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Shine for the shelter

Castaic, which serves largest area of the L.A. County shelters, seeks volunteers to help renovation

Posted: April 23, 2011 1:55 a.m.
Updated: April 23, 2011 1:55 a.m.

The shelter also needs new lighting in its kennels so people can see the available animals better.

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The animals, staff and volunteers at Castaic Shelter should have a lot to celebrate after Big Sunday weekend ends May 15, thanks to freshly painted kennels and exterior walls, misting devices to ward off the Santa Clarita Valley heat, upgraded meet-and-greet areas with Astroturf for families to interact with potential pets.

It’s all a part of the nationwide Big Sunday initiative, started in 1999 to inspire communities to volunteer and help nonprofits by providing one day or weekend of service in late April or early May.

“We’re going to be blowing the dust off this place and giving it a breath of fresh air,” said shelter volunteer Kim Kehl, who is spearheading the event. “We want community involvement to give residents a sense of pride about their shelter. They’ll be doing something positive, and helping the animals.”

To reach their Big Sunday purchasing goals, shelter volunteers have been relentlessly fundraising through garage sales, plus an upcoming bowl-a-thon on May 1, a comedy night May 6 and several other events.
Skilled labor is being sought to meet the construction requirements over the Big Sunday weekend, which also includes May 14.

“We need help with landscaping, to put in feeds for a mister system, digging out fences and resinking and electrical work,” Kehl said. “It’s like a barn raising. Anyone who can come and donate their time are welcome.”

As Kehl walked through the shelter, she pointed out areas scheduled for improvement, such as enhanced lighting in the dog kennels.

“It’s so dark; people can’t see the dogs here,” she said. “I also want to paint the whole area a light blue, which would look really inviting. We’re painting the outside buildings brown with a nice trim, and putting up user-friendly signs. I’m really excited about that.”

Expanded outdoor play spaces for the dozens of dogs who await their forever homes, and a big, open room for cats to interact are on the project list, as is reconfiguring the horse corrals, and even creating new reptile and bunny rooms, complete with murals.

Also in the works is a grooming station, which is imperative for presenting animals in the best possible light. The public is welcome to donate grooming supplies to the effort.

“We need shampoo, conditioner, clippers, brushers, dryers — things like that,” Kehl said.

Volunteers for the Big Sunday weekend are welcome to help for any time interval between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m.

Refreshments, as well as gratitude, will be provided.

“We’ll be giving out lots of hugs,” Kehl said with a smile.

According to Castaic Shelter’s animal control Manager Karen Stepp, the time is right for refreshing the shelter, which serves the largest square-mile radius of all Los Angeles County animal shelters.

“It was built in the late 1960s or early 1970s,” she said. “The main focus is to make the shelter more presentable, to create a place where people want to come play or volunteer with the animals and, of course, adopt. We have great animals, and we want to showcase them the best that we can.”

Stepp and Kehl were discussing how to accomplish just that when Kehl suggested joining the Big Sunday movement about six months ago.

“We wondered if we could do it, then thought, ‘Why not? Let’s do this,” Stepp said. “There’s not a lot of government money available right now, so we’ve just made it a focus ourselves.”

So far, Stepp noted, response has been positive.

“It’s just amazing; fantastic — the amount of community service and input we’ve had,” she said. “This is everyone’s shelter. We can make it what we want to inspire people to come in and get our animals adopted.”

For more information on Big Sunday at Castaic Shelter on May 14 and 15, or any upcoming Big Sunday fundraising events, please contact Kimberly Kehl at (661) 714-9939. Castaic Shelter is located at 31044 Charlie Canyon Road, Castaic.


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