Marianne Grindstaff, founder and co-owner of a feline sanctuary, has had such creatures forever.
She moved to her present location with three. Then, through the next nine years her kids dragged some home.
Then other people started doing the same and after that it just kind of spiraled.
“We moved and totally remodeled our new home from the ground up,” Grindstaff, owner of Cat Ranch Rescue said. “I decided to fence our yard to keep the cats inside and protect them from traffic, over zealous neighbors with guns, and dogs.
When the couple had about 37 cats they realized they needed to get a non profit number to be a legitimate rescue. Troy, Grindstaff’s husband filed the paperwork and they officially got it Sept. 20, 2009.
With three board members, the group has a president, (Grindstaff), vice-president, secretary, and treasurer.
“We hope to do more in the future but so far we enter the parades, having a booth on the 4th of July and this year will be our 3rd annual computerized light show at Christmas. You tune your radio into 88.7 and can watch the lights dance to the music. Everyone loves this,” Grindstaff said.
Last year the agency did a small show for Halloween and their first official fundraiser giving out candy on Halloween night, handing out info on the rescue, and taking donations.
“We also have a donation box out for the Christmas lights and took in a little over $80 this past Christmas. The newpaper did an article on us when we put the ad in the paper. We hope to make it bigger this year,” Grindstaff said. “We had over 15,000 lights last year and used four 16-channel Light- O-Rramas. We had a huge power upgrade to our home to supply the lights and over 50, 100-foot cords. Our mega tree is 16 feet tall.”
Cat Ranch is a no kill, cagefree lifetime sanctuary, believing cats should be allowed to roam outside as well as have access to an indoor enviroment.
The group is involved with NC C.A.M.E.T. , Graham County Fire Dept, assisting in the temporary placement of pets in a disaster or emergency, and F.A.C.T. (Fight Animal Cruelty Today).
“We have a huge network of rescues on our Facebook page that we network with. I crosspost for other rescues trying to save animals from high kill shelters, hopeless situations, or abuse,” Grindstaff states.
One of Grindstaff’s first successes was recently when a lady called her trying to find a home for her daughters two Boxers.
“She had given them to the husband in a divorce who abandoned them. She could not take them and had already paid a thousand in boarding. She was facing euthanizing them.”
Grindstaff posted all morning and finally got a rescue in New Jersey – PetResQ, Inc. to take them.
“That was a real feel good moment,” she stated. “I am currently trying to place cats and kittens within our county and post them on my page to find homes. I have over 1,900 friends on my list.”
The Graham Star has done a few articles on the ranch and the organization has gotten some personal donations from friends and family.
“Lots of people donate at Christmas to our light show,” Grindstaff reported. “We hope this year will be bigger. Since we are new we have just started getting out into the community more.”
Grindstaff’s role models include The Trixie Foundation with founder Randy Skaggs who took time to answer questions for Grinsdtaff when she first started the company; Caboodle Ranch, the next closest place Grindstaff has found to hers other than the Trixie Foundation who deals with mostly dogs, and Cat House on the Kings in Calikfornia.
Grindstaff, 44, also treasures her mother whose advice she lives by, her late sister, who she did not get along with but she admired how she could do anything she set her mind to.
“She taught herself to groom dogs from a book and became a successful dog groomer. She was not afraid to do anything which is so unlike me who is scared of everything! I find myself saying to myself, ‘What would Suzy do?'”
Grindstaff’s best friend Sheila McKinna, who she has been friends with ever since Grindstaff moved at the age of ten from Hendersonville, has kept in touch on and off with her through all their lives.
“Now with the Internet we talk all the time and visit every chance we get,” confesses Grindstaff. “She has been my greatest supporter and ALWAYS tells me I can do anything and keeps me going. She is an angel in disguise.”
Mary Kay is also an inspiration for Grindstaff, who grew up in Melbourne, FL, moved around a lot. Her dad was a builder and the family lived in Dallas, TX, Arkansas, where the family owned a hotel, Brevard, NC (her family owned the Brevard Motor Lodge), Greenville, SC, Hendersonville, NC for seven years, and Royston, GA when she was 10 where she lived until she met her current husband and moved to Robbinsville, NC in 2000.
She sold Mary Kay later for over a decade and the business principles that she learned has helped her in every aspect of the rescue, she says. Those areas include enthusiasm sells, assume the sale, and don’t pre-judge people.
“The list is endless. Her business principles are taught in colleges,” said Grindstaff. “She gave me confidence in myself.”
Grindstaff and her husband Troy took Emergency Management NC C.A.M.E.T (companion animal mobile equipment trailer) training and earned the trainer certification where they learned how to set up an animal disaster shelter using the CAMET trailer. They also found out how to train others to use it in order to help the county be more prepared to save animals and lives in the event of a disaster as well as assist other counties.
Grindstaff’s advice for success for someone going into her business is to first make sure you have support of family and friends if at all possible, then decide what you want your rescue to do.
“Make your list of what you do and your goals. Write your mission statement. Go online and look at everyone elses to get an idea of what to write. Make another list of what your limit is, what you will or will not do. For example: Will you adopt? What are your fees and is there an owner turn in fee? Will you just rescue from kill shelters?
Grindstaff advises to get forms ready for adoption, foster, volunteer, owner turn in, and donation, then get your non profit number and do not wait.
“People will be more likely to help or donate if you have this,” Grindstaff explained. “It gives you a little form of credibility. This takes three to four months, maybe longer.”
It’s also important to get a website with a domain name.
“A free one is okay at first but make plans as you grow to get a dedicated static Internet provider address and your own domain name. This will allow you to be found in searches. Get a Paypal donate button. Get on Facebook and network,” Grindstaff suggests.
She says she and her company are motivated because most cats are euthanized there and there is a need for cats to have loving homes.
“After getting on Facebook and actually seeing how many are euthanized every day it was a great motivator for us. Also seeing the Trixie Foundation and Caboodle Ranch and how well they were accepted really inspired me to do the same,” she reports.
After seeing hurricane Katrina videos and all the abandonded stranded animals, Grindstaff and Troy, a firefighter paramedic, decided they wanted to get into animal rescue, too.
Business challenges include funding, getting volunteers, finding time to do everything for the rescue themselves as well as the daily care of the animals and upkeep of the property, ways to pinch pennies, save on cat food; etc; and finding time for sleep.
Goals professionally include to have the rescue grow and hopefully take in more cats, to have classes on basic animal care and emergency care, to do more in the community, and have more fundraising events.
Since starting the agency has gotten support from caring people online, more recognition and more organized, refining rules and what they will and won’t do.
Grindstaff has always had animals, including cats, dogs, yard chickens and even honey bees when she was young.
“Then we moved to Georgia after Daddy died,” Grindstaff wrote. “Mom remairried and I grew up on a farm in Royston, Georgia. I was always rescuing something be it a cat, cow, horse etc. We grew replacement diary cows, raised broiler chickens. I also broke horses for a while and showed my horse running barrels.”
Grindstaff later married and had horses, cows, dogs, cats, and birds. She broke horses and showed the family’s Tennessee Walker stud horse.
“We too raised broilers and bought and sold cows and horses and raised Rottweilers,” Grindstaff details. “I was pretty good at doctoring animals so this has come in handy as well as gardening and bulding fences. After moving here and seeing the need for a safe haven for cats it’s where I got the idea. I like staying at home with the animals and caring for them. This allows me to write in my spare time.”
“We hope our rescue will grow allowing us to save more animals, that we can provide better education to young people in hopes of changing the future of animals,” writes Grindstaff.
Professional goals for the agency include expanding and building a bigger better faciity to house cats with a feral facility that allows outdoor exposure; to be more involved in the community by holding classes for the public, having more fun events within the community to allow more opportunity to educate the public, to have their own truck or trailer for disaster relief for us for use, and our county, to provide emergency animal care and purchase cat and dog mannequins to teach with as well as have emergency equipment like air masks for cats and dogs to be kept on the ambulance.
“We also want to get a group of dedicated individuals to work with us and help us accomplish more within our community,” says Grindstaff.
Stephanie Lynn of FACT helped her rescue get funds and wrote an article on the sanctuary in her first newsletter.
For the last 10 years one organization has been rescuing animals in their community here in Graham County, NC.
They have taken in strays, found homes for those they could, and the rest has become part of their family.
When their “family” kept growing, they decided that it was time to do something to make a difference.
“Rescue is something that is not new to us,” says Grindstaff. “I came from a farming background and rescuing unwanted, hurt or abused animals was something that was second nature to me.”
Troy, who has been in rescue for the county since he was 16 and is now a Paramedic, also has a passion to help unwanted or abused animals, especially cats.
“The county where we live has more dog lovers than cat lovers,” reveals Grindstaff. “The mentality towards cats is not what it should be. The local shelter adopts out three times as many dogs as cats and rescues are overflowing with unwanted animals.
We believe every cat deserves a loving, forever home and needs a secure area in which to run and play, as well as have a nice indoor place to take a nap in. In other words we believe a cat should be able to be a cat. Cats were not meant to be inside 100% of the time but understand in most cases it is in the best interest for the cat when a secure area is not available for them to play outside.”
In June of 2009 the couple decided to go for their dream, starting by donating their land, time, and money to build a lifetime sanctuary for cats in need.
“Our goal was to reduce the number of cats in shelters by giving them a safe place to live with tons of room to run, trees to climb, and provide an indoor environment for shelter and warmth – their very own ” putty tat paradise” in which they could chase butterflies and frogs, play in a stream, chase a goldfish in a pond, or just relax in the cool shade while listening to a waterfall.
To accomplish this, they remodeled their two-story “cat house” and added an isolation room for sick or incoming cats. They had already cleared and fenced in an additional acre of land for the cats to run in, giving them a total of two secure acres of sanctuary. Most of this is landscaped but it is still a work in progress.
By the end of July, Cat Ranch had their board of directors and paperwork ready to apply for their 501©(3) non profit number so they could start their rescue and hopefully get the support needed. By September 20, 2009 they got approval and officially started Cat Ranch Rescue (A Putty Tat’s Paradise) .
Since then Grindstaff has worked hard to get the agency off the ground. They have rescued many animals and currently care for 60 cats and two small dogs. They also educated anyone they have come in contact with on the importance of spay and neuter and gave out rescue information with their Needs List attached.
“We have recently gotten our web page up and running (www.catranchrescue.org) and are currently working on getting all our information online. In the meantime, our facebook page for our rescue has taken in many badly needed donations from people all over the U.S. and as far away as the UK. We use this money to provide for the cats’ food/litter, vetting and everyday care, as well as any sanctuary related expenses,” says Grindstaff.
She also launched a Sponsor a Kitty program in which people can donate as little as $20 a month to help cover some of the costs to care for the cats in the sanctuary. Sponsors pick out the cat they want and receive pictures of their cat and updates on the facility.
For the last two years, the agency has put on an annual Christmas computerized light show at The Grindstaffs home for the community.
“You can sit in the comfort of your car , tune your radio to 88.7 and listen while the lights ‘dance’ to the music,” stated Grindstaff. “People we don’t even know stop us in the street to tell us how much their families enjoyed the light show and cannot wait until next year.”
The group has a permanent donation box outside which took in $100 last Christmas, which Grindstaff says is not bad considering not many people knew they were a rescue at the time.
This year the group is planning several fundraisers, one being a booth at the 4th of July celebration in town.
“We are very excited about all we have accomplished in such a short time and hope once donations increase we will be able to fund other ways to help within our community,” explained Grindstaff. “When funding allows, some of the ways we plan to make a difference in the future is by educating the public on the importance of spay and neuter in classrooms, working with the county to assist in animal rescue in times of disaster, providing a adoption pamphlet of local pets for adoption in our area, a free or low cost spay and neuter program, training in animal emergency care, and food assistance program for indigent families.
The organization’s mission is to provide life time care to the animals in the sanctuary and to do as much as possible to promote good animal care to reduce the amount of animals that are killed, injured, and abandoned in Graham County, NC.
Cat Ranch is a lifetime sanctuary and therefore does not adopt out.
“Our cats are very pampered and are not in need of rescuing. Instead we point people to the local rescues and shelters to adopt the hundreds of cats or dogs who are in desperate need of loving homes such as ours,” says Grindstaff. “Our rescue is something that is very important to both of us. We know our contribution isn’t very large, however we feel it is an important one.”