By Bridgitte Petras
While walking through Kilcawley Center, Youngstown State Unversity students and faculty might notice the table with dog treats and pictures of adoptable animals outside the Hub that has been set up since Monday.
“My Fluffy Valentine” is a charity drive collecting items and money for the animals at the Animal Charities Humane Society located in Boardman. The drive will accept numerous items including animal treats and foods, collars, cat litter and blankets — just to name a few. My Fluffy Valentine also encourages animal adoptions.
A table will be set up for donations and information until Friday afternoon in Kilcawley Center. This charity drive helps ACHS deal with the 300-500 animals that they have annually.
Shay Bolash, executive director of ACHS in Boardman, expressed that My Fluffy Valentine contributes a lot to the animals.
“It’s always a good boost for our animals,” Bolash said. “We always get a lot of toys, which is great because they go through toys like crazy.”
My Fluffy Valentine was started by Jason Cooke, a current graduate student at YSU. Cooke used to be the president of the Humane Society until he left 4 months ago to expand his horizons. Currently he works with local charities around several nearby counties.
“I go about advocating, educating and transporting,” Cooke said. “If it’s for the animals, I’ll do it.”
My Fluffy Valentine began 5 years ago. Betsy Brooks, who was the coordinator at the Emerging Leaders Program at the time, worked with Cooke, who is still part of the program today.
This year’s charity drive was organized by Cooke and Christina Yovick, a graduate assistant at ELP.
“We did [the charity drive] during the winter months because there are a lot of animals that are left out in the cold and abused and neglected. They tend to have a lot of dogs [at Animal Charities] around this time of year,” Cooke said.
Students contribute the most to the charity drive, although external and faculty donations are accepted. Three years ago, the charity drive collected about 1,000 pounds of pet food and $800 in cash. The charity drive’s average collection is usually 800 pounds of food.
“A lot of departments will get together, instead of just one faculty member, and bring it [the donations] all in at once,” Cooke said.
Since the Emerging Leaders Program is at YSU, many students volunteer to raise awareness and sit at the My Fluffy Valentine table.
Robert Zuckett, a student who starting volunteering for ELP in September 2014, has been helping at the charity drive.
“Any work through the ELP is work that I’m pretty much happy to do,” he said.
My Fluffy Valentine helps ELP members in many ways.
“It helps [the members of the ELP] get exposure to people and exposure to different walks of life,” Zuckett said. “ACHS contributes [to the community] by being the liaison between helping animals off the streets and into a comfortable home.”