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You  Helped  Virgin  Island  Cats  and  Their  Caretakers  After  the  Hurricanes

by Bethany Meissner

Lucky Paws Foundation is an all-volunteer animal rescue and adoption organization in the U.S. Virgin Islands. When Hurricanes Irma and Maria hit in September 2017, no one was prepared for the massive devastation the storms wrought on the island’s people, environment, and animals. Even months later, recovery efforts are still underway. 

Photo Credit: Lucky Paws Foundation Facebook page

In February 2018 according to NPR, the Coast Guard was still retrieving sunken boats from off the coast of the Virgin Islands. The power was mostly back but homes were still missing roofs. In March 2018 according to the Washington Post, there were still mountains of trash left on the islands from the hurricanes. The St. John Source reported that even in May 2018 schools were still waiting to be built and many questions about recovery still need to be answered. People have been disappointed in much of the response from the mainland United States toward our own citizens. Thankfully, many people have stepped up to help. Because of you, Halo, Freekibble.com, and GreaterGood.org, Lucky Paws Foundation received a donation of healthy cat food after the storms. That donation allowed them to help families and cats hurt by the storms.

Delia Holodenschi, founder and president of Lucky Paws Foundation, wrote “Nobody expected such devastation to occur as what Irma and Maria inflicted.” The stores where they normally purchase food had empty shelves. After the storm they shared on Facebook the animals they were helping and the devastation they were seeing. She told us, “to have GreaterGood.org [along with Halo and Freekibble.com] come to our rescue was indeed the best outcome of what otherwise could’ve been a tragic situation. Once the food arrived and we were able to share with those in need we felt extremely fortunate. We also gave a few pallets to the local animal shelter for their own felines. Our hearts are full of gratitude for not being forgotten!”

Photo Credit: Lucky Paws Foundation Facebook page

Rakiiba Jackson is a midwife by day helping the island’s human residents. In her spare time, she takes care of a colony of about 60 feral cats. She used to try to put her own money aside for the cats food and veterinary needs, and also worked to educate the neighbors of the cats “to not throw stones or try to harm them.” Delia shared that “Every evening you would see her [go] up and down the cobblestones with a pail of dry food, cans, and water jugs….She is a brave soul who prevented hundreds of births by her dedication to these felines” and TNR that Lucky Paws was able to help with.

Rakiiba told Delia, “In the days following the devastation after Irma and Maria, I had very little food, but the anxiety was not for myself but for those cats who I knew waited for me…How do I explain to them that I had no money or food? I couldn’t. Not only did most survive, but their numbers increased.”

Rakiiba’s local big box store was destroyed in the storm and is not expected to open for two years. Other stores, including Kmart, were still standing but were empty. However, because of the donation that you allowed us to give to Lucky Paws, Rakiiba said that her colony “did not go a day without food!” She continued, “I am proud of what I accomplished, but frankly it was because of those stateside people who cared that we survived. Thank you.” Rakiiba added that she is “forever grateful.”

Photo Credit: Lucky Paws Foundation Facebook page

Delia told us, “When the food arrived and we distributed it, we had so many grateful people; they were dancing with joy!!!” She referred to the donated food as “a blessing after the destruction.” She added, “it’s high quality and the colony cats love it.” Because it’s so nutritious, they’re able to use less, but “the cats enjoy it more and best of all they stay healthy.” 

Due to the donation of food, Delia’s all-volunteer team was able to drive around their island distributing food and even made new contacts and brought more cats in for spay and neuter surgeries leading to what Delia referred to as “a win-win situation.” In all, Delia is grateful, and said “Thank you for making our work in the community possible!” Delia told us, “We struggle everyday to ensure that no animal goes hungry and when we are able to provide for them with an adequate supply of nutritious food we feel invincible!” Now that sounds like a huge win to us!