When the Greater New Orleans Foundation started GiveNOLA Day in 2014, they probably had no idea how successful the event would quickly become. Sponsored in 2023 by Baptist Community Ministries, GiveNOLA Day is an online one-day giving event that raised almost $50 million for deserving nonprofits during its first eight years. In 2022, 947 organizations shared $7.9 million.
In anticipation of this year’s event, almost 1,000 local nonprofits have been touching base with their previous donors and utilizing social media to increase their reach. Organizations can earn special prizes in categories including the most individual donors. With the early donation program well underway, approximately 4,000 donors have already given almost $600,000 to 600 organizations. Donations begin at $10 and are only limited to the generosity of the giver.
With so many deserving groups to choose from, it’s hard to narrow my donations down to a simple few. This year I’ve selected SpayMart as my first choice. Mississippi born and bred, SpayMart President Lynne Chiche was enjoying a career as an Ochsner Medical Center audiologist when she realized her real passion was to eliminate the unnecessary euthanasia of animals by offering a proactive spay and neuter program along with adoptions. After first starting the Southern Animal Foundation, which is still active, Chiche co-founded SpayMart with Pam Casey 24 years ago.
SpayMart operates a Thrift Store and Adoption Center in the Lafreniere Plaza Shopping Center, 6601 Veterans Memorial Blvd., as well as a hidden gem: the SpayMart Sanctuary with more than 200 cats of all sizes, shapes, colors and ages in Picayune, Mississippi.
The Thrift Store is really the “thrift and gift” model with higher-end donations from supporters and includes a small Adoption Center where a half-dozen kittens or adult cats are available for adoption every day. Donations of furniture, art, jewelry and household goods (no clothing accepted) are greatly appreciated for the Thrift Store.
SpayMart’s website and social media feeds are full of heart-warming stories about animals who were rescued from terrible situations. Many were born outside and had never interacted with people or had a steady source of food, clean water and medications. Most need extraordinary medical care including surgeries to repair eyes or limbs that may have been injured from attacks by larger animals.
SpayMart is involved with a kitten adoption program and is always looking for foster parents to help socialize the cats. A separate program, Seniors for Seniors, connects adults over the age of 65 with older cats for no-cost adoptions and other support. Every animal adopted from SpayMart has been fixed, micro-chipped, vaccinated, dewormed and treated for fleas. The normal adoption fee is $85.
SpayMart’s Sanctuary sprang up in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina to address a growing animal homeless population brought on by the storm. A small army of staff and volunteers toil at the sanctuary every day to keep the cats fed, address their medical needs and provide socialization to increase adoptability. Donations of cribs, baby beds, hard-case pet carriers, crib and toddler sheets, cat trees and toys, and cat food are always needed. Volunteer drivers are also needed to bring animals to a veterinarian each Monday and Tuesday.
Chiche’s long-term plans include building an animal hospital that will provide low-cost services on an acre of land SpayMart purchased on Airline Drive. Short-term, she hopes to open a medical facility where spay, neutering and other medical services can take place in-house on a daily basis. Though SpayMart is largely associated with cats, dogs and other species of pets are also part of their mission.
Chiche is quick to point to a university study showing owning a cat can reduce the risk of a heart attack by one-third. “Purrs have the ability to heal stress. They calm nerves and lower blood pressure,” said Chiche.
A female cat can get pregnant as young as 4 months of age and is able to give birth as many as five times a year. That’s why spay and neutering is so important. Fostering also saves lives and helps cats get adopted, Chiche said.
In 2014 Chiche received the Civic Award of the Year from the Alliance for Good Government, Jefferson Parish Chapter. She was also named CityBusiness’ 2018 Health Hero for her work benefitting homeless animals. To donate to SpayMart or the nonprofit of your choice during early giving or GiveNOLA Day on Tuesday (May 2), go to givenola.org.
Danae Columbus, who has had a 30-year career in politics and public relations, offers her opinions on Thursdays. Her career includes stints at City Hall, the Dock Board and the Orleans Parish School Board and former clients such as former District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro, former City Councilman Jared Brossett, City Councilwoman at-large Helena Moreno, Foster Campbell, former Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne, former Sheriff Charles Foti and former City Councilwomen Stacy Head and Cynthia Hedge-Morrell. She is a member of the Democratic Parish Executive Committee. Columbus can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.