Posted: January 28, 2014, 4 a.m. EST
© Courtesy Denise Cummings
Hoss the ferret felt much better after receiving a melatonin implant, thanks to Support Our Shelters.
The men and women who run our ferret shelters around the nation selflessly rescue ferrets each and every day. But who is there to rescue them in their time of need? As it happens there is somewhat of a safety net out there for the ferrets and their rescuers, thanks to Support Our Shelters (SOS).
What do you get when you bring together an eccentric lady from the Left Coast, a highly spiritual lady from the Midwest, and a saucy young gal from New York all for the love of ferrets? Brilliance, that’s what.
It all began in 1996 when a member of the online group the Ferret Mailing List (FML) contemplated the idea of a single fund being created for ferret shelters. Up until then each time there was a crisis, the ferret community had to come together and figure out a way to raise funds, gather donations and get them to the ferret shelters in need. In the meantime, some of the lesser-known shelters were overlooked. What's more there was no one to ensure that the funds went directly toward the essential needs of the ferrets, such as food and vet care.
In 1997, Judith White, Ela Hyen and Georgia Wood brought that idea to reality when they came together to create Support Our Shelters. Consultants, including Sukie Crandall, Bill Gruber (moderator of the FML), Alicia Drakiotes (shelter operator of the former Ferretwise Rescue and Rehabilitation Shelter) and others were added to the group, guidelines were created, and the first sponsor was obtained. Shortly thereafter the organization filed for and received its 501c3 status. In no time, SOS became integral in providing life-saving aid to ferret shelters.
Every year SOS uses the donations generously given by ferret lovers to help pay vet bills and send food to ferrets in need. It is a clever way to ensure that only the ferrets benefit from monies given and that the lesser-known shelters aren’t overlooked. They also provide an up-to-date ferret shelter list so that people can locate legitimate rescues.
White explained the impact SOS has had since its inception, "Some people give larger amounts because they can have a tax deduction. They trust that we will help shelters that need it even if they don't know who to help themselves. Shelters know that they can ask us for help. We can't pay all their expenses but we can make a difference.” SOS accomplishes this through pure generosity governed by the hearts of the hard-working members of the group. The work has no reward other than knowing that some abandoned ferrets will be helped.
SOS is a central place where ferret shelter operators can also seek emotional support from ferret-savvy members during emergencies, not just supplemental financial support. Funds are raised in many creative ways. White handles the donations to and from SOS. She is also a primary decision-maker along with the rest of the board of directors. Among them today are Ela Heyn, Sharon Beardon and Renee Downs.
Each member of the organization has specific jobs and runs various projects. White named some of those volunteers and listed what those tasks include.
Sharon Bearden maintains the website and shelter list, creates the FML calendar and runs the melatonin implant program through Melatek.
Joanne Werstlein created and runs the Buck-A-month Club, which encourages people to donate just a dollar a month. Most people give from $1 to $25.
Kathy Hammond ran most of the raffles until SOS discontinued them this year. Lisa Oestereich and Susann Thiel also helped with the raffles.
Robin Jones ran the Card Exchanges until this year when the number of participants grew too small.
White mentioned a very special fund that SOS has in place, the Blizzard Memorial Fund. "The human parents of Blizzard, a beautiful and much-loved ferret, established a fund for less fortunate ferrets who have been abused, neglected or abandoned. It provides vet care and sometimes supplies to the shelters that care for them. Blizzard's very generous parents prefer to have all the focus on his memory."
Denise's Delightful Dookers is one of the numerous ferret shelters that have received help from SOS in the past. One of its many residents, Hoss, has specifically benefited from the Blizzard Memorial Fund. Denise Cummings, the shelter operator said that Hoss was blind and suffering from adrenal gland disease. "He was slowing down and the melatonin implant helped him feel better." Cummings is grateful to SOS for being there. She happily recounts how Hoss enjoyed his newfound health after the treatments, "He loved recess and enjoyed the area being rearranged each time. It was more interesting ... blind or not."
White said that uncertainty lies in the future for SOS. "Fundraising is much more difficult thanks to Facebook decentralizing the ferret community and PayPal not processing raffle payments. To keep within the law, we discontinued raffles. We are talking about new ways to raise money, and we do still have funds to help shelters."
SOS isn't just a central place for ferret shelters to seek out critically needed financial aid and supplies. It is a place that shelter operators, rescuers and volunteers can reach out to for emotional support. These extremely ferret-savvy ladies of SOS offer a wealth of information and a hand to hold during the bad times. They try to see to it that no one is forgotten, furred or human. It would be devastating if we lost this integral part of ferret rescue that benefits so many homeless ferrets.
To read profiles of some ferret shelters, click here>>