by Kathleen Pulek, Middletown Chronicle, September, 2014
Click HERE for the full gallery of images from this event.
The silhouettes of small animals on the sidewalk of the then-dilapidated Armory caught Deb Bagley’s eye as she drove down Main Street, Middletown, in 1999.
“I stopped and got close enough to see that there were seven kittens in a pile. Since they looked very sick, I rushed them off to the vet. I was especially concerned about two of them, so I asked the vet to look at them first.
“Before the vet had a chance to examine those two kittens, they passed away. At the same time, I found out that we had no pound in Middletown or animal shelter. There was no place for Animal Rescue to bring any cats they found. That’s still the case today and it really bothers me.”
The other five kittens recovered and were adopted, and Cat Tales – the non-profit, no-kill 100% volunteer shelter dedicated to improving the well-being of abandoned, abused and neglected kittens and cats – was born out of Bagley’s “feeling like I needed to do more” 15 years ago.
“We offer safe haven through our shelter, foster homes and managed feral colonies. We promote and facilitate community outreach, education, lifelong placement services and affordable spay and neuter programs.”
On Sunday, Aug. 10, the first annual Fast and the Furriest Charity Car, Truck and Bike Show, the collaborative effort of Cat Tales and Meriden’s American Muscle Car Club (AMCC), brought car and animal lovers together at Middletown High School.
“We’ve been talking about doing a car show for a couple of years,” Bagley said. “Then the American Muscle Car Club stepped up and said they wanted to sponsor the event. We had 124 cars, which was phenomenal. We found out later that there were two other really large car shows on Sunday, so we’re very pleased with the number of people who came out to support us.”Becky Czlapinski wears more than a few hats as a volunteer with Cat Tales. “I’m on the board, I’m our TNR Coordinator, which is trap, neuter and return of feral cats and I also help with fundraisers. I’m definitely a cat person. I have three rescue cats, one of which came from Cat Tales.
“By 11:05 am, we had covered all of the event’s expenses. We ended up raising approximately $2,300, which will help with $6,000 in vet bills due at the end of the month. We have older cats that need a lot of medical care. Some need special foods and prescription medications, which can be expensive. We’ve also taken in a cat that was hypothermic, malnourished and dehydrated. She needed surgery for urinary stones and required a lot of medical care,” said the Middletown resident.
“Food is one of our biggest monthly expenses. Since we spent more than $45,000 on food and litter last year, we decided to solicit donations of food so that we wouldn’t have to compromise the quality of what we feed our cats or strain our budget.
“We did our first Fill the Flatbed Challenge a couple of months ago at the Middletown Walmart. Because it was successful, we decided to see if we could fill an entire flatbed truck with donations at the car show. We’re grateful for the 197 pounds of dry cat food, 942 cans of wet food and handful of supplies we collected.”Paul Wolfer, one of three American Muscle Car Club founding members, was instrumental in bringing the two organizations together. “After my girlfriend and I rescued two cats a few years ago, I developed a desire to help a rescue group, which led me to do some volunteer work for Cat Tales as a marketing advisor for their wine tasting. I brought the idea of a car show to AMCC and everyone liked it.
”I’ve found that most ‘car people’ are very generous and community centric so we thought that a show would be a great way to raise awareness, and hopefully funds, for Cat Tales and help get the club out there so that people become aware of what we’re trying to accomplish in the community,” continued Wolfer, who lives in Meriden.
”This was actually the club’s first big event and we were very excited to help Cat Tales. It was a perfect opportunity for both groups to work together.”
Bagley’s neighbors, Burt and Janet Hirsch, arrived in their unusual 1959 Ford Skyliner Retractable, which sparked a lot of admiring gazes and conversation.
“I used to collect tractors and had a very large collection. I got older and couldn’t handle the tractors anymore, so I sold them all. After sitting around for a while, I knew I needed something else,” said Burt. “I saw the Skyliner on the Internet and went to Pennsylvania to see it. I fell in love and had to have it. I’ve owned the car for about six years and have had a little work done to it – new struts and a stainless steel exhaust system.
“I’m having lots of fun with the car. I drive it around town and get a lot of thumbs up from people,” Burt said with a smile.
“When you do events like this and you’re a non-profit organization, you always worry,” noted Bagley. “We had a great turn out for our first car show so there will most definitely be a second one. We’re grateful and amazed by how many people came out to support us.”