As more and more families are unable to afford, unwilling to care for, or unable to handle their pets, the number of abandoned animals surrendered to a shelter or found wandering the streets is steadily increasing. Thrown into the chaos of a shelter filled with animals in similar situations, otherwise calm and friendly companions are turned into confused and fearful shadows of their former selves, decreasing their chances of adoption. By providing colorful fleece blankets for the animals at the Front Street Animal Shelter, the Blankets of Comfort for Animals (BOCA) Project helps combat this by providing warmth and comfort to our local homeless animals—helping them to relax and adjust to their stressful and foreign environment—and by making the animals more attractive to potential adopters. Animals with handmade blankets have a higher adoption rate than those with old, worn out towels and blankets because the handmade aspect creates a sense of home and helps make the kennels look more inviting.
How Did 4-H Help?
Over the course of eight months, the kids in the BOCA Project solicited and collected some donations of fleece from local clubs within Sacramento County, and, taking advantage of sales and coupons available, were able to also purchase hundreds of yards of fleece fabric with the grant awarded. After a planning/educational meeting, the kids proceeded to hold several crafting meetings to make the blankets. Since the ultimate goal—alongside that of helping the animals—was to educate the public about shelter animals and how easy and fulfilling it can be to give back, members also attended multiple outreach events to talk to the public about the project scope and to involve them with the actual making of the blankets, in the hope that they would in turn take this activity back to their community.
They also created an educational board to take to all public outreach events (and display at the Sacramento County Fair) called “The Problem of Animal Homelessness” that outlined the issue and ways the public can help, including blanket and other donations as well as volunteer opportunities and spay, neuter, and microchip drives.
They even worked in collaboration with the shelter on one event called "Pups in the Park," where they had a booth featuring their outreach/educational board, a variety of blankets in progress, and various informational pamphlets about 4-H and how to make the blankets. At the end of the project, 4-H members gathered all the blankets made and took them in to the shelter, where they met representatives from KCRA and The Sacramento Bee to share the story about the issue of animal homelessness, how we all can help, and how 4-H is giving back.
The 4-Hers were able to purchase 240 yards of fabric that made over 120 blankets. Not only were 4-H youth able to witness the finished product, but they were also present when the first blanket was laid down by one of the members for a dog named Shayna, who gleefully leaped atop it before it was fully on the ground.
Although dogs will be dogs and so not every blanket will have a long life, hearts will warm to see a spot of brightness amid the chaos, signaling a new beginning.
Through an active collaboration with the shelter and local media sources, the BOCA Project was able to reach not only fellow 4-Hers of Sacramento County, but also the greater Sacramento community and beyond. 4-H youth involved directly in the project were able to witness the gratefulness by both shelter staff and the dogs at the shelter as deliveries were made, bringing their efforts full circle and showing them first hand that they can individually make a difference in the lives of animals. During outreach events and through the Front Street Shelter's Facebook page (which got over 1,000 likes!), the public had nothing but good things to say about the efforts of the 4-H youth and the effect the project had upon them and others.