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A purr-fect bonding experience:Kinship pair shares the love of volunteering

Twelve-year-old Alyssa Witthoeft has bonded with Crush, an orange tabby kitten that has been at the Humane Society Shelter for about a month. (Vicki Gerdes/Tribune)1 / 3
Detroit Lakes seventh grader Allyssa Witthoeft and her Kinship mentor, Gloria Anderson, like to spend at least one day a month volunteering at the Humane Society of the Lakes, where they play with the cats and help socialize them so they're ready for adoption. (Vicki Gerdes/Tribune)2 / 3
Crush, the tabby kitten that has befriended Detroit Lakes middle schooler Allyssa Witthoeft, has been a resident of the Humane Society of the Lakes animal shelter since early November. (Vicki Gerdes/Tribune)3 / 3

When Lake Ida resident Gloria Anderson and Detroit Lakes middle schooler Allyssa Witthoeft were paired in October 2015 via the Lakes Crisis & Resource Center's Kinship mentoring program, they quickly discovered they had something in common.

"We both love animals," says Anderson, noting that she had signed up to be a Kinship mentor last year, after reading about the program in the pages of this newspaper.

Witthoeft had learned of the program at school, and suggested it to her mother.

Wanting to find an activity that they could do together, even during the winter months, Anderson suggested that they try volunteering at the shelter operated by the Humane Society of the Lakes.

"I'm also trying to show Allyssa how important it is to volunteer," Anderson added, noting that her young mentee has also volunteered with her at the Vacation Bible School operated by Anderson's church last summer, and at the Health Resource Center in Detroit Lakes.

"Allyssa also went with my church's youth group to Minneapolis for an event called 'Feed My Starving Children," Anderson said. "They package meals to send overseas, to places where in many cases, it's the only food those children get."

Of course, their get-togethers involve some fun, too.

"She's been to my house, and fished off the dock there," said Anderson. "We make meals together, and sometimes when she has the day off from school she'll come with me to Fargo to run errands."

"The first time I was at your house we made a hotdish, and I gave your cat some treats," said Witthoeft, noting that she had never met a deaf cat before.

Witthoeft has two cats and a dwarf hamster at home, so when they volunteer at the Humane Society, they spend most of their time in the cat area.

"They just need someone to play with them and hug them and hold them," said Anderson, adding that their main purpose in coming to the shelter is to help socialize the cats so they're ready for adoption. "We volunteer here about once a month."

"Some of them are sort of skittish," said Witthoeft of the cats.

She added that she sometimes feels a little sad when a cat who has been there a while gets adopted, or, as happened in one case, a cat she has grown particularly attached to passes away unexpectedly.

"He was a big cat," she said, a little sadly. "I used to like to sit with my head down next to him and listen to him purr."

Right now, however, her favorite is a small orange kitten named Crush. "He's so cute!" she gushes as she prompts him to play with a cat toy.

"We get together once every couple of weeks," said Anderson, noting that when they're not doing volunteer work or hanging out together at her house, they might go swimming at the Detroit Lakes Community & Cultural Center or visit the local library.

"Allyssa likes to play games on the computer while I look at books," said Anderson.

The local Kinship program is always in need of more adult mentors, she added. For more information, please contact the Lakes Crisis & Resource Center at at 218-847-8572, or send an email to lcrcdl@lakescrisis.com.

Anyone who would like to volunteer at the Humane Society of the Lakes can reach them at 218-847-0511 or by email at info@hsofthelakes.org,

"We did have to take a short class before volunteering," said Anderson, noting that it was about an hour in length.

But once the training is completed, "you can come in anytime that it's open," added Witthoeft.

Vicki Gerdes

Staff writer at Detroit Lakes Newspapers for the past 17 years, currently editor of the entertainment and community pages as well as covering city council and the Lake Park-Audubon School Board. Living in DL with my cat, Smokey.

(218) 844-1454
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