When Harley Harris adopted dogs in June, she realized she wasn't fully prepared to take her new pets home.
"I adopted two senior dogs from Effingham Animal Control, and whenever I paid for them and got ready to go, they were like, 'Hey, do you want to take them home?' And I thought, 'I don't have anything for them.' I would have to wait a few days," said Harris, 24, of Montrose.
That's when Harris decided she would create care kits full of basic pet essentials for those adopting pets from the Effingham County Animal Shelter and Control, the Effingham County Humane Society and the E.A.R.S. animal sanctuary. Harris said those kits include a food and water bowl, a collar, leash a toy and a bag of treats suited for whichever kind of animal is adopted.
Harris said the idea for her care kit organization, Paws for a Cause, originated with her friend Gabby Klein. The two decided to from separate organizations that still worked together in Effingham and Coles Counties, putting Harris in charge of the Effingham County branch.
When she presented the first care kit donations and ideas to the three area shelters, Harris said the organizations were "excited" to participate.
"They're really excited. They're willing to help in any way they can because it will, in return, help them," Harris said.
Harris said the toys donated with the care kits are handmade by her and her boyfriend and their four children. The toys are made of fleece or denim material, and Harris said officers with the Effingham County Animal Shelter and Control have already donated material for the toys.
In addition to the care kits, Harris said she is taking donations of the aforementioned materials, pet beds, pet food, litter, litter boxes, pillows, blankets, bedding and monetary donations. The items can be used, but the food and treats cannot be opened.
"Everything that we get will, in turn, go back to the shelters," Harris said.
Harris is also selling the handmade toys and wooden pet beds from which all proceeds will go back to the Effingham County shelters.
Harris, who said she is an animal lover, said Paws for a Cause is all about getting the pets in the shelters adopted and providing their new families with a little help.
"It's just a little, tiny burden off of you. Hopefully, it will get more animals adopted, and maybe people will be less hesitant about it," Harris said. "I would take every animal in if I could. I can't take them all in, so this is a way to help."
To donate to Paws for a Cause, contact Harris at 217-663-7620. For more information, visit the Paws for a Cause-Effingham County Facebook page.
Kaitlin Cordes can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 217-347-7151 ext. 132.