‘Make things better for them’: Winter Park group sews & quilts for pets at local animal shelters

WINTER PARK, Fla. — As we get closer to warmer months, animal shelters across central Florida start seeing an uptick in the number of cats and dogs – many of them being surrendered by previous owners.


Now, a group of neighbors is teaming up and joining forces to bring more attention to the kittens and pups looking for a forever home. Barbara Manning calls it a labor of love.

She revamped a whole room in her home with one purpose.

“This is to help Orange County Animal Shelters make the cats that they have there more comfortable,” said the 74-year-old who lives in Winter Park. “It’s to give them something nice to sleep on, play with the toys.”

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For about a year, she’s been working on mats, blankets, bandanas, and toys. It all makes a difference not only for the pets but also for herself.

“I found a purpose in my life,” said Manning. “I was quite ill last March, and I almost didn’t make it. This really brought me back to feeling like I have a purpose to still be here.”

But Barbara doesn’t do the work all by herself.

At least five other neighbors – all in their 60s, 70s, 80s, and 90s – are also putting their sewing machines to good use.

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“We just to make things better for them while they’re there,” said Stevie McGrath, Winter Park resident.

“It might be a child going in and saying, ‘I want that little cat;’ what may have been what led them over to the little cat? It may have been the shamrocks on the little mat that Barbara made or the Disney characters she does.”

Dozens of dogs and cats spend months at shelters all across central Florida. McGrath even learned how to use social media just to help get the word out. “I do my cat post each week, she said proudly. “It’s hard to know that not all of them are going to make it out. It’s sad.”

For the Orange County Animal Services, every bit helps – especially as the warmer months approach.

Read: Orange County Animal Services sees success in overcrowding diversion program

“It ties us together, first of all,” said Bryant Almeida with the Orange County Animal Services. “Every little thing affects us; the weather affects us; Spring is a big time for kittens for us. It’s kitten season, so we are completely overwhelmed by the number of cats that come in.”

Nearly 300 pets – between cats and dogs – are in Orange County animal shelters as of the end of February, and the number can go up very quickly.

“The connection with the community is really important for us,” said Almeida. “We think just having the community more involved in our day-to-day things, donating only their time, as well as coming to the shelters, seeing what we have to deal with, is really important; it just brings us together.”

If you would like to support Orange County Animal Services, you can adopt or foster a pet and volunteer here.

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