Friends of Gummi, Inc. was founded in 1997 by Janice Rudolph, and our 501 (C) 3 non-profit status was granted by the IRS. The initial mission was to provide veterinary care for indigent, elderly, or disabled pet owners in Collier County, Florida; and to help adopt out pets from our high-kill government shelter. Our mission has changed over the years and our focus is now on the rescue (and fostering) & adoption of abandoned, abused and surrendered pets which have dramatically increased over the years.
1997 We launched an educational program wherein classes in Pet Responsibility are presented to Grades K through 5 in the Collier County Public Schools and some private schools. We continued our rescue and adoption efforts and 94 sweet cats and 19 dogs were placed in loving homes.
1998 Friends of Gummi began receiving donations from the public. The educational program expanded to include a more advanced class in Pet Responsibility & the Pet Overpopulation Crisis directed toward Grades 4 and 5. Adoptions increased to 122 cats and 14 dogs.
1999 With an expanding workload, we began recruiting volunteers. Our focus this year was rescuing and adopting out 356 abandoned cats and kittens, however we did place 28 dogs in loving homes as well. The Friends of Gummi educational program thrived as elementary schools around the county requested we present our Pet Education classes in their schools. We launched a trap/neuter/release program for stray and feral cats on Marco Island in Collier County and ‘fixed’ 81 cats. As public awareness of Friends of Gummi increased, we received more donations, citizens are now bringing cats & kittens to our shelter, and vets are turning abandoned pets over to us as well.
2000 Friends of Gummi was invited to join the new Naples Petsmart store’s Luv-A-Pet Adoption Center. Petsmart awarded an exclusive contract to Friends of Gummi to house and adopt our wonderful cats and kittens at their in-store mini shelter. With Petsmart’s visibility, and our dedicated volunteers, we rescued and placed 506 kittens and cats in 2000 as well as 21 dogs. We also launched a very successful Pet Photos with Santa in conjunction with Petsmart Charities which raised much need funds, and also increased public awareness of Friends of Gummi’s mission.
We continued to provide free or low cost spay/neuter assistance for responsible pet owners in need of financial aid. Our feral cat trapping program ‘fixed’ 253 cats in 2000 and is now county wide, and our educational program in the elementary schools is still thriving.
2001 We placed 767 adorable felines and 26 dogs in loving homes; trapped, neutered, and released 274 feral cats in Collier County. We participated in the Platinum Coast Cat Fanciers Association cat show in Ft. Myers, Florida in July.
2002 We introduced www.friendsofgummi.org in May; and continued with our other programs. We focused on increasing our puppy adoptions and began to publicize our Puppy Adoption program. Puppy adoptions were held every Saturday at our Petsmart location. Adoptions included 1,017 kittens and cats, and 124 puppies. We began listing our wonderful pets on www.petfinder.org which resulted in increased visibility and an increase in adoptions.
2003 We appointed a fund-raising director, Mrs. Pat Cavanagh, and she launched our very successful 1st annual Holiday High Tea and Silent Auction in December at The Club at Olde Cypress. Our email list has increased to over 1,000 recipients and helps to increase our adoptions. Cat adoptions increased to 1,617, and 219 puppies were placed in great homes.
2004 A banner year for Friends of Gummi. Mrs. Pat Cavanagh launched our 1st Annual Spring Champagne Dessert Buffet and Silent Auction at The Club at Olde Cypress which was a great success. Adoptions rose to 2,212. Puppy adoptions more than doubled to 479, and 1,733 kittens and cats. We also began listing our pets for adoption on www.1-800-save-a-pet.com .
But tragedy struck when our dear friend, Mrs. Cavanagh was killed in a car crash on December 1, 2004, just one week before her Holiday High Tea fundraiser was held at The Club at Olde Cypress. She is missed terribly, and is fondly remembered in our hearts forever.
Mrs. Mary Heend was appointed Volunteer Coordinator MaryHeend@gmail.com As our kitten and puppy intake increases, we need many more volunteers to help. Duties caring for kitties and puppies include; cleaning, feeding, administering medications, and socializing.
Macy's department stores invited us to participate in their twice yearly fundraiser wherein we sell coupons for $5 which entitles coupon-holders to big discounts and door prizes at any Macy's location. Friends of Gummi keeps the proceeds from the coupon sales. Macy's events are held at the end of March and the end of October.
2005 Adoptions this year increased to 2,287. Under the direction of Mrs. Hedderick, our 2nd Annual Champagne Dessert Buffet in April was a huge success with many high-end silent auction items. Our 2nd Annual Holiday Dinner Buffet & Silent Auction was a huge success in December and raised much needed funds for veterinarian fees. We now have over 100 hard-working volunteers. We still need many more volunteers to help at our small kitten & puppy facility (part of Mrs. Rudolph's home), and we desperately need kitty and puppy foster parents. Our email list is now over 2,000 animal lovers who receive an e-newsletter weekly. We continue to participate in the Platinum Coast Cat Fanciers show in Ft. Myers each July.
2006 Adoptions this year hovered at just under 2,300. As other adoption agencies wanted to do adoptions at the Naples Petsmart store, we decided to leave there and adoptions out of the new Petsmart at the huge shopping & restaurant district, Coconut Point in Estero. Both our 3rd Annual Spring Dinner & Silent Auction and our Holiday Dinner & Silent Auction in December were, once again, huge successes. Fun and merriment was enjoyed by all while raising funds for our wonderful, but homeless, pets. As The Club at Olde Cypress in Naples continues to win awards for its spectacular clubhouse and food, it has become our venue of choice for both our annual signature events. We continue to find more wonderful volunteers at the shelter and at Petsmart Estero. We can always use more help however, at the shelter and as foster parents for our underage pets.
2007 Our 4th Annual Spring Dinner & Silent Auction was, once again, a big success raising over $20,000. Thanks to all who attended and to those who donated such wonderful, quality items and services for the auction. Adoptions are ever increasing with enormous traffic at the Petsmart Estero. For the first time, The 'Chrome Divas' Motorcycle Club hosted a Poker Run to benefit Friends of Gummi on Sunday, Nov. 4th. We were so excited about this wonderful event which had a great turnout, both motorcycles & cars, to enjoy some poker, great food and music at the Iron Rhino Saloon. Lots of foot tapping, knee slapping fun was had by all. The Chrome Divas raised $1,400 for medical care for our homeless pets. Our 4th Annual Holiday Buffet & Silent was held at The Club at Olde Cypress once again, on Thursday, Nov. 29th. raising over $20,000. Thanks to all attendees & volunteers! Our Pet Photos with Santa was held at the Estero Petsmart on the first three weekends in December, both Saturdays & Sundays, from 11am until 5pm. Photos this year were digital instead of polaroid - still the same low price of 2 photos for $9.95. Pet Photos with Santa raised $1,100. We have lost some wonderful volunteers this year due to health concerns, so our search continues for dedicated animal lovers who want to help our sweet, homeless pets. Adoptions in 2007 hovered around 2,000, down from last year.
2008 Adoptions in 2008 decreased to 1,800 cats & dogs, kittens & puppies and donations are down by a little more than 50% due to the economic crisis. A deluxe motor-coach day trip to South Beach, Miami was held on February 22nd raising over $3,000. Thanks to Dina Babka & Suzanne Evans of C I Travel for organizing this wonderful excursion which included a guided walking & bus tour of South Beach, as well as a guided boat tour around the Miami Bays including Paradise, Star, & Fisher Islands. Our First Annual Friends of Gummi Golf Tournament was held on Sunday, May 4th at The Club at Twin Eagles was a huge success and the barbeque buffet after the tournament was fun for all. Gummi's Fifth Annual Holiday Dinner Buffet & Silent Auction was held at The Club at Olde Cypress in late November and raised over $10,000.
2009 Kittens and cats were abandoned in huge numbers in 2008 partly due to all the home foreclosures. Donations are down this year so far by some 50% still due to the economic crisis. Gummi's First Annual Carribean Cruise was held in January and raised over $6,000. Special thanks to Dina Babka & Suzanne Evans of C I Travel for putting together this fun-filled & very well attended event. We are looking forward to our Second Annual Carribean Cruise in Jan 2010. Hope you can attend. Our Second Annual Golf Tournament was held in May, again at The Club at Twin Eagles. Our golf outing raised over $12,000 and will definitely be held in May 2010 at a club to be named shortly. Barbie DeVoe put together a Phantom 4th of July Barbeque non-event which raised almost $6,000. Invitees donated so they would NOT have to attend this non-event. Thanks to Mrs. DeVoe for single handedly organizing the fake barbeque.
Friends of Gummi’s success is due to the wonderful support of some local veterinarians namely Harborside Animal Clinic in Naples and Estero Animal Hospital, as well as the many dedicated volunteers who work tirelessly to help save the lives of our wonderful cats and dogs who so deserve a chance for a happy and healthy life. Last, but not least, we believe our success is due to the support of our many generous contributors who share our mission to save as many homeless pets as possible & get them into loving, forever homes. Friends of Gummi has adopted out over 16,000 loving pets from 1997 to date.