Hearts of gold, nerves of steel

C.B.N. women open thrift shop to fi­nance shel­ter


Just three weeks af­ter they opened a small thrift shop in Bay Roberts, three Con­cep­tion Bay North women are amazed by the sup­port coming in. If it con­tin­ues, they fig­ure they’ll make enough money to pay the rent — with a lit­tle left over to go to­wards re­al­iz­ing a dream.

The three have been friends for years and share a bond through their work with the SPCA. Now they have a com­mon goal to found a cat shel­ter for the C.B.N. area.

Su­san Deir worked with the St. John’s SPCA for 22 years; 15 of those she served as spe­cial con­sta­ble. Dur­ing those years she’s seen some hor­rific sights.

“There are many, many,” she says softly, sit­ting in a small room at the back of the thrift shop.

Her long­time friend and col­league Janet Neil nods. “You could write a book,” she agrees.

While their part­ner, Linda Mercer, minds the shop at the bright, neatly stocked front por­tion of the store, Deir and Neil talk about how the lit­tle shop came to be. Mercer, who served on the board of the SPCA, is the shop’s ac­coun­tant; her hus­band, Tony Smith, also vol­un­teers at the shop when needed. The cou­ple are ac­tive fundrais­ers for the SPCA.

“Janet, Linda and I have known for a long time that there was a need in the Con­cep­tion Bay North area for a cat shel­ter,” says Deir. “We dis­cussed it many times. But one day we de­cided it was time to stop talk­ing and start do­ing some­thing, so we met at Janet’s house and the idea of the thrift store was born.”

They im­me­di­ately be­gan look­ing at build­ings and started a Face­book page.

“The re­sponse was tremen­dous, so we ran with it from there and now a cou­ple of months later, here we are.”

Deir cred­its Neil with get­ting the ball rolling through her vol­un­teer work. Some nine months ear­lier she’d started a low-cost spay/neuter pro­gram for res­i­dents, called Cat Con­cerns.

“It helps peo­ple like se­niors,” Neil ex­plains. “Maybe the only com­pany they have is their cat and they can’t af­ford to have the cat spayed or neutered. Or it might be peo­ple who take in strays and maybe they’ve got their own cats, but would be will­ing to take an­other, or sin­gle par­ents who are find­ing it dif­fi­cult.”

Janet, Linda and I have known for a long time that there was a need in the Con­cep­tion Bay North area for a cat shel­ter. We dis­cussed it many times. But one day we de­cided it was time to stop talk­ing and start do­ing some­thing, so we met at

Janet’s house and the idea of the thrift store was born.

In less than a year through her fundrais­ing work, she’s been able to con­trib­ute to­wards the spay­ing/neu­ter­ing of 40 cats.

But, she stresses, the pro­gram is only for peo­ple who truly need the fi­nan­cial help, and even then they are ex­pected to pay a por­tion of the cost of spay­ing/neu­ter­ing.

The women de­cided to use the name of Neil’s Pro­gram, Cat Con­cerns, for the thrift shop as well.

“Typ­i­cally, I’ve felt that cats get the short end of the stick,” Deir says. “Ev­ery­body will look af­ter a stray dog, feed it, call it over, pet it, but cats they shoo away from their door. And the peo­ple that do feed stray cats, it doesn’t take long be­fore they will re­pro­duce. So cats are a big is­sue and no­body seems to want to do any­thing about them.”

“There are a few cat groups in this area, but the prob­lem is no­body has a shel­ter,” says Neil. “We need a phys­i­cal build­ing. I’d ven­ture to say there are thou­sands of stray cats in the 68 towns on the Bac­calieu Trail. There are good-hearted peo­ple who feed strays and all of a sud­den they have kit­tens and it starts to get out of hand.”

With money left over from pre­vi­ous fundrais­ing ef­forts, the women were able to rent the former Mom’s Take Out on Bare­need Road for their shop. They’re hop­ing even­tu­ally the prof­its from the store will aid in pur­chas­ing a build­ing to use as a shel­ter.


They re­ceive gen­er­ous do­na­tions of items through ad­ver­tis­ing on Face­book and word of mouth.

“Peo­ple have been so sup­port­ive,” notes Deir. “It’s funny be­cause they’ll come in with a bag of items or sev­eral bags and they’ll take a look around and end up leav­ing with an­other bag of stuff. And we’ve been hear­ing that peo­ple are happy that some­one is ac­tu­ally do­ing some­thing to make (a shel­ter) a re­al­ity.”

The store doesn’t have the space to ac­cept large fur­ni­ture or ap­pli­ances, but takes house­hold items, clothes, ac­ces­sories, books and the like.

Cat Con­cerns Inc. is staffed by 10 vol­un­teers, who work three-hour shifts, but more vol­un­teers are needed.

The shop is open Tues­day-Satur­day from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

In ad­di­tion to store in­come, the women con­tinue to fundraise to­wards their goal.

Their next event will be held at the Sea­side Lounge in Spa­niard’s Bay Feb. 16, spon­sored by the lounge and Terry Lynch, in­struc­tor at The Mu­sic Stu­dio. There’ll be live bands and taped mu­sic, and the women ex­pect some of the stu­dents from the stu­dio will be on hand to per­form as well.

The good and the ugly

It takes a heart of gold and nerves of steel to deal with sit­u­a­tions of an­i­mal ne­glect and abuse.

“It takes its toll on you,” Deir says. “When we get to­gether and start talk­ing, then you re­al­ize what you’ve been through and what you’ve seen. I shake my head and I won­der, and I’m sure Janet does the same.”

One par­tic­u­lar in­stance from 10 years ago still haunts Deir.

“It was in the St. John’s area. The dog was at the end of his chain and had been there in the snow for three months, dead.

“I guess the tem­per­a­tures pre­served the body and when we sent it off to the pathol­o­gist in P.E.I., all indi­ca­tions showed that the dog had starved to death. This dog was tied on 30 or 40 feet away from the house, smelling all the kitchen smells, see­ing the kids come and go. I can’t imag­ine what the poor lit­tle thing suf­fered.”

At the time it wasn’t some­thing she al­lowed her­self to dwell on.

“You have a job that you have to do, and you sort of have to watch your back too be­cause you’re on some­body’s prop­erty telling them they’ve done some­thing very wrong. So I guess some sort of in­stinct kicks in, you do your job and you can’t get emo- tional about moment.”

“And the fines were so minis­cule,” adds Neil, who has vol­un­teered along­side Deir for a num­ber of years. “But they’ve re­cently been changed (up to $50,000) so that may make a dif­fer­ence.”

It hasn’t all been bad, and it’s the good sto­ries that have kept them go­ing.

“They make it worth­while, and some of the most hor­ri­ble sto­ries turn around to be ac­tu­ally nice sto­ries in the end. You’ve rescued an an­i­mal from a hor­rific situa-




that tion and brought it back to what it should be phys­i­cally and emo­tion­ally — be­cause they suf­fer the emo­tional stress as well. And then the an­i­mal gets a fab­u­lous home where it lives out the rest of its life.

“We know it will take a while to get to the point of a shel­ter,” Deir con­tin­ues. “There are a lot of ob­sta­cles, money be­ing one of them. But this is a start and with hard work, ded­i­ca­tion and con­tin­ued sup­port from the pub­lic, we know we can make it a re­al­ity.”


Three Con­cep­tion Bay North women have opened a thrift shop in Bay Roberts, where they hope pro­ceeds from sales will help in the pur­chase of a shel­ter. The shop is run by 10 vol­un­teers, in­clud­ing (from left) Janet Neil, Su­san Deir, Linda Mercer and Mercer’s hus­band, Tony Smith.

Linda Mercer glances up from stock­ing the shelves to greet a cus­tomer.

Pho­tos by Lil­lian Sim­mons/spe­cial to The Com­pass

Su­san Deir, a former spe­cial con­sta­ble with the SPCA, ti­dies a shelf. A small room in the shop is ded­i­cated to books.

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