|Someone asked how S.O.S. got started, and why, and such. So, grab a chair and a cuppa coffee and someone fuzzy to cuddle, and listen to a little story......
The year was 1996, and I had only been on the FML for about two or three years at that point. During that time, we'd had a lot of emergencies and rescues, and every time we had done fundraisers to help out.
Then one day, a smart person mused on the FML about how nice it would be if there was a rescue fund in place so we didn't have to start from scratch every time there was an emergency. And then a couple of other people emailed back and said it would be nice, too. But they didn't volunteer.
Then a couple of days later, a lady named Judith posted, saying that she thought it was a great idea, too...and she was willing to volunteer to help organize it. But she did not think she should do it alone, so that people would know the organization had some accountability. I read this note, and I thought I could help too ... so I wrote to her, and so did Georgia. Well, actually Georgia wrote to correct two grammar errors, and Judith liked that so much she asked her to help.
Judith emailed us back and said it was just the three of us, and she was open to suggestions. So, we talked and deliberated, and decided we needed some more "consultants" to help us figure out how to run this thing. So, we enlisted the help of BIG, Alicia, Sukie, and some others to formulate guidelines for running S.O.S. This is when we came up with some of the rules such as not giving cash to anyone - only supplies, gift certificates for pet/vet products, or checks to a shelter's vet.
After we had rules, we needed actual money to try our rules out on! So, we started doing some fundraisers. We did a little of everything ... I made and sold soap, we sold coupon books, phone and Internet service, took donations, etc. Judith also started putting together a list of needy shelters.
That very first Christmas that came along, we had a whopping $200 and change burning a hole in our bank account, and shelters we wanted to help! So, we picked the ten we considered most needy and decided to send them food. As you guys know, $200 and change doesn't buy much food! So, we realized we needed a sponsor to help us. Totally Ferret was known to be a big supporter of ferret causes, so I called them.
They were in Illinois at the time and had a wonderful customer service rep named Mary. She was very enthusiastic when I told her about S.O.S., and I explained our current situation. She talked to Dr. Willard, and they helped us a LOT. Ten shelters celebrated that Christmas with about 20 or 30 pounds of Totally Ferret food apiece, thanks to the kind sponsorship of Totally Ferret.
The next year, we got more ambitious and ran more fundraisers. Linda Gaylord of the Stationery Ferret drew a coloring book for us, we printed it at our own expense and sold it through The Ferret Store, at events, and by mail order. We took in more donations, came up with some more fundraisers, and added more shelter to our list.
Over the years, each of us began to assume specific duties. Judith was our treasurer and received our mail. She also continued to compile and distribute our list of shelters, which was posted to the FML a couple of times a year until we began to maintain the list on our web site. Georgia and I ran fundraisers, made products, solicited donations, posted to the FML, ran interference during rescues, and things of that nature. I was usually the one who contacted sponsor companies.
In the year 2000, we filed for and received our 501c3 designation. It turned out to be just in time to give people tax deductions for their contributions to the New Jersey Christmas Rescue. Other large rescues of abused and neglected ferrets -- like the Utah, Hagerstown and Titusville rescues -- have used S.O.S. to give their donors tax deductions and be a central point for distributing the donations to the right places.
We started running raffles in about 2000 or 2001 ... I ran the first few myself, and we devised the system of having BIG run a random number generator to pick the winner. Since then, Kat Parsons has become the SOSRaffleKat Queen. In the past couple of years, we have been fortunate enough to add several other wonderful new members. This in turn allowed us to expand the "projects" under the auspices of SOS. Sharon Bearden was asked to join because of her great work creating the Kouri Wood fan club. Georgia's hysterically funny posts to the FML about Kouri (who since became one of the sad faces of ADV) had inspired quite a following. Sharon also maintains our web site with graphics created by Kat. Lisa Roth began by soliciting donations from corporations, and she also sews hammocks and sleep sacks for donors and shelters. After Judy Cooke became a member, she offered to bring her card exchanges and FML Ferret Calendar into S.O.S. Judy also runs our eBay auctions and the Memorial Page for beloved ferrets who have left for the Rainbow Bridge. Joanne Ruffner began by creating and running the Buck-a-Month club in support of SOS, so we gratefully asked her to join us, too.
And that is the story of how SOS got started.