Jamie Riley is a dog's best friend, and not just to her own pets, but to those without homes too.
"Everyone has their niche when it comes to trying to help someone or something, and I've always been a big fan of helping animals," she said.
Riley, along with friends and coworkers, annually organizes the "Food for Pets" fundraising drive which has for the past five years provided food and supplies to the animals at the Kenai Animal Shelter, the Soldotna Animal Control Center and Alaska's Extended Life Animal Sanctuary in Nikiski.
This year Riley hopes she has found another way to help pound puppies and cast-off kitties, through Hamburger Helper's "My Hometown Helper.com" project.
"I heard ads for it on the TV and radio, and thought it might be one more way to help homeless pets," she said.
The program annual gives as much as $100,000 to needy projects, with as much as $15,000 available to be awarded to an individual project. In all, 53 hometowns have been helped through the program since its inception, with $232,542 in funds awarded.
Riley has requested $5,000 in assistance from the program for her "Food For Those Without" project which aims to aid the animals at the Kenai Animal Shelter. She said she chose the shelter because their annual intake of animals is tremendous, but tax payer funds are limited and must be used for basic animal husbandry supplies.
"They only have a little amount of money, so this will help them do more for the animals, and can help offset costs to spay and neuter animals," she said.
Patricia Stringer, Chief Animal Control Officer at the Kenai Animal Shelter, said the funds would definitely be welcome. In regard to how the funds would be used, Stringer said the decisions would have to go through normal city channels, but she had a few ideas of her own.
"We don't have a meet and greet area, so I'd like to make a fenced, outdoor area where a dog before adoption could be released with a potential owner's existing dog, so they could get to know each other," she said.
Stringer said this area would be a real benefit to the adoption process because it would cut down on people adopting dogs only to bring them back a few days later once it is determined that their existing dog doesn't want to share quarters with a newcomer.
Also, the shelter currently has no area for this purpose, so it must utilize the lobby, which is too small to allow dogs to be off leash and playing during meet and greet sessions.
Riley's project is one of seven submitted to the Hometown Helper.com program from Alaska, and one of several hundred submitted nationally. She said funds awarded will be based on the merit of the project, but support from the community is also considered in the process.
"The more support and comments a project gets, the more willing they are to fund it," she said.
As such, she is asking everyone interested in supporting the project to visit the Web site and add their comments, from now through the March 31 deadline.
This is done by going to: www.myhometownhelper.com, clicking on "Find a Project," selecting "Alaska" from the list of states, then clicking on the "Food For Those Without" project. Once on the page, follow the simple instructions for adding a comment.
Joseph Robertia can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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