judy Silon, Boyce Edgar Toole, Glenda Young Furtick, Larry Bellamy, Jim Smith, Robert Argroe, Walter Furtick, Ken Maher and Emily Bennett Salley also volunteered to go to "jail" to raise funds for the organization.
Jim Fulghum and his dog, Sadie, compiled the most bail money - over $600 - to win first place. Local restaurants donated gift certificates for the winner.
Also on hand at the event was Laura Buice, coordinator of the Williston branch of the Aiken-based Palmetto Animal Welfare Service for Spaying and Neutering Your Pet. She said her group is partnering with the Springfield chapter of For the Love of a Paw in getting feral cats spayed or neutered.
“When the Fido Fixers van comes to Springfield from Columbia, they want to have at least 20 cats to spay or neuter. We are bringing some of our cats over,” she said.
“This is a good fundraiser," Buice added. "It’s really a creative fundraiser, and they do well with it.”