Keeping felines top of mind, Ridgewood Rescue is on a mission to reduce the population of stray cats in Ridgewood, a known issue in the neighborhood. The group’s method: spaying or neutering feral cats and finding appropriate homes for the more sociable stray cats and kittens.

The Ridgewood Rescue team is composed of local Ridgewood residents and is a dedication to E Garcia’s beloved cat, Joy, who passed away in 2019. It consists of four board members, all volunteers at the moment, and at least 10 individuals from the community who have signed up to be on the volunteer email list.

Garcia, the main founder, expressed gratitude for the team of animal rescuers, stating “I wouldn’t be anywhere without my incredible founding board members: Christine Young, Elzbieta (Ela) Plonska and Franze De La Calle.” 

When asked what inspired the formation of Ridgewood Rescue, Garcia reminisced on childhood days and how the devotion and affection for animals has carried over to today. “It was a confluence of events over a period of many years. If I’m being honest about when my personal passion for animals started, it wasn’t long after I was born. My dad loves to tell stories about me as a baby being obsessed with cats, or the time I tried to save a baby pigeon that had fallen from its nest when I was three years old.”

Current foster, Adelaide, who is in need of dental surgery.

As far as the recent formation of Ridgewood Rescue, Garcia and their wife, Hayley, found a litter of kittens and a stray mom in their backyard in 2018. “Anyone who lives in the neighborhood can tell you that there are stray cats everywhere – even out and about in broad daylight,” Garcia added.

Garcia and their wife called around to a number of rescues and veterinarians to determine the best solution. With the rescues overwhelmed already, Garcia collected advice from local vets and ended up taking the kittens into their home to foster and socialize them, restore them to full health, vaccinate them and find them suitable homes.

“We are extremely grateful for The Humane Society, ASPCA, The Neighborhood Vet, Helping Paw, Animal Clinic of Queens, Veterinary Care Group and Ten Lives Cat Rescue in Rhode Island,” Garcia said. “They’ve all been so kind about sharing resources and words of advice and wisdom. We want to learn as much as possible from the folks who have already been doing this work effectively in their communities, and they’ve all been so generous to us.”

A more recent rescue occurred this year with a neighbor of Garcia posting on the community Facebook group about kittens she was able to rescue from her backyard. Garcia assisted their neighbor with the two kittens she was able to catch, and they were able to find and capture the other three from their litter. Garcia and Hayley took them right to the vet and then home to foster and socialize them. Now they are all in loving homes.

Throughout their rescues, Garcia made connections with De La Calle and Plonska, who are both TNR-certified and have been doing this work in Ridgewood for many years, as well as Young, who owns and operates a local Ridgewood dog walking, cat sitting and pet care service called RidgeWalks.

“We connected and started talking about the Ridgewood strays, and began having conversations about how we could better tackle the issue and unify our efforts,” Garcia remarked. “Separately, I had convened with Young who agreed about the need for a strong, coordinated effort for the strays. Together, we are a really amazing team. We all come to it with different experiences and strengths, and of course, a deep love for animals.”

In addition to TNR, socializations and adoptions, community education is at the heart of Ridgewood Rescue’s mission. “A huge part of any local effort like ours is to educate the community about the work we are doing,” Garcia stated.

Garcia also emphasized that the rescue wants to teach people about the importance of fixing their animals, the practice and effectiveness of TNR and what to do if there is a stray or cat colony in need of help. “We want to help Ridgewood become a better place for the stray cats that live here,” Garcia stated. “And in order to do that, we need to teach more people about what options there are and how to get involved and be a part of the solution.”

Ridgewood Rescue tabled outside of Norma’s to increase awareness about the local organization.

To spread awareness about Ridgewood Rescue and the mission of the organization, Garcia and their team have recently participated in tabling events outside of small, local businesses, such as Norma’s Corner Shop. They plan on doing more tabling events in the future at Stay Forever and local holiday markets. While increasing their presence in the neighborhood, the group of animal lovers also banded together recently to build winter cat shelters. 

Another method of spreading awareness to benefit this newly formed organization is a raffle with donations from a plethora of local businesses, including I Like Food, RidgeWalks, Bridge and Tunnel Brewery, Stay Forever, Saint Seneca, Cafe Plein Air, Julia’s, Topos and more. Donations for raffle entries will take place on Dec. 11 and 12. Every $10 donated will be equivalent to one entry. 

Franze, Ela and E built durable winter cat shelters for the stray cats of Ridgewood.

Garcia and their team of devoted animal lovers are working on obtaining tax-exempt status to apply for various grants and funds, but the group has already received some tremendous support from family, friends and of course the Ridgewood community.

The best way to support the rescue at this time, as they are in the process of becoming tax exempt, is by buying and donating items from local pet shops in order to support small businesses and by buying items from their Amazon wishlist, where supply donations can be directly shipped to them.

To reach out to the rescue, email [email protected] to coordinate pick up/drop off of supplies. Monetary donations can also be made one time, weekly or monthly. To directly support a current rescue in foster, Adelaide, in need of dental surgery, funds are being collected.

All images courtesy of E Garcia.

Featured image is of the founding board members (left to right: E Garcia and their dog Bowie, Franze De La Calle, Christine Young and Elzbieta (Ela) Plonska.) 

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