Recently, personnel at the Cat Welfare Association arrived at the shelter in north Clintonville to find that a big Tupperware container with holes punched in the lid had been shoved inside the front door.

Recently, personnel at the Cat Welfare Association arrived at the shelter in north Clintonville to find that a big Tupperware container with holes punched in the lid had been shoved inside the front door.

They knew what was inside -- cats -- and they could come pretty close to predicting what the accompanying note said, since this was not all that novel an occurrence of late.

In this instance, according to program manager Gail Harbert, the missive with the cats read, "We lost our job. We lost our home."

And, they felt, they had to lose their pets, too.

"People are just abandoning their pets," Harbert said.

All no-kill shelters like the Cat Welfare Association find difficult economic times doubly difficult to get through for that very reason.

The CWA, though, which will be celebrating its 65th birthday in 2010, might be doing a little better than some as a result of the recent gift of $15,000 from Yesterday's News Cat Litter. The money is courtesy of Lisa Daris of Powell, who won an essay contest sponsored by the company and designated the Cat Welfare Association as her charity of choice.

Half of the prize money will go into the association's "Good Samaritan Fund" to help low-income people pay veterinary expenses and the other half into spaying and neutering efforts, according to Harbert.

"The Cat Welfare Association was founded in 1945 by a small group of people who saw the need for an organization designed specifically to help the many stray and abused cats in the Columbus area," according to the nonprofit organization's Web site.

As far back as the association's founding, spaying and neutering to help prevent even more unwanted strays was part of the goal, which is rather remarkable, Harbert said.

"That was really not part of the equation back then," she added.

The shelter at 741 Wetmore Road off Indianola Avenue takes in as many strays as the facility has capacity for, and then some, Harbert said. The capacity is supposed to be 250 felines, but not long ago 325 were in residence. The goal is to find homes for the cats in the shelter, but those who don't get adopted may stay there the rest of their lives.

Harbert said some cats stay on the premises for years before "just the right person walks in."

That happened on two occasions recently, she added.

"We need patient adopters," Harbert said.

As a no-kill operation, Harbert said that the CWA will not euthanize one animal to take in another, so there are times when people trying to drop off strays have to be turned away. Only injured animals are accepted when the shelter is beyond its capacity.

Foster families will sometimes help.

Spaying and neutering to prevent unwanted strays is so vital to CWA's mission, the program manager said, that the association began a low-cost program with the help of local veterinarians in 1970. In 2005, the program was expanded to offer even cheaper spaying and neutering for those with very limited incomes, many of whom keep litter after litter of kittens because they have personal experience about what it is to be unwanted and in need, Harbert said.

The goal for these programs in 2009 was 2,050 cats, a figure exceeded in early December, Harbert said. That excludes the cats taken into the shelter, which was at one time a woodworking shop and which offers the felines a variety of settings in which to take their leisure, nap or play, as the mood strikes them.

A roomful of cats will keep staff members and volunteers more than a little busy, so Harbert said that she hasn't turned much attention to the upcoming 65th anniversary.

"I'm sure I'll have to do something," she said.

The association generally has an open house in May and is planning its first wine-tasting fundraiser around Valentine's Day in Worthington.

The Cat Welfare Association has a paid staff of about a dozen and 80 active volunteers, Harbert said.

The latter includes Tina Rice of Clintonville, who stops at the facility every day on her lunch break to spend some time with the cats. She's been volunteering for eight years.

"They definitely give me a lot more than I give to them," Rice said.

She hopes she won't find the same cats there from one day to the next.

"They just do not do well in a shelter environment," Rice said.

The Cat Welfare Association has been in its present location since 1998. The old woodworking shop was a definite upgrade from the old cement block house nearby, Harbert said.

Part of CWA's operating expenses is derived from a garage sale, the "Catique," held every Saturday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. in a back room of the shelter. All sales items are donated, and the garage sale is handled entirely by volunteers.

People who want to become volunteers may call 268-6096, extension 103.