Norma Milton, president of Halfway Home Pet Rescue, a feline rescue and rehabilitation service in Caribou, said she was extremely blessed with all the help she received from the community this year.
CARIBOU, Maine — Norma Milton, president of Halfway Home Pet Rescue, a feline rescue and rehabilitation service in Caribou, said she was extremely blessed with all the help she received from the community this year.
The non-profit operation has 37 volunteers, including Milton, who on Thursday said she was “overwhelmed” at the start of the year. But with all the local help, she said HHPR was able to accomplish “three times” what she thought was possible in 2017.
The luck started in February when Doug Morrill donated a warehouse to the 501c3 organization.
Milton, in addition to overseeing a shelter on Main Street, often rescues feral cats in the city. She then takes them to the vet for the necessary injections as well as neutering and neutering.
Milton said in February there were around ’30 or 40 cats’ loose on Broadway, a road that parallels the train tracks and the Aroostook River, and many of them were hiding around an abandoned warehouse belonging to Morrill.
“I told Doug I would like permission to go on the property, and he told me he would sell this building for a dollar,” Milton recalled. “I told him I just had a dollar, and he told me he would give that dollar to our organization, which he did.”
However, the building needed a lot of work and Dean Staples Construction brought in three carpenters to donate their labor and rebuild a broken down wall on the side of the building. Jeff Baker Sheet Metal also installed protective window frames for free.
Woods-based carpenter Joel Violette also donated his labor by fixing the steps and building a hot room in the warehouse to store the canned goods. The Maine Community Grant Foundation even donated $8,700 for repairs to the building’s water and sewer system.
Now the warehouse is used to store cat supplies and inventory for an HHPR-owned Herschel Street thrift store (in which all proceeds go directly to the cats). Before getting the warehouse, Milton stored all these materials in his house and is happy that the organization has additional space.
“It’s nice to be able to walk around my living room,” she said.
Milton estimated that the donations reduced the cost of repairs and improvements to the finished warehouse by about $35,000.
“We ended up with a building that’s worth about $45,000 and it only cost us about $10,000.”
The storage building was just one example of generosity to the pet rescue organization in 2017, as the Elmina B. Sewall Foundation also recently donated $33,800 towards the purchase of a new vehicle. This vehicle is used to transport cats in southern Maine and to pick up supplies for distribution as part of a “meals on wheels” program that provides food to pets owned by seniors.
Milton said she became involved with the program when she learned that many Meals on Wheels recipients shared their food with their pets.
The HHPR President was touched by all the support she received this year.
“That doesn’t happen very often with nonprofits,” she said. “You think how desperately you need something, and then it’s right there on your doorstep. Look at everything that has happened this year. All our needs are met; tell me a nonprofit that could say, ‘It’s okay.’”
While HHPR became a 501c3 registered nonprofit in 2009, Milton’s love for rescuing cats began when she was just 5 years old and living on a farm.
“We had a lot of feral cats in our barn,” Milton said, “and when the farmer saw there were too many kittens around, they drowned.”
“Times have changed a lot,” Milton said.
Milton’s father told her he had “found a home” for the cats when she came home from school and noticed several missing kittens. However, the “mother” wildcat would stick around as it was the most efficient way to rid the barn of mice, which Milton believed could ruin all the stored grain.
“That’s what got me started,” she says. “I thought all cats should have a chance.”