I've struggled with this: How can I ask readers to help a homeless pet, when they need help themselves?

Five years ago, I was hopeful that we could help our shelters, rescues and animal welfare organizations $3 at a time. Shelters could get enough donations to buy a new washing machine. For pet treats to calm hyper kennel residents. To fix a barn roof. My hope turned into reality when wishes were fulfilled, year after year.

The $3 Shelter Challenge started in 2015 when a retired couple on a fixed income sent a shelter a $3 donation to help a rescued pigeon. If only everyone could send in just $3, I thought. Every May since, I asked readers to do just that. Pick a shelter from the list and send $3. In those five years, readers have donated more than $38,000 to help our homeless pets.

This year is different. I'm not asking readers to send $3 for a washing machine or dog treats. Only if you're able, I'm asking for $3 to help them make payroll, pay vet bills, replenish dwindling inventories of cat and dog food and cleaning supplies and pay for spay/neuters.

“This year we do not have the luxury of asking for something special to assist with our animals, we are struggling to just stay afloat,” reported Humane Society of Middletown Manager Maureen Hogan.

“The ongoing Covid-19 pandemic has shaken the Warwick Valley Humane Society's fragile financial situation beyond our means,” said WVHS Vice President Celia Ross, “and with the loss of our fundraising events, we are struggling even more. Monetary donations are urgently needed to help with outstanding bills and ongoing costs. We've had to reduce hours, rotate staffing and restrict volunteers to respect the governor's order. The homeless animals in our care still need medications, exercise and tending to, so donations such as bleach, paper towels, laundry and dish detergent, ground canned cat food and Hills dry dog and cat food are needed as always.”

With the protocols, animal shelters have done very few adoptions, if any. Spring events like kitten showers and photos with the Easter Bunny were canceled. They depend on fundraising events and adoption fees to care for our homeless pets.

Then something happened. On April 2, I got an email from Carol Egan, board member at the Humane Society of Blooming Grove.

“You didn't put anything about the $3 challenge out there, did you?” she wrote. “Reason I'm asking is because, I got a donation in the mail yesterday with $3 in an envelope saying it was for the challenge.”

Even though the Challenge runs the month of May, HSBG got a donation a month early, which was followed by another donation a few days later.

“People are broke and still doing it,” Egan said. “And to be honest, with no adoption fees at the moment, no one stopping at the shelter dropping off donations, I'll take any $3 I can get.”

My faith renewed, I am again hopeful that those who can afford the $3 will still want to help their homeless pets.

We are in this together. Pick a shelter, send them $3.