New thrift store raises funds for Forgotten Felines

According to the Forgotten Felines of Sonoma County's (FFSC) website there are 80 million stray and feral cats in the United States. This extreme overpopulation is largely a result of abandonment or neglect of a former owner to get their pet spayed or neutered. The services FFSC has been providing to the county since 1990, with just a small group of staff members and more than 200 volunteers, are gradually lowering unnecessary populations around the county and helping unite animals in need of homes with owners who will love and care for them. Proceeds from a new thrift store in downtown Petaluma are helping make these services possible.

"Our primary purpose is as a spay/neuter organization," said Denise Eufusia, store manager of the Pick of the Litter thrift shops in Santa Rosa and Petaluma. FFSC offers low cost spay/neuter services to domestic and feral cats around the county. They practice TNR — trap, neuter, release — with homeless cats around the county as an alternative to euthanasia. The organization opened up a thrift shop in Santa Rosa in 1997 to help generate revenue when they were a bit behind on their bills and could not devote all their time to focus on their founding goals.

"Like most organizations we started with a core group of people who wanted to make a difference," said Eufasia. Working as treasurer on the FFSC's board, she helped the store become profitable and today the group is focused on saving animal's lives instead scraping together money.

"Today we have an administrative office, program coordinators, spay and neuter clinics and a van to go out and perform services in the community. Having a store has really changed the face of our organization," said Eufusia.

The idea for a second location in Petaluma was made possible when Donna Hinshaw and Linda Postenrieder, owners of the former Pelican Art Gallery on Petaluma Boulevard North gave up their space to FFSC. The two are longtime supporters, donators, volunteers and trappers for the organization and when the time came for them to pursue other ventures, they gave up the gallery space at an extremely discounted rate for a second Pick of the Litter location. They even donated remaining art from the gallery to the thrift shop.

"It's through their generosity that we have the opportunity to be here," said Eufusia. She explains that while people are just starting to learn about the thrift store by wandering in out of curiosity, many often think it's a consignment, not thrift store due to the high quality items that have been donated. Eufusia has been overwhelmed by the receptive and welcoming nature of the Petaluma community and is certain the new location will be as successful as the Santa Rosa one continues to do.

The store has had one kitten adoption event already and Eufusia hopes to have more on Saturdays in the summer when "kittens are plentiful." The group along with other animal organizations around the county have also tossed around ideas like having an animal food bank for people that may have gotten laid off but still want to take care of their pet, and low cost veterinary services. They would also like off-site drop off points for people looking to donate items to the thrift store (such as Goodwill has) for people looking to avoid downtown traffic.

For the time being however, Eufusia says her greatest current need is volunteers to work in the Petaluma thrift store. She has been managing and working there almost exclusively by herself and until more volunteers emerge, the store is only open five days a week despite Eufusia's desire to make it seven. Anyone looking to either donate items or volunteer can visit the store to talk to Eufusia.

"It's working in ways that I never dreamed possible," said Eufusia.

Pick of the Litter is open Thursday through Monday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. and is located at 143 Petaluma Boulevard North. For information, call 283-0567

(Contact Kaitlin Zitelli at argus@arguscourier.com)