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Love is in the air for a first-time vendor fair to benefit Volunteers For Animals

By Joanne Beck


It’s a familiar story with a surprise twist for one Batavia-based nonprofit.

Volunteers For Animals had been planning its first-ever vendor fair for early April in 2020 when the COVID-19 pandemic struck and rendered all public activities dead. That’s the familiar part for so many organizations that had to press pause for their fundraising events. What happened this year is a surprise.

“We found out the Downs and (Batavia Downs employee) Mary Bucceri was going to host it for us,” volunteer Angie Knisley said during an interview with The Batavian. “I think they felt bad about what happened in 2020.”

And the Puppy Paws Craft & Vendor Market was born. It’s set for 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday at Batavia Downs & Gaming, 8315 Park Road, Batavia. Monetary donations and pet supplies and food will be accepted at the door. Admission to the event is free.

Proceeds from the event are earmarked for where most VFA fundraising goes, Knisley said: direct animal care. Rescued dogs and cats may need a veterinarian to treat wounds, fractures, or other injuries; required vaccines; dental care or other medical services, Knisley said. VFA, a nonprofit based at Genesee County Animal Shelter, pays those expenses. 

Zoey and Wasabi are two of the many animals saved with such medical services paid for by VFA. A tan brindled Boxer with white paws and chest, Zoey was rescued with a group of dogs in a hoarding situation. She was thin and found to be positive for heartworm. A vet’s exam and X-ray discovered she had a severe case of heart worm disease, and volunteers mulled the idea of a lengthy, risky, and quite expensive process to restore Zoey to better health.

The answer was yes. Zoey was housed with Diane, an animal lover who volunteered to foster, house, and care for Zoey during her treatment. The two have bonded over the past few months as Zoey has gained weight and come to enjoy her life. Perhaps no surprise is that Diane plans to adopt her new friend. 

Wasabi, a glowing green-eyed feline, was found as a stray with severe hair loss and loaded with fleas. She’s been treated, vaccinated, and, with a new outlook and “great” personality, Wasabi has been adopted and welcomed into a loving home, volunteers said.

Knisley has not only heard about and witnessed these stories, but she has also adopted rescue cats from Genesee County and other similar animal shelters over the years. Once she got to know the inner workings of VFA, it drew her to become more involved, she said.  

“So when I had the opportunity to get a closer look at all the time, care, and funding that VFA members devoted to animal welfare, I felt I would like to help however I could; maybe sort of paying it backward,” she said. “I think because I do care about animal welfare and their needs, and I have the time to help out. I felt it was something good to do, to be able to do something positive for them means a lot." 

The Corfu resident has been a hands-on member of VFA off and on for eight years, she said. Her role includes helping out with fundraisers, and she looks forward to this first vendor fair. There are more than 35 businesses registered so far, including Gourmet Dips, Epicure, Mary Kay, Pampered Chef, Paparazzi, Artful Shenanigans, Scentsy, Touchstone Crystal, Lula Roe, Pudgies Lawn & Garden, Dead Stick Fishing Company, and Tastefully Simple. Shoppers — may be in search of a Valentine’s gift? — will find a wide variety of products, from makeup, purses, popcorn, and Valentine’s gift boxes to sun catchers, photo packages, and Tupperware.

Anyone that makes a donation to VFA at the door will be entered into a drawing for a Stay & Play gift certificate valued at $225 at Batavia Downs Gaming and Hotel. All attendees age 18 and older will receive Free Play for the gaming floor. Lunch will be available for purchase.

“The Downs is really highlighting Valentine’s Day with decorations. It’s a nice day out and a fun way if someone wants to do a little Valentine’s shopping,” she said. “And it gives them a chance to learn more about the shelter and the Volunteers For Animals programs.”

The VFA will have a table with information at the event. There may be a few spots left to participate, and interested vendors may call Mary Bucceri at 585-344-6144 or email [email protected] for more information. 

Top photo: Angie Knisley, a member of Volunteers For Animals, shows off Abby, a friendly five-year-old cat who has been overlooked for adoption at Genesee County Animal Shelter on Route 5, Batavia. She really needs a home, Knisley says, and would make for a great companion. For more information about Abby and other prospective pets, go to  Photo by Howard Owens.

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