The Voice


Welcome to the Fur Ball!
Photo credit: Sassy Mouth Photography

On June 1, 2013, a very enthusiastic group of Pets Alive supporters gathered at the Double Tree Hotel in Tarrytown, New York for their annual Fur Ball Gala Fundraiser. It was a steamy and hot evening outside but delightfully cool inside as the guests arrived for what was to be a wonderful evening. Those in attendance to support this great cause were dressed in their finest as they arrived for a fabulous night. The event was made even more perfect with Linda Eder and Rob Thomas, two huge animal lovers and supporters of Pets Alive, in attendance.

Upon their arrival, everyone enjoyed the pre-dinner cocktail hour, sipping cool drinks and feasting on an array of delicious hors d’oeuvres. During this time, they had the opportunity to examine the items that were up for auction to benefit Pets Alive. As part of the silent auction, there were two items offering the winners the exciting opportunity of spending time volunteering with Linda Eder at Pets Alive. They will join several other supporters of Pets Alive who will win a second silent auction to be held in the very near future on Linda’s website, lindaeder.com.

Linda with singer Rob Thomas.
Rob is a long-time supporter of Pets Alive!

As they entered the ballroom, the guests were treated to beautifully decorated tables, which perfectly fit the theme of why they were there… the precious animals that would benefit from this special evening. In addition to regular and silent auctions, the evening consisted of greetings by Kerry Clair, Executive Director, and others involved in Pets Alive, awards presented to some pretty amazing individuals, a delicious dinner, and dancing.

The highlight of the evening was a performance by Broadway star and recording artist Linda Eder, backed by an amazing group of musicians: Billy Stein (keyboard), David Finck (bass) and Peter Calo (guitar). She treated the guests to a wide range of music that showcased her incredible voice. There were even a few guests up and dancing during the show.

Linda was very happy to be part of the Fur Ball because she has been a huge supporter of Pets Alive for quite a few years. She shared the story of how she adopted Pets Alive as her favorite charity. A number of years ago, she was doing sound check before a show and noticed a quarter on the stage. It was shiny and very distracting. She decided to pick it up at the end of sound check but forgot. During the show, she noticed it again, told the audience she was going to pick it up because it was distracting, worked her way down in her tight low-cut dress, and… it was nailed to the stage to mark center stage! Being a theatre “newbie,” Linda didn’t know that. At her next show and at every show thereafter, Linda’s fans started putting quarters on the stage, so she decided she needed to find a charity that would appreciate the donations and use them well. Enter Pets Alive! Linda’s fans have been so generous over the years. Linda and the editors of her newsletter, THE VOICE, held an online auction and raised over $7,000 a few years back. Add that to all the quarters that have appeared on stage at every show, and Linda and her fans have given over $30,000 to Pets Alive.

Several people who attended the Fur Ball have shared their thoughts on this wonderful evening.

Aimee Cunningham, Assistant Development Director at Pets Alive writes…

It was such a wonderful pleasure and treat to have Linda Eder perform at Pets Alive's annual Fur Ball last weekend. A lot of work and planning went into the performance, and it was really fun to see everything come together and witness the performance. I had heard Linda sing on YouTube only, but to hear her in person was great. Her voice is beautiful and her presence is just stunning. I know what an animal lover Linda is and that she is also a big supporter of Pets Alive. To have her give her time the way she did and be with us at the Fur Ball to entertain our guests was really more than I ever could have imagined when we first began planning the event. Pets Alive loves all of our supporters, but it is always a little extra special when they can do something so wonderful like share a talent they have with us that in turn helps the animals. We are so grateful that Linda was with us for the Fur Ball.

Kristie Hendricks, Heidi Fox, Linda, and JP Davis at the Fur Ball.

Heidi Fox, President of Petschauer Insurance, Corporate Sponsor of the Fur Ball, and Pets Alive volunteer for many years, writes…

FUN AT THE FUR BALL

As a prominent member of the insurance community and a passionate supporter of Pets Alive for many years, one of my favorite events that Pets Alive hosts is their Annual Gala Evening called “The Fur Ball.” This year, the event took on an even greater significance because of the appearance of one of my favorite singers, Linda Eder, who never fails to give a stellar performance. And her concert for Pets Alive’s Fur Ball Fund Raiser at the Double Tree Hotel in Tarrytown, New York on Saturday on 6/1/13 proved to be no exception! Linda, her voice, her presence, and her band were amazing!

I was on the sponsorship committee for this year’s event and was so thrilled to hear that Linda would be available to give her time and enchanting voice to help our furry friends. Pets Alive is a no kill animal shelter that improves the lives of companion animals everywhere by any means possible, including rescue, adoption, advocacy, collaboration, intervention, and education, and is a wonderful organization to support.

My agency, Petschauer Insurance, hosted a Pet Photo Contest on Facebook with two free tickets to the Fur Ball as the grand prize. When Linda heard about our contest, she was so moved that she posted it on her own Facebook page in support of our cause. In addition, she went so far as to invite the winners, myself and my crew to meet her after the show. We were all impressed by her generosity and kindness. A wonderful time was had by all, especially Kristie Hendricks and her husband, JP Davis, the “winners” of our contest hailing from Upstate New York.

For more fun at the Fur Ball with Linda Eder, watch our video.

Thank you again to Linda and her band for always going above and beyond for our furry friends.

THE WINNING PHOTO
Kristie Hendricks' dog, Maxx, and a neighbor's horse.

Kristie Hendricks, winner of Petschauer Insurance’s Cutest Pet Contest, writes…

As the winners of Petschauer Insurance’s Pet Photo Contest, we were grateful to be attending this year’s Pets Alive Fur Ball. We won thanks to Maxx, a “failed foster” dog who had recently come to stay with us from deplorable conditions in the Bronx. Maxx had not yet broken out of his habit of getting loose and running off, and after a terrifying drive through the neighborhood searching for him, we found him in the field next door prancing around with and nuzzling the neighbor’s horse. The picture we took wasn’t the highest quality, but it did manage to capture the magic and playfulness of the moment. Apparently we weren’t the only ones who thought so, as our photo had over 113 likes.

We have attended several Fur Balls in the past, as we have long been staunch supporters of Pets Alive and their mission for a no-kill nation. Unfortunately, due to financial constraints, we weren’t going to be able to make it this year, at least until we won the contest.

The event itself was lovely, with excellent food and friends all around. The highlight of the evening though was Linda. Her story of how she began donating the quarters left on stage for her to Pets Alive was exceptional and truly goes to show how kind and giving she is. She put so much passion and soul into her performance, it was amazing. I especially enjoyed her rendition of ABBA’s “Fernando.”

After the performance, we had the opportunity to meet Linda in person. We again heard the tale of how she found Pets Alive and what Pets Alive means to her as she was being taped for a video. She is a truly humble and caring person, who so obviously cares about what Pets Alive stands for. 

Thank you, Linda, for caring so much, and thank you for your beautiful performance. My husband and I don’t get many “date nights” and you certainly gave us one to remember.

Linda's friends and family at the Fur Ball. From left to right: Christine Guignardi, Hans Eder, Linda, Ken Guignardi and Ellen Jacobs.
Photo credit: Sassy Mouth Photography
 
Linda and her brother, Hans.
Photo credit: Sassy Mouth Photography
     
Linda and one of THE VOICE Eder-tors Ellen Jacobs.
Photo credit: Sassy Mouth Photography
 
Hans Eder, Pets Alive Executive Director Kerry Clair, and Linda.
Photo credit: Sassy Mouth Photography



Amazing things have been happening at Pets Alive under the leadership of Executive Director, Kerry Clair. Kerry took time out of her busy schedule to do an interview for THE VOICE.

VOICE: Have you been an animal lover from the time you can remember?

KERRY: Yes, I’ve loved animals ever since I was a child. Even before I could speak or walk, my parents told me I always reacted to animals with joy. I recently found a scrapbook from when I was seven and it was filled with all sorts of animal pictures I had cut out of magazines and pasted into it. That was a fun stroll down memory lane!

VOICE: We were fortunate to interview and subsequently meet Sara Whalen when we sponsored an auction with Linda Eder a number of years ago. How did you come to know know of Pets Alive and the work begun by Sara?

KERRY: I had visited the Best Friends Animal Sanctuary out in Utah and had been doing some online work for them. I really loved the place, and when I got back to New York I decided to try to find a no-kill sanctuary to volunteer at. That was over 17 years ago, and I met Sara when I came down here to see what I could do for the organization. I wound up creating her first web site and mailing list and starting a sponsorship and volunteer program for Pets Alive.

VOICE: Did you know Sara personally before she passed away? If so, what is the most important thing you learned from her that has helped you in carrying on the mission of Pets Alive?

KERRY: Yes, I knew Sara for many years and in fact I was with her in the hospital, holding her hand, when she passed. I think the most important thing I learned from her was that you never say, “I can’t.” You always ask, “How can I?” In other words, if we see an animal that needs expensive medical care, we don’t say, “I can’t afford that.” We ask ourselves, “How can we raise donations to afford this or get donations to cover it.” Asking that question has helped me more in this job than anything else.

VOICE: We’ve read that you had a successful career on Wall Street before becoming Executive Director of Pets Alive in 2006. Was it a difficult decision to make such a drastic change in careers?

KERRY: It was a difficult decision on a financial level because I left a career making over $100k a year to take one making less than $35k a year. Pets Alive had no money and we couldn’t afford a high priced executive director. It was about letting Pets Alive close or changing my lifestyle enough to be able to take the job and make it work. The job took a great deal of personal sacrifices for me as I gave up financial security and also a three day work week to struggle financially and to work eight days a week. J But I’ve never regretted it. It never feels like a “job” when I come here, and while this can be enormously stressful, it is also enormously rewarding.

VOICE: Did anything or anyone in particular motivate you to take on such a huge challenge?

Kerry and Linda.
Photo credit: Sassy Mouth Photography

KERRY: The fear that the only true no-kill sanctuary would close its doors. I really wanted to see no-kill EXPAND, not shut down. So for me, that was the biggest motivator. Animals needed a second chance place to get to where their lives would matter, where they would be saved instead of walked to a back room and killed. To see this no-kill close down just wasn’t in the cards for me. I needed to do something to keep it going.

VOICE: How difficult was it taking Pets Alive forward from the point where Sara left it when she became ill?

KERRY: I will admit that it was very difficult. Toward the end of her life, Sara’s cancer affected her brain and her decision-making. The animals here needed expensive vetting, they needed adoption, there were too many in the facility – and there was almost no money. I was really unsure if it could be done, so to say it was difficult is an understatement. It seemed impossible at the time, but Best Friends helped, and the community rallied behind us. Never under estimate what a few dedicated people who CARE can accomplish! We accomplished miracles here!

VOICE: What were some of the challenges you faced initially as you prepared to continue the wonderful work begun by Sara?

KERRY: Money was the biggest challenge. There was none and the expenses were enormous. The animals needed a LOT of expensive care, staff had to be paid, and the facilities were crumbling down and needed repair. I also had NO experience running an organization, dealing with non-profit legalities, or even doing intakes or adoptions. I had to learn everything from scratch and also teach others at the same time. It was really a daunting challenge. I was so very grateful for the help that Best Friends provided for us back then. Without them we wouldn’t have made it.

VOICE: In what ways has Pets Alive continued to improve its mission since you have been at the helm?

KERRY: We went from one facility that was struggling to three successful facilities. We are asked to speak at major animal sheltering expos such as the No Kill Conference and the HSUS Expo. Shelters and rescues come from all over to visit us, find out how we are doing it and get our advice. We are consulted and reached out to by organizations that want to stop killing animals and save their lives, and we have helped create many more no-kill organizations across the nation.  We have also started many programs to help people help their animals such as a Pet Chow Pantry, where we supply food and litter to people who are financially down on their luck. This enables them to KEEP their pets. We are also building a low cost medical facility to help the indigent with their pets’ medical concerns. We have started a Seniors-for-Seniors program to match up senior citizens with senior pets to help senior pets get out of the sanctuary and to help senior citizens find companionship. We have started a training program to help people who have behavior issues with their pets. We have begun a TNR (Trap, Neuter, Return) program for helping to deal with feral cats. We are constantly growing and expanding and doing more to help animals and people.

Kerry and Linda -- workin' the camera!
Photo credit: Sassy Mouth Photography

VOICE: Wow! So many amazing things are happening under your leadership! Please tell us about the other Pets Alive locations that have sprung from the original sanctuary in Middletown, New York.

KERRY: Three years ago we heard about a no-kill facility that was in danger of shutting down. The Elmsford Animal Shelter (also known as the Central Westchester Humane Society) had fallen on hard times. They had over 1100 animals and had no fundraising or reserve funds and financially they were almost bankrupt. If they closed down, we knew what would likely happen to all those animals. I admit to being frightened to take over such a challenge, but our board decided we had to try, and today the Elmsford Animal Shelter is known as Pets Alive Westchester and we are saving thousands of lives a year from that location. 

VOICE: Can you tell us a little bit about Oreo’s Law and what progress has been made in getting this law passed?

KERRY: In 2009, a dog had been badly beaten, then thrown off a six-story building. She miraculously survived. Oreo had surgeries and was cared for by the ASPCA for several months but then was deemed aggressive and ordered euthanized. Pets Alive stepped in and requested she be turned over to us, a no-kill sanctuary with behaviorists on staff, where we could continue her recuperation and start a behavior program for her. The ASPCA killed her instead. This caused such a public outcry that legislation was proposed and we worked closely with assemblymen and senators to get that bill (called Oreo’s Law) presented and passed. It failed two consecutive years due to opposition by the ASPCA and other groups. Now, it has been modified and is known as CAARA (Companion Animal Access and Rescue Act) and we believe that this year we may succeed in getting it passed.

VOICE: How does the Pet Chow Pantry operate?

KERRY: We were receiving so many surrender requests from people who were struggling financially and could no longer afford to care for their pets. They would come here or email us begging us to take their animals because they loved their pets so much they would rather give them up so they could be cared for, rather than have them not fed properly. We were appalled that anyone would have to give up a beloved pet because they needed some financial help for a while. Why would we take in an animal that already had a home where they were loved, to bring them here and pay for their care ANYWAY. Why not help these people for a few months so that they could KEEP their family member WITH them, and we would supply them with food and litter. To be eligible for the program, you must prove that you are financially struggling. You must also “give back” by doing some volunteer work for Pets Alive after you have been receiving assistance for more than three months. The program has been a huge success and many families used this help for a number of months and then were able to get back on their feet. Sometimes a little help can go a long way and we are able to not have another animal entering the sheltering system. Win-win.

Kerry and Rob Thomas.
Photo credit: Sassy Mouth Photography

VOICE: With all the business work involved in running Pets Alive, are you still able to find time to personally visit and interact with the animals in your care?

KERRY: Yes. That’s my break from the stress of the job… to go down to the outside “Camp Tyler” dog area and wander through, or stop and talk to potential adopters or volunteers. When I really need a break, that is what provides that relief for me – and it is also a great reminder that no matter the stress or sadness of some days, THIS is why we do it. THESE animals are the REASON and it renews the spirit and the soul.

VOICE: Did you know of Linda Eder and her incredible voice prior to learning of Linda’s special love for Pets Alive?

KERRY: Sara had told me about Linda’s generosity many years ago, and I was also aware of her coming down here to volunteer with her fans. Out of curiosity, I listened to her music and was really swept away. Then Linda invited us to a private concert she was doing. and I was so impressed with her voice and the clarity of her singing – it really touches you. I started listening frequently to her album “The Other Side of Me” and would definitely consider myself a fan. Since then, I downloaded other albums and have followed her career.

VOICE: Were you amazed by the generosity of Linda’s fans and the amount of money they have contributed and continue to contribute to Pets Alive?

KERRY: I cannot say enough that volunteers and supporters are what kept and keep Pets Alive’s doors open. Linda’s fans have become sponsors; they have “remotely” adopted retired carriage horse, Murphy, and help us financially with his care; they reach out and send donations in Linda’s honor, and the quarters they leave on stage have made a great difference and impact for our organization. I already knew that Linda was a kind-hearted, compassionate animal lover, but the fact that so many of her fans were as well has been a wonderful and welcome surprise.

VOICE: What does it mean to you and to Pets Alive to have Linda as the guest performer at the Pets Alive Fur Ball Gala Fundraiser on June 1, 2013?

KERRY: We were so thrilled that Linda agreed to perform at the Fur Ball. To have someone of her talent and caliber (and generosity) work with us on making our most important annual fundraiser a success touched us all at Pets Alive. Linda is too gracious to say it, but I will – she is not charging us at all for her performance.  She is doing this as a gift to Pets Alive. That is really absolutely astonishing.  We are so grateful to her and really looking forward to the night.

VOICE: Can you tell us what remains as your greatest challenge all these years later as you lead the work of Pets Alive into the future?

KERRY: The greatest challenge is always financial. If we had more finances, we could save so many more lives. If we had more monthly sponsors, we would have a budget that we could count on. We could start so many more innovative programs and we could repair so much of the facility troubles that we face every day. With the recession, so many people are struggling that sometimes it is hard to give to charity. We are seeing many rescues go under and shut down. We have so many goals and so many bridges we want to cross – the funding for these projects is the only thing that stops us. We could be unstoppable with more funding!

VOICE: Why do you believe Pets Alive has been able to continue to rescue animals, even those that most might feel are not suitable for adoption, for over 30 years?

KERRY: Because we care. Really. That’s why. Because we don’t give up. Because we feel that they all matter. Because our staff isn’t here because they need a job – they are here because they care about animals. They cry over them; they take them home; they make sure they have everything they need. And our volunteers care so much too. They step up every time we are in need, every time we need help and every time we reach out. It is because of the caring commitment to saving lives that we survive.

VOICE: Do you have a “bucket list” of things you’d like to accomplish in the future at Pets Alive that you haven’t tackled yet?

KERRY: Oh yes. So many things. 

We need to build a medical center here at the Middletown location. When people cannot afford medical care, we NEED to be able to provide that service.

We want to start a summer camp. For the first time this year we are holding a one week Animal Camp, but we would love to have Animal Camp all summer.

We need to expand our Humane Education program.

We want to start a Pit Bull Education and Promotion program.

We need to offer more canine training help to people so animals can stop coming into shelters. 90% of people say if we can help them fix their issues with their pet, they would want to keep them. We need to be more of a resource to help with that.

We would like to expand our TNR program. 

Our facilities all need to be upgraded. I’d love to “Go Green” and have better sources of energy.

We need to grow our programs in Puerto Rico. There are thousands of homeless dogs there, and we need to start a spay/neuter clinic so we can help stop the birth of dogs and cats.

We need to hire more staff, provide better salaries for current staff and offer health care and retirement funds for our staff. We have to take better care of the people that mean the most to us.

The silent auction at the Fur Ball.
Photo credit: Sassy Mouth Photography
A festive event!
Photo credit: Sassy Mouth Photography
Aimee Cunningham, Assistant Development Director at Pets Alive, wlecomes Linda to the stage.
Photo credit: Sassy Mouth Photography
     
Linda and Billy on stage at the Fur Ball.
Photo credit: Sassy Mouth Photography
 
Holding a power note!.
Photo credit: Sassy Mouth Photography
 
Billy Stein (keyboard), David Finck (bass) and Peter Calo (guitar) on stage at the Fur Ball.
Photo credit: Sassy Mouth Photography
 
Linda and the band on stage at the Fur Ball.
Photo credit: Sassy Mouth Photography
 
A quiet moment.
Photo credit: Sassy Mouth Photography
 
Linda on stage at the Fur Ball.
Photo credit: Sassy Mouth Photography
 
And finally... the evening wouldn't have been complete without a little silliness in the name of charity. ;-)
 
Linda and Ellen pose for a laugh!
Photo credit: Sassy Mouth Photography
 


Keep an eye on the forum section of LindaEder.com to learn more about how you can support Pets Alive!

 

(c)2013 Linda Eder