When Cathleen Legare (Catt) met Don Brown, co-owner of the Kansas Country Store a few years ago, she had come to his store to seek advice about some abandoned dogs she had seen but was unable to catch and help.

By RIMSIE McCONIGA
rmcconiga@leavenworthtimes.com


When Cathleen Legare (Catt) met Don Brown, co-owner of the Kansas Country Store a few years ago, she had come to his store to seek advice about some abandoned dogs she had seen but was unable to catch and help.
Both avid animal lovers, Don connected her to some fellow Leavenworth Animal Welfare Society volunteers. They supplied the resources to help Catt catch the frightened dogs and get them to safety and medical care.
Recently, Catt showed her appreciation for everything LAWS and Don do for the community by volunteering at Don’s and his wife Sherry’s no-kill shelter, located at Shawnee and Broadway streets, in the back of Every Era, a thrift store where all profits go to HOPE Inc.  (Help Overpopulation of Pets Economically), Spay and Neuter Clinic.
With the help of volunteers, Don is getting closer to getting the shelter ready to open.


About 10 volunteers installed sheet rock and plywood on walls and ceilings in the building last week, plus other smaller projects.
“I know Don has been working on this project for a long time and much of the funding came out of his pocket,” says Catt. “My work with Team Rubicon made me realize that so many people jump at the chance to help, and after asking one person to help with hanging plywood, the word spread like wildfire to the VFW and Facebook, and the project took on a life of its own. These guys got in there and worked together to speed the whole project up. My part was relatively small. They did all of the heavy lifting, I just provided the best doughnuts in town (Meriwethers) and did some grout and tile work.”


Catt was in the Army for four years. Her last duty station was Fort Riley, Kansas. She has also spent time overseas in Germany, Kuwait and Iraq. During her military service, she developed post-traumatic stress disorder. But she has seen great improvement by volunteering.  
After her military service, she began working with Team Rubicon, an international, nonprofit disaster response organization that unites the skills of military veterans and first responders to rapidly deploy emergency response teams. Since Team Rubicon’s founding in the aftermath of the 2010 Haiti earthquake, the organization has responded to more than 320 disasters and humanitarian crises in the U.S. and around the world.


“Our teams have completed more than 550 work orders, assisting more than 1,300 individuals and delivering more than $2.6M in volunteer labor value and community cost-savings,” says Catt. “Operations are focused on rebuilding homes – at no cost to the homeowners – that were damaged or destroyed by Hurricanes Harvey and Irma in 2017. To date, Team Rubicon has rebuilt 32 homes in Houston and 30 homes in Collier County. We plan to rebuild 100 homes in Houston by 2020 and at least 40 homes in Florida.


“2018 was Team Rubicon’s biggest year yet for helping communities stabilize, recover and rebuild after disaster strikes. Last year, we launched 88 disaster response operations, including responses to Hurricane Florence and Michael in North Carolina and Florida, and Super Typhoon Yutu in the Northern Mariana Islands.”


She believes that for people with PTSD, Team Rubicon and all other volunteer work is better than therapy.
“There is something special about the atmosphere and camaraderie in TR that feeds my soul,” she said. “After leaving the Army, I stayed close to battle buddies but never realized how much I missed being a part of that team until I felt it again on my first TR operation.”
She believes that volunteer work and helping people and animals eases the effects of PTSD.


“One of my favorite quotes is by Martin Luther King, ‘Life’s most persistent and urgent question is: What are you doing for others?’ For me, helping others is very therapeutic. None of us can undo or forget the trauma we have endured in life, but I try to always help others, and I find so much joy in knowing that I have made a difference. Realizing that you have the ability to improve the quality of another life is empowering.”


Having always been an animal lover, and since she says she has been afforded the ability to help them, she does, whenever life presents the opportunity. She believes the new no-kill shelter will give animals the chance for a new life and forever home, which can be extremely beneficial to the adoptive family as well.
“I think that everyone deserves a second chance, to include these animals that through no fault of their own have ended up displaced,” she said.
With two dogs and fish in her home, Catt says animals have a way of finding her.
“I have had dogs show up on my porch in the middle of the night,” she said. “One of my rescue dogs found a bunch of baby bunnies that had been abandoned. My neighbors and family sometimes tease me about it but I even saved a litter of possums that were in the neighborhood after the mother had been hit by a car. They are not rodents! It is a common misconception, but they are actually marsupials in the same family as koalas. When people tell me ‘you can’t save them all’ I say ‘maybe not, but I can definitely save this one’ and I won’t let that stop me from trying. One particular kitten that I rescued was pretty beat up, underweight and very scared. After a flea bath and warm towel to dry her off, I was able to hold her close and tell her she was safe now. That was a really powerful thing to be able to say, and I will never forget that moment.”
As far as fostering animals, Catt loves finding them great homes but misses them when they are gone.


She has tried to lead by example in teaching her son about the importance of our responsibility to help those who cannot help themselves.
“If I have instilled anything in him I hope that it is that we are truly our brothers’ keepers,” she said. “Not just for animals, but for humanity. He helps me on other volunteer projects in the community and with our church, like serving or cleaning up at Elijah’s Supper and neighborhood cleanup.”  
Don says that having help from the volunteers is helping to move the opening of the no-kill shelter forward but knowing that nearly all of them are veterans that have given so much for their country and are still willing to step up and help the community means a lot to him personally.


Allen Barnes, Lynn Rolf Jr., Tom Poulter, Jacob Johnson, Jason Johnson and Justin Riggs joined Catt in helping with the shelter. Don says the volunteers all expressed that they did not do it for recognition, just for the betterment of the community.
“The shelter is taking shape,” says Don. “Even though it is taking longer than I anticipated it is progressing daily. 


The major things left to do are installing cat cages, building dog kennels and outside dog runs. It seems on most projects that there is more to be done than originally expected. The end is in sight. After a slow start, it is coming together. I hesitate to estimate about an opening date after missing the mark the last time, but the end of construction is in sight.”
There was more clean- up and preparation than Don was expecting. While the building is structurally very strong, it’s 150 years old and has presented some problems that needed to be fixed.   
“There were several broken windows that while working on them, it was discovered that some of the material around them was decayed and needed to be replaced,” says Don.


For both Don and Catt, getting the shelter open is their primary goal right now.
“Having a shelter to help get pets off the streets (and roads) and into good homes has been on my mind for several years,” says Don. “Seeing it happen will bring me a lot of personal satisfaction. We get calls almost daily about animals that were seen wandering on a road or have shown up at a house looking lost. I know that we cannot help them all, but helping the ones that we can is our goal.”
Catt knows that volunteering can bring about peace of mind that can help weather personal storms while at the same time easing others’ challenges.
“I feel like this is what I was made for and it is an amazing gift that I don’t intend to waste. I hope to help Don and Sherry get the shelter completed in any way that I can, and continue to let God work through my hands.”