EAST CHESTER - More than two dozen animal-loving seniors or terminally-ill people across Canada were recently surprised with a delivery of balloons, chocolates and flowers; a way for a South Shore charity to give thanks on its first anniversary.
Angela Rafuse, founder and executive director of My Grandfather's Cat, said about half of the deliveries were generated from, and sent to, addresses in Lunenburg County.
In addition to deliveries in New Germany, Bridgewater and Chester, the goodies went to places in Ontario, Alberta, British Columbia, New Brunswick and Quebec. The destinations were chosen by the public who nominated people they felt needed a cheerful gesture.
Rafuse, who started the East Chester charity, appreciated the responses in the form of kind notes and images of smiling faces. "It turned out so beautifully," she said in an interview. "I can't describe the joy it brought me, it meant so much."
Originally, the charity planned to cover the cost of 10 deliveries but the reaction was so positive, Rafuse found sponsors to help offset sending special packages to 25 people.
"I have a love for animals and I'm blown away with how people appreciated this," Rafuse added. "I thank them for their trust."
She started My Grandfather's Cat in 2021, an animal welfare charity that helps seniors and terminally ill people arrange second forever homes for their pets before they move into retirement homes or pass away. Rafuse, along with her team of about 15 volunteers across Canada, provide the service for free. Since its inception, My Grandfather's Cat helped more than 40 cats and dogs find second forever homes.
"It started with a little idea and it snowballed in the best way possible," she said.
Rafuse started the charity after her experience adopting her grandfather's cat, Mackenzie, following his death. She learned many families also face the choice of adoption or shelter, so she started the organization, on her grandfather's birthday, to help others alleviate that stress.
Now living in the Halifax area, Rafuse said Mackenzie, 14, is going strong, much like the charity named after her.
"If it wasn't for the community, it would be just me in my parents' basement talking to a wall," Rafuse said with a laugh. "The community brought us to one year and it's the community that'll keep us going."
Rafuse said she hopes to take on more volunteers to help continue the pursuit.
"The more we help people, the more we build that reputation that we're there when people need us."