If Kandy Burch has a tough day in her job as a case manager and human services advocate at the Breathing Association on the Northwest Side, the Clintonville woman knows comfort is just on the other side of the door to her apartment.
Little Miss and Peanut are waiting, and whether the two rescue cats offer purrs of contentment that she's home or some scolding meows for her having been gone, the cares of the day drift away.
Recently, it occurred to Burch that if, like some of her clients at the nonprofit association, she could not afford something as basic as cat litter, she would have to say goodbye to the "unconditional love" of one-eyed Little Miss or Peanut, a long-haired feline. Through her work, Burch said she is aware a number of food pantries also help low-income people feed their pets.
"The one missing piece is: Nobody's providing cat litter," she said.
Now, the Clintonville-Beechwold Community Resources Center, where Burch volunteers, will offer just that.
Spurred by a pet-food challenge issued by a CRC supporter to encourage others to donate to the pantry in November and December, Burch came up with one of her own: the Cat Litter Challenge of 2017 is on through the end of February.
"I thought, if they can do the food, I'll do the litter," Burch said.
She will match kitty-litter donations to the CRC, pound for pound up to 300 pounds, through the end of the month.
Barb Cooper, family services supervisor with the CRC, said Burch approached her with the idea of the challenge during a community dinner.
"I said, 'Sure, we can go ahead and set that up,' " Cooper recalled.
She had Cliff Wiltshire, the CRC's development director, put a notice in the electronic newsletter for the settlement house, and the response was immediate, if not overwhelming so far.
"We haven't had a lot yet, but we've hopeful because we do serve a lot of people who have pets," Cooper said. "We're glad that we have folks like Kandy and different vets' offices who do regular collections and donations. Why should people who don't have as much not be able to have pets?"
"I've had cats for 20, 25 years," Burch said.
She estimated last week that her part of the bargain could cost her around $100.
"We want scoopable litter," she added. "It doesn't have to be any particular brand or any particular size."
Burch said she was greatly encouraged when Wiltshire told her of the rapid reaction to the notification of the Cat Litter Challenge in the newsletter.
"I may have tapped into a need that's there," Burch said. "It feels neat to do something for the Clintonville Resources Center.
"They are the most gentle, caring people there."