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December 11, 2017

Photo by Tracy Klimek/New Jersey Herald – Centenary University freshman fashion design students place custom made crate covers over crates housing rescue kittens at Father John’s Animal House, in Sparta, on Thursday. They made the covers in Professor Kristen McKitish’s Academics Foundation course.

By New Jersey Herald

Posted: Dec. 11, 2017 12:01 am
 SPARTA — As winter approaches, humans are not the only ones trying to keep warm. Dressed in Santa hats and bearing gifts, students from Centenary University arrived at Father John’s Animal House on Thursday to present the shelter with homemade crate covers designed to keep the kittens cozy.

“When people come to Father John’s looking to adopt a pet, it’s very important to us that the shelter does a good job of representing the level of care that we provide to these animals,” said Peggy Post, president of Father John’s. “In the past, we’ve always covered the crates with blankets or towels, but even though we always used clean material, it was starting to look like tent city in here. These covers make a big difference.”

The new covers were designed and created as part of a service learning project at Centenary University.

“These students are freshmen who are studying to be fashion majors,” said Kristen McKitish, assistant professor of fashion. “Each freshman student is required to take a course called Academics Foundation. It gives the students the opportunity to learn about their chosen fields of study and to get some practical skills training. I thought it would be a good idea to incorporate some community involvement into the process, and this seemed like a good way to start.”

The students crafted the covers, about 25 in all, out of warm, cozy felt.

“Kittens don’t always get along,” Shelter Director Karen Yost said. “It’s much better for us if we can keep the crates covered so they don’t try to annoy each other. The covers will also help keep them warm for the winter and help us to make sure that they stay healthy and happy until they are adopted.”

So far, Yost said, this has been a great year for pet adoptions.

“November was our best adoption month on record,” she said. “Back in August, we hit 4,000 adoptions. We’re already well on our way to 5,000. It’s been good to see the general attitude shift from breeders and pet stores to shelters and adoptions. These animals will love you to the end of the world and back if you give them the chance.”

With the holiday season just around the corner, Yost said that this time of year is often a busy one for Father John’s.

“We take our role as caregivers very seriously,” she said. “We always make sure that the people who are taking our animals home are doing so for the right reason, not just to have something cute under the Christmas tree.”

That having been said, however, the shelter has decided that this year, it will be making some special deliveries.

“We’re going to be doing Christmas morning drop-offs at the homes of people who have passed our screening process,” she said. “Our volunteers are really excited. It’s going to be so cool to see the joy that these animals will be bringing to their new families.”

While the students were busy installing the new crate covers, a roly-poly basset hound mix puppy named Beethoven came out to say hello.

“This guy is still looking for his family, but I don’t think we’ll have much longer to wait,” Post said, watching as the students clamored to stroke his long, soft ears. “He’s a love. They all are.”

In the coming months, Yost said, the shelter is likely to fill up again with adoptable cats and dogs of all ages.

“We can use all the help we can get,” she said. “We go through hundreds of cans of food a day sometimes, so everything from monetary contributions to donations like these covers go a long way. The community has always been very generous with their contributions, and we would really like to thank the Centenary students for donating their time.”

For the students, the project not only provided a good introduction to their chosen fields, but also gave them the chance to get to know the surrounding community.

Freshman Gina Infante, 18, of Lake Ariel, Pa., designed the pattern that the class used to create the covers.

“We came out to Father John’s back at the beginning of the semester,” she said. “We took measurements and drew up a design that would allow the volunteers here to be able to open the crates without having to take the covers off. I think this was a really good assignment. Even though we’re fashion majors, a lot of us have never sewn anything before. Plus, we got to come out here and play with the animals, so it’s been a great experience.”

For more information about Father John’s Animal House, visit http://www.fatherjohnsanimalhouse.org/.

Katie Moen can reached on Twitter: @KMoenNHJ or by phone: 973-383-1230