Cause for Paws shows love for animals

Kyara Morales-Rodriguez, Campus Reporter

Cause for Paws is an organization that has been at Eastern for several years, giving members of the Eastern community the opportunity to help local animal shelters, rescues, and foster-based organizations and raise awareness of animal cruelty while being active advocates for animals in need. Students in the organization can help local animal shelters by volunteering, donating, and fundraising.

Katherine Monatelli, junior psychology student, is the organization’s president. She joined Cause for Paws as a freshman because she has always loved animals. In fact, she has seven different dogs and cats that came from shelters.

As president of the organization, she hopes to give back to the shelters that have helped animals such as her own.

Monatelli explained that prior to COVID changing how RSOs are run at Eastern, Cause for Paws used to do a lot of fun events to help local animal shelters. In the past, they have made a lot of Do-It-Yourself, or DIY, essentials for the animal shelters in the area.

“For example, we have made treats and toys for dogs and cats,” Monatelli said. “When we made treats, we made them out of peanut butter, oats, and all this other stuff. We actually made so many that we had people taking them home and giving them to local animal shelters. This was before our last Winter Break.”

During the pre-COVID-19 days, they would also do a lot of volunteering at the Coles County Animal Shelter. Now, they are doing more work with Effingham County’s animal shelter, which is known as the Effingham County Humane Society, because they have learned that animal shelter is more in need.

Since Eastern set guidelines to prevent the spread of COVID, Cause for Paws has had to run things differently in order to follow those guidelines, protecting its members and the community.

Amy Wilkins, a junior environmental biology major, is the organization’s treasurer. She joined Cause for Paws because she hopes to become a zoologist someday. She also explained that she has a bunch of dogs and cats back home that she loves dearly. She wants to give back to animals to make sure they live good lives.

Wilkins explained that in order to prevent the spread of COVID, they had to change how the meetings were held.

“Before COVID, we held our meetings in Taylor Hall. We mainly held them around 7:00 or 8:00 pm. With COVID, we changed them to online, so we’ve been meeting every other Tuesday at around 4:00 pm or 5:00 pm,” Wilkins said.

Alyssa Bettenhausen, junior biological sciences student, is the organization’s vice-president. She joined Cause for Paws because her own dog, a pitbull, is from a shelter and he was going to be put down if he had not been adopted. She explained that she thinks raising awareness about adoption through shelters and how to help shelters is important.

She further explained how their meetings are being held.

“We’ve been doing Zoom meetings. We started out on GroupMe for our discussions, and we moved on from there. We don’t even see each other in person so we don’t have that contact,” Bettenhausen said. “For our meetings, we spend about 15 to 25 minutes explaining the projects that are coming up, where we can volunteer, and everybody’s hours that they are available for volunteering. Then whoever wants to stay because they have questions, we answer questions at the end.”

Casey Wilderman, a senior environmental biology student, is the organization’s secretary. She joined the organization because she has always wanted to help and work with animals. She loves being able to give back to the community and to organizations that are struggling.

She explained that COVID has made it tough to meet in person, so the organization has mostly been focusing on doing online meetings.

“It’s a little difficult to have activities that we can do. We try to make it as fun as possible. With our most recent meeting, we talked about t-shirt designs and stuff like that. We have also played Among Us to try to make things fun, keep people interested, and to keep up with what’s going on in the media today. We have a lot of ideas that we want to get done, but with COVID, it’s a little difficult. Anybody who would want to join, I would hope that they would keep that in mind,” Wilderman said.

This semester, they have also changed how they do events, such as animal shelter visits, in a way that keeps volunteers and animal shelter employees safe from COVID.

Wilderman explained that this semester, they have already done two different animal shelter visits to the Effingham County Humane Society.

“We didn’t just get to play with the cats and dogs of the shelter. We mostly did maintenance and yard work for the shelter’s fences,” Wilderman said. “Volunteering like that is probably what we’ve done the most this semester considering that we really can’t go out and try to fundraise as a group because of COVID.”

Monatelli further explained that the organization has taken precautions to make sure they are following the COVID guidelines set at Eastern.

“For shelter visits, we make sure that if you don’t have transportation, we are not shoving a bunch of people in one car. We make sure nobody is having a fever or anything like that. We make sure people are wearing masks and sanitizing. When we’re at the shelters, we keep our masks on and socially distance as much as possible. The employees at the shelter themselves are really good at doing the same,” Monatelli said.

Despite the fact that they are unable to fundraise as a group as many organizations have done in past years, they have found ways to make sure they are still fundraising to animal shelters and important animal-related causes.

A project the organization is really excited to introduce is an opportunity to allow their members to work on their own individual fundraising ideas. Members can choose to make treats, put donation boxes in the residence halls to collect dog food, raise money for a specific organization, or anything else they have in mind. The project would not only allow members to help animal organizations in the area, it would also allow them to get possible volunteer hours.

Bettenhausen thinks Cause for Paws is an important organization for Eastern to have because it’s important to raise awareness about issues affecting animals since animals cannot speak for themselves and animal shelters need a lot of help.

“I know that shelters need a lot of help, especially during this time of the year. With Christmas, a lot of people get animals and then decide they don’t want them anymore. Or they think they’re cute as a puppy, then they drop them off because they can’t take care of them when they get bigger,” Bettenhausen said.

The organization also wants people to know that although a lot of the executive board is pursuing careers that would allow them to help animals, this RSO is for anyone.

“This club is for anyone. You don’t have to be any type of major. You can just come and help out animals if you are passionate about it,” Monatelli said.


Kyara Morales-Rodriguez can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]