Branford Compassion Club Marks Its Sweet 16

Mary Johnson Photo

Full crinoline-stuffed skirts, saddle shoes, sweater sets, rolled up jeans, and hoola hoops were all on display as the Branford Compassion Club (BCC) celebrated 16 years of caring for the town’s cast-off kitties.

The Sweet Sixteen Anniversary took place late last month at the Blackstone Library, which reflected the 1950s theme of the party. One would have never expected the dignified rotunda of the library to serve as a venue for a dance contest complete with colorful strobe lights.

John Saville Entertainment provided the appropriate tunes. Even if you didn’t grow up with them you still recognized the likes of Locomotion, Yakkety-Yak, Hound Dog, and The Hop.

BCC president Mary Mellows said, “We’re pulling out all the stops.” She was dressed in the feline equivalent of a poodle skirt, a full grey felt number appliquéd with a white cat, shiny copper shoes.

The theme was reflected in the centerpieces, which featured 45 rpm records, a huge collage of television icons from the 50s, and … was there a remnant of a creamy Jello delight on the buffet table?

Mary Johnson PhotoBCC volunteer Erika Amatruda and Nick Vicenti cut a classic ‘50s pose. If you look closely you can identify some of the icons on the poster.

Mary Johnson PhotoCostumes, as well as ‘50s attire, were evident, including cats, of course.

There were contests – dancing to the tunes of “Why Do Fools Fall in Love?”, “Rockin’ Robin,” “Mashed Potato” (“Let’s have a round of applause for the little spuds!”)

Mary Johnson PhotoHoola hoops … “Shake, Rattle & Roll”

And ‘50s trivia: What was Lucy’s maiden name? Who was on the first cover of TV Guide? What were the names of the Lennon sisters? What were the names of the kids in “Father Knows Best”? Who found their thrill on Blueberry Hill? (At the risk of exposing her age, this writer won that contest getting 31 out of 40 correct.)

Jim Sroka PhotoBest dressed was Kris Sroka, who wore a beautiful pink vintage dress she obtained online through Etsy, which was set off by her auburn waves and pearls.

The event was the brainchild of Peg Johnson, who has been BCC fundraising coordinator since 2006. She was the one with the backwards cardigan and Mickey Mouse ears.

She said she was drawn to BCC when she needed help trapping a feral cat. She started going to meetings and gradually volunteered for various projects. She helped get Dr. Bernie Siegel, well-known inspiration cancer specialist, as a speaker a number of years ago.

Mary Johnson PhotoOf course no birthday celebration is complete without a cake.

A steady stream of fundraisers keeps BCC in business. There’s an annual breakfast buffet at Christmas, a regular pizza fundraiser in conjunction with Born in America; a Halloween party; ongoing food drivers and adoption events, participation in the town’s annual Animal Awareness Day, and more.

Upcoming is “An evening with Sally Andersen-Bruce.” The lecture and Shelter Pet Photo/Stamp Exhibit will take place June 2, from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at the Blackstone Library. It’s being held in conjunction with the Cosgrove Animal Shelter.

More than 15 billion “Animal Rescue Adopt a Shelter Pet” stamps have been sold by the US Postal Service and in a poll the stamp series was chosen as the American public’s favorite stamp. The event will include wine and hors d’oeuvres and Branford resident and Animal Shelter Commission chairwoman, Lori Fogler-Nicholson as pianist; she is chair of the Cosgrove Animal Shelter Commission.  Tickets are $25; email or call 203-483-6369.

Starting out with a handful of members who met regularly at the Branford Community House and fostered cats and kittens out of their home, the organization moved into a self-contained facility on Foxon Road in North Branford a little more than two years ago. Eunice Lasala was co-founder and the first president and maintains an active role.

“We really need more volunteers. We’re really stretched,” said Johnson. There are 65 cats and volunteers work in two shifts to feed the cats and clean the shelter. Those tasks are now handled by about 60 members.

Update On Trailer Park Cats

In addition to caring for the cats within the shelter, volunteers also feed and care for colonies of feral cats (“community cats” is now the more politically correct term) throughout the town. Johnson said that the winter was especially hard on the colonies.

A colony located in a trailer park on East Main Street had to be relocated earlier this year due to complaints from residents. BCC was working with the Cosgrove Animal Shelter, trailer property management, and the East Shore Health District to find a solution. Click here to read the story.

According to BCC co-founder Eunice Lasala, a couple of the cats were relocated to a barn home and several disappeared during the blizzard in early February. She said they had difficulty trapping the cats because they would be released, probably by sympathetic residents, unless an animal control officer was on the premises. There appears to be an ambivalent attitude among the residents. Lasala and Burban agree that the residents want the feral cats but won’t take responsibility for feeding them and some of the trailer park residents are afraid because they think management doesn’t want them to have pets.

Branford Veterinary Hospital was handling any need medical care for the cats with the Cosgrove Animal Shelter paying the expenses.

Laura Burban, director of the Cosgrove Animal Shelter, was instrumental in trying to develop a pets policy with the property management for the trailer park.

Lasala said there just a few cats left that appear to be owned and at this point the efforts to do any further relocation have ended. In the end three or four cats were relocated, a few disappeared during the blizzard, and a few remain on the premises, apparently cared for by sympathetic residents.

While the theme of BCC’s Sweet 16 part was lighthearted and fun, its members are very serious about the welfare of the town’s cats.


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