By John L. Ross / Staff Writer
A community service project turned into a night of camaraderie and healing at First United Methodist Church in Williamsburg Wednesday.
Several people gathered with their dogs and cats at the church to receive a special blessing during the Blessing of the Animals ceremony — and at least one of those blessed survived the fire at the Knox-Whitley Animal Shelter Friday.
Jessica Dennis-Bay is the “brainchild” of the event, according to the church’s assistant pastor, Joseph Moses.
“This whole thing was because of her,” Moses explained. “We talked about having it before (the fire) as (Dennis-Bay’s) community service project.”
According to Dennis-Bay, that service project was part of her activities as a Roger’s Scholar.
“I love animals, and I wanted to do something with animals,” she said, adding that a family friend in Indiana told her about the Blessing of the Animals done in a church there.
And that’s where the idea was born.
Moses explained the original plan was to raise money to donate to the Refuge Ridge animal shelter.
“But then the fire happened,” he said. “And that’s when Refuge Ridge decided to donate the money raised to the Knox-Whitley Animal Shelter.”
He added that in the Methodist Book of Worship, blessing animals was part of the religious practices.
During the blessings, the owners brought their pets to him, and received a St. Francis medal with a prayer blessing.
Theresa Martin, of Williamsburg, said she has volunteered at the animal shelter for the last four weeks.
She brought Darby, her beagle-terrier mutt, as she calls her, to be blessed at Wednesday’s ceremony.
Also blessed Wednesday was Bugsy, who survived the shelter fire — he was adopted by Brandi White and her husband, Joseph White. They also brought with them a pair of Chihuahuas named Bacardi and Grammy.
Brandi White said she has offered foster care for animals that come into the shelter — but this time Bugsy stole her heart.
Also there for the ceremony was Linda Stancato, from Chicago, who said she has worked with the Knox-Whitley Animal Shelter for two years now.
She explained she is involved with “targeted transport,” which she explained assists animals from this area find homes in other communities. The relocated animals may go to the HART (Homeless Animals Rescue Team) group, a no-kill shelter which incorporated in 1990, according to its website.
Animals may also end up with the TLC Animal Shelter (Tender Loving Care), she said. “We take them back with us and find them homes,” Stancato said.
After learning about Friday’s tragic blaze, she said she arrived in town 4 a.m. Sunday with a van stuffed full of supplies. In the past she said she’s assisted the shelter in finding homes for thousands of pets.
Animals blessed at the church all received treat bags to take home with them. All monies raised during Wednesday’s event will go toward the shelter.
But the shelter still needs help.
Cash donations can be made at Forcht Bank branches in Corbin and London. The Corbin branch phone number is (606) 528-3660. The London branch number is (606) 864-9500.
The shelter also has a PayPal account set up to receive donations. Drop-off donations can be made at Knox County Veterinary Services at 314 High Street in Barbourville, the office of William and Devanna Durham at 513 18th Street in Corbin, or Whitley County EMS at 1002 Aviation Blvd. in Williamsburg.
Knox-Whitley Animal Shelter dog among those blessed at ceremony
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