Sisters gather donations for homeless and their dogs
Care packages that include clothes, dog food being handed out Saturday
Sara Capobianco has always loved animals, especially dogs. Over the years, she has worked with different organizations to help find homes for abandoned or mistreated pets. So when she read a recent Gazette article about a homeless man whose dog died in his arms in the freezing cold, she reacted emotionally; and like other Gazette readers touched by the story, she decided to act. “I came to tears (when I read the article),” Sara said. “It made me feel I had to do something that was bigger than myself, to help these animals and homeless people find shelters and whatever they need.” Sara spoke with her sister, Samantha, with whom she has a long history of helping others. In high school, the two bagged groceries to raise money for the Old Brewery Mission, and volunteered at the organization once a month. Together, they began thinking of ways they could assist homeless people with pets in getting through the winter. “We wanted to start small,” Sara said, “to see how we can help.” They decided to put together gift bags for homeless people with animals. They posted call-outs on different Facebook community groups for people in the West Island, Vaudreuil and Pincourt, and were amazed by the response. “It went from zero to 100 in a couple of days,” Sara said. The sisters have raised more than $5,000 and put together 50 bags of supplies, which they plan to distribute to homeless people with and without animals on Saturday. Tuesday evening, Samantha and her aunt went around picking up items people had offered to donate. “We drove all around Vaudreuil and filled the whole car with bags and bags of stuff,” she said. “We got dog food, clothes, boots, jackets, hats, a lot of money donations as well — which we used to buy gift cards — toothbrushes and toothpaste, hand warmers, feet warmers, long johns. We got good, compact sleeping bags and tarps; I heard they love having tarps. And extra socks.” Sara and her friend Claudia, meanwhile, used some of the donated funds to buy items such as dog food and dog toys. When Sara returned to her house, she found more donations on her doorstep. “I got home to an amazing amount of clothing, coats and dog blankets,” she said. “I was so overwhelmed, and so happy to see how many people were reaching out and helping. It warms my heart.” The sisters spent Wednesday and Thursday at their parents’ house in Dollard-des-Ormeaux, organizing all the supplies they had collected. “The whole basement was filled,” Sara said. “My mom, my dad and my aunt were all there. We were so happy, putting things in bags, seeing how many clothes we’re getting out of all of this. We’re thrilled.” The Capobianco sisters work at a logistics company, through which they found sponsors, including one company that is lending them a cargo van to distribute the bags on Saturday. They have planned a route along Papineau, Ste-Catherine and Berri Sts. where they will also offer coffee and homemade cookies. Their aim is to make December feel a little less lonely for people on the street. “I just hope to give somebody a bit of the holiday spirit,” Samantha said. “I’m thankful to have a roof over my head, a loving family and my children, but I want to be able to give others a chance to be thankful for something.” “I love animals, but I love humans as well,” Sara said. “I want to make sure that on a cold night, they have a place to sleep. So if we can give them some blankets so they’re more comfortable .... We want them to know that (people) are reaching out to them.” The initiative won’t stop here. There are more donations coming in, and the sisters are already planning to put together another batch of bags to hand out. In the long term, the sisters plan to create a non-profit organization to help the homeless and their pets. “We hope more people come together to help with this thing we’ve started,” Sara said, “so we can help the homeless and their animals keep warm, safe and fed.”
Sara Capobianco, left, and sister Samantha prepare bags of supplies to distribute to the homeless and their dogs on Saturday.