Italian feast to benefit furry felines

On Friday, Feb. 9, the Hearthside Cats organization will host their 13th annual gourmet Italian dinner. The Italian feast will be held at 7 p.m. in St. Mary's Parish Center on Church Street.

Hearthside Cats is a local non-profit organization run entirely by volunteers. Since they were established in 1991, they have helped over 1500 stray cats find homes. Hearthside Cats tries to ensure the welfare of each and every cat they take in. Each is given veterinary care and shelter in the comfort of a foster home.

Hearthside Cats reaches out to the community by allowing responsible people to adopt their cats. Any person or family can adopt a cat on the conditions that they do not de-claw or keep the cat indoors. "Some of the cats here have lived hard lives before they came to us. We want to make sure we find them good homes," said Victoria Raschi, a member of Hearthside Cats.

The organization plans to keep growing and hopes to raise enough money to establish a self-sufficient shelter. Hearthside Cats currently does not have enough space to house all the homeless cats in the community. This shelter would accommodate up to 50 cats at one time, and tentatively include individual/group rooms, play equipment, ramps, rooms for treatment and education, a reception and office areas, and an "adoption room." The adoption process would also be easier, with all the cats and kittens on one site.

Seventy-five percent of the capital necessary for the shelter will be granted by the state. The organization will raise the rest of the money on their own, with the help of local sources and fundraisers, such as the dinner at St. Mary's. Lynn and Wes Kennison will be cooking a multi-course Italian feast for the evening. There will also be a vegetarian option for those who do not eat meat, so everyone that attends can enjoy a gourmet meal. "The people who cook do a wonderful job. I was a waitress last year and didn't get to sit down and eat, but the nibbles I could get were delicious," Raschi said. The food will be accompanied by a silent wine auction and door prizes.

Tickets can be purchased for $24 at the door or online at All profits from the evening will go directly to the organization. For further information about Hearthside Cats, or if you are interested in offering a donation, contact the organization through their Web site or by telephone at 585-243-0873.