She specializes in caring for adoptable cats and kitties most days, but Jessica Ritchie Klein will gladly take on any role the Dan Cosgrove Animal Shelter may require of her volunteer time, from promoting pups for adoption to helping support the annual Pasta Dinner Fundraiser. This year’s Pasta Dinner is set for Sunday, March 26 and Jessica invites the public to come and have a great time to help support the shelter’s animals.
“The shelter’s been doing this event for a long time and they have a great turn out. It’s a really good way to bring the whole community together,” says Jessica, a Branford resident. “The local restaurants donate the food for the event and everyone involved is helping the shelter in some way.”
The annual Pasta Dinner is set for March 26 from 3 to 6 p.m. at the Italian American Club, 40 Hamre Lane in Branford. Tickets are available in advance at the Dan Cosgrove Animal Shelter. Guests should arrive ready to feast on pasta, meatballs, garden salad, dessert, coffee, and beverages. The event also offers wine and beer for sale and a popular 50-50 raffle. All proceeds from the night will benefit shelter animals. Adult tickets are $15 and children (under 12) are $10.
“It’s a great event,” says Jessica. “I’ve been there as a volunteer server behind the line, but I’ve also gone and just attended and watched everyone enjoy the food and the activities.”
Jessica signed up to volunteer with Cosgrove Animal Shelter in 2012, shortly after moving to town from Clinton.
“I was excited to go to the shelter. I still remember walking in there my first time and asking about orientation,” says Jessica. “This shelter is very well known in the community for a very good reason. They do so much to help the animals.”
Jessica got involved not only in helping with the care of the animals, but in helping to support and organize events the Cosgrove Shelter puts on to help raise funds above and beyond general operations money budgeted by the towns of Branford and North Branford.
Jessica signed on to organize the auction for the Animal Carnivale Gala at the Pine Orchard Club and continues to participate in annual community awareness/fundraising events such as Woofstock on the Branford Green each summer and the Pasta Dinner fundraiser.
“Jessica basically runs all our raffles for our events, which is a huge undertaking,” says Shelter Director Laura Burban. “It can be 50 to 60 baskets to organize and to arrange for people to volunteer to help. She is just so awesome!”
Jessica says she’s just one among many volunteers who help the shelter stick to its mission of finding a forever home for every animal sheltered there. They also often help the shelter staff to work to quickly raise funds for medical expenses and emergency procedures to save animals arriving in rough shape at the no-kill municipal shelter.
Just last week, Cosgrove Shelter took in a starving, abandoned dog named Hope (see the story here). The dog was 24- to 48-hours away from death by starvation. Now, the staff at the hospital is fighting for Hope’s life, with the support of volunteers and contributions from the community. Jessica says the community response has been overwhelming.
“I was there at the shelter” last week, says Jessica, who volunteers in the Cat Room on Thursday evenings. “I wasn’t there for very long, but even during that short time, many people came in just making donations of money or supplies, or coming in with tears in their eyes. Everyone is just so affected by Hope’s story.”
Jessica credits Burban and her staff with going the extra mile to notify the community about needs that arise for animals at the shelter, while also working hard to educate on the importance of the lives of the animals in their care.
“Laura and the rest of the animal control officers each have different strengths that they contribute to the shelter, and they’re all working toward a common goal,” says Jessica. “They’re constantly out in the community. Whether it’s an adoption event or taking animals to nursing homes or schools, the education arm of the shelter is quite amazing. They really inspire us to help with events and find homes for the animals, and to come up with new ideas for fundraisers and activities.”
Jessica is a project manager in a research department at Yale by day and uses some of her know-how to help out with projects at the shelter.
“So beyond cleaning up the cats, I can apply some of my day-to-day skills to help the shelter with events,” she says.
She adds her weekly volunteer time with the shelter’s cats after work each Thursday is her way of “getting them ready for bed,” with play, attention, cleaning, and feeding before lights out.
On another note, Jessica is also a firm believer in the power of pet therapy.
“I did my master’s thesis on animal-assisted therapy,” she says. “I really believe that they have that calming affect that can help lower blood pressure and heart rates. Even just sitting with an animal, petting an animal, or having that companionship is really beneficial to children, elderly, and every one in between.”
Jessica and her husband, Joe, were married last year and their family also includes Jessica’s adopted cat, Grigia, as well as their newly adopted dog, Maisie, who came into their Branford home six months ago. Jessica says adopting rescued animals is “an amazing feeling.”
“When I first saw our dog, she was already a year old. It sounds corny, but you look into their eyes and they’re so soulful. She’s a black dog and they sometimes get a bad rap, but she is so loving and we’ve just really enjoyed having her the last six months,” says Jessica. “We’re looking forward to our future with her. Now, she’s a member of the family. I think there are so many animals out there, and for whatever reason, they’re needing a home. They didn’t do anything wrong, and they are so grateful when we bring them into our homes.”
Advance tickets for the March 26 Pasta Dinner area available at Dan Cosgrove Animal Shelter, 749 East Main St. Branford. Call 203-315-4125 for more information.