A Place Where Cats-Are-Purrsons-Too

Scott Andrews, Writer

Do you have a pet? Are you a generous person who loves to help others? Do you need service or volunteer hours for work, school, or church? Are you looking for a relaxing place to go after classes one morning or afternoon? Do you want to be part of something meaningful that benefits both people and their companion animals in a place where cats are purrsons too?

I had the privilege of finding and working with one of Chicago’s smaller and little-known gems. Touched By An Animal is an organization that caters to the elderly, disabled, homeless, and others who want to keep their bond with their companion animals.

As I walked into the little blue house on Berwyn Avenue, I was surprised and heartened at the same time. Upon opening the door and being greeted by the executive director, Melanee Schoendorff, almost a dozen cats came racing to the door to greet me. All these precious and adorable little animals wanted to be my friends. I was amazed at how this spacious old Victorian house is the home of a no-kill animal rescue and social service organization.

Scott Andrews

 

“Many people come to Touched By An Animal with no one else to help them,” explained Marijon Binder, the founder, and president whom I interviewed by phone. Binder originally had no intention of starting a nonprofit, and she saw a significant need in the local community. In the early 1980s, the Bowmanville neighborhood predominantly consisted of older adults, with their only family being their companion animals, such as dogs, cats, and birds. 

Binder would regularly invite these people to her home for coffee to chat. They discussed their health issues, loneliness, isolation, and suggested that some move into an assisted living facility to better care for themselves. These people said, “No! How can I? My companion animal is not allowed to go with me. I cannot bear to leave my beloved animal behind.” 

Almost immediately, a light bulb went off within Binder’s mind. She thought she could help these people to care for their animals. She slowly began taking in more cats, kittens, a dog, and a few birds. These animals were found in the neighborhood or owned by her friends. She incorporated and grew her organization into a nonprofit encompassing all of Chicagoland.

Touched By An Animal is a unique organization since they will board a cat in their home for an indeterminate amount of time for their clients. For example, if a person is ill, hospitalized, goes into a nursing home, experiences a housing crisis, or cannot afford to care for their animal, the organization will board their cat temporarily. When the person’s circumstances change, they get custody of their animal back. 

However, suppose the person passes away or cannot regain custody. In that case, the organization will find a new home for the animal, or if the animal is unadoptable, it has a lifetime home.

The organization is small compared to other similar organizations in Chicago. The organization substantially impacts people and their companion animals with only ten part-time staff and contractual employees. 

 

Scott Andrews

 

Many of the organization’s activities and its mission are fulfilled by over 100 volunteers, some more regular than others. The house is open to volunteers, adopters, and visitors from 9 a.m. – 3 p.m., seven days a week. 

Scott Andrews

 

Binder requests that due to COVID-19 protocols, people first call before visiting. All volunteers must initially fill out paperwork about their skills and how they can help. Volunteer tasks include fundraising, special event preparation, transporting cats to and from the vet, cleaning the rescue facility, or the simplest things such as cat socialization and spending time with their friendly felines. The organization welcomes people of all ages, backgrounds, and circumstances.

The organization has a capacity for about 80 cats and kittens.  But due to the increase and overpopulation issue in Chicago, the rescue is now over capacity with nearly 100 cats and kittens. About 30% of the felines are resident cats. They are not adoptable due to their special needs. But their forever home is Touched by an Animal, a place of love with very caring staff and volunteers.

 

Scott Andrews
Scott Andrews

 

One of the special needs disabled cats, in particular, immediately caught my attention when I saw the animal limping around. Cathie, a volunteer and board treasurer, explained that this cat named May was found about three years ago starving in an abandoned building in the inner city of Chicago.

She was severely injured and burned, with her left leg broken. On top of that, May was nearly ready to give birth. Luckily, firefighters found her and brought her to Touched By An Animal for emergency veterinary care, rehabilitation, and a great deal of love and nurturing.

Her two adorable little tuxedo kittens were born about a week later, and healthy and forever homes were found for both. May, on the other hand, had serious trust issues.  She was adopted twice but returned to the rescue since she refused to eat. May became a resident cat and will live out her entire life at the rescue receiving the love and care needed to thrive.  

“All of God’s living creatures, including people and animals, deserve to be treated with gentleness. We want to be kind to people and their animals. I don’t like it when people say oh, I love animals but don’t care about people. We care about people and their animals. That is my philosophy,” said Binder. 

One of their core values is gratitude. I have experienced gratitude myself for my work with the organization, and since 2019 I have written their grants and am their graphic designer. I genuinely see the love, stewardship, and gratitude for everyone who is involved with the organization.

People interested in additional information about the organization can visit their website, call their main number, or email Melanee Schoendorff, the executive director at: [email protected]

Touched By An Animal

773-728-6336

[email protected]

www.touchedbyananimal.org

www.facebook.com/touchedbyananimal

 

 

Scott Andrews