Londonderry students learning compassion and action in People to Paws Club

Union Leader Correspondent
February 19. 2013 6:22PM
People To Paws Club members Emily Savage, Katie LaCerda, Savannah Kanouf and Janiah Bergendahl share a cuddle with rescue dog Missy on Tuesday afternoon. The fifth-graders meet up each Monday to organize efforts to help out animals at area shelters. (APRIL GUILMET PHOTO)

LONDONDERRY -- A GROUP OF caring fifth-graders has made it their mission to make life a bit brighter for pets awaiting their new homes.

It's been more than four years since the original eight students at Londonderry South Elementary School banded together to form the People to Paws Club, which does fundraising and pet food drives and encourages animal adoptions at area animal shelters.

The club was formed in fall 2008, after then-fifth-grader Yini Liang adopted her cat, Charity, from the Salem Animal Rescue League (SARL) and approached paraprofessional Dianne Fisher about giving back. Liang has since moved on to high school but her good works continue to inspire her younger peers.

These days, the club is nearly 30 members strong, Fisher said, and the kids continue collecting much-needed items for area shelters.

"Some of our kids have been waiting since the first grade to join the club," said Fisher, noting that the club is open only to fifth-graders.

February is the club's official "Food For Furry Friends" month, and in recent weeks the kids have collected bag upon bag of dog food, cat food and treats, as well as paper towels, Dawn detergent, pillows, blankets, collars, kitty litter, toys and other much-needed items to donate to local animal rescues.

On Tuesday afternoon, the children were treated to a visit from SARL shelter manager Patricia Mack and two former shelter dogs - Missy, a Chihuahua, and Sadie, a beagle.

While Missy and Sadie have already found their permanent homes, many more are still at the shelter awaiting their perfect match, Mack said, which means the need for donated supplies remains high.

"Everything you give us is something we don't have to go out and buy," Mack told the children.

With a carload of donated goods to take back to the Salem shelter, Mack said anything the shelter can't use would be distributed to others in need through several local food pantries and at the Salem Senior Center.

"Part of our community mission is to make sure anyone who needs food is able to come out and get it," said Mack.

Many of the young club members had some adoption stories of their own to share.

Student Marissa Duragano adopted Rosie, a German shepherd mix, from SARL about four years ago.

"She's very energetic," Marissa said.

Emily Savage said her family adopted Bennie, a terrier/Chihuahua mix, about three years ago and it was love at first sight.

"She's so calm and not restless," Emily said. "She's just a really good dog."

Grace Chicko said her family rescued Bo, a very large Labrador/Newfoundland mix, two years ago.

"He was found wandering the streets of Tennessee and was so sad and so thin," Grace said. "Now he's playful and very happy with us."

Michael Ziv said his dog, Lucky, a yellow Labrador, has lived up to his name.

"He was a bit older and the people that owned him were going to bring him to a kill shelter," said Michael. "We ended up driving to Ohio to get him."

Fisher said cash donations, as well as much-needed shelter supplies, would continue to be collected for the remainder of the school year, with donations of paper towels, wet and dry pet food, 30-gallon trash bags, dog leashes, cat litter, laundry detergent, bleach, postage stamps, plain copy paper, sponges and gift certificates to local grocers most welcome.

Knowing, however, that not everyone is able to donate money or goods in the current economy, the People To Paws Club will also be collecting old newspapers for SARL, which recycles them to raise funds for the shelter.

If you'd like to help People For Paws with their efforts, donations of pet care and cleaning items as well as old newspapers may be brought directly to the front office during regular school hours. Checks are also accepted, and may be made out South School.

For more information about the Salem Animal Rescue League, visit


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