Asheville Humane Society's foster program, one of many supported by Dine to be Kind, provides lifesaving care in the comfort of a home for animals who need time to heal from injuries or illness or just need time to grow, like this tiny kitten. Last year, more than 300 Asheville area families cared for nearly 1,500 animals who needed foster care. / Special to the Citizen-Times.
DINE TO BE KIND
What: The 11th annual Dine to be Kind fundraiser, in which nearly 60 restaurants, coffee shops, bars and grills will donate 15 percent of sales to the Asheville Humane Society. When: Tuesday, including breakfast, lunch, dinner, take-out and bar tabs. Where: See a list of participating establishments at www.ashevillehumane.org. Learn more: Call 761-2001 or visit the website.
ASHEVILLE -- The Asheville Humane Society's "Dine to be Kind" fundraiser almost caused a fight at the Laughing Seed Café on Wall Street.
The longtime vegetarian restaurant is normally closed on Tuesdays, but decided to open this Tuesday to take part in the communitywide event in which dozens of restaurants donate a portion of their sales to the AHS and its Animal Compassion Network Department.
"It was a fight to see who would get to work," said Laughing Seed's dining room manager Julie Sabo. "Everybody was saying, 'I want to be a part of this, I want to be a part of this' -- everybody was super excited about it.
"The Humane Society does amazing things and saves a lot of sweet animal lives, and we certainly want to support that," Sabo said.
"And we're hoping that our guests -- who are very sympathetic to animal issues -- will come out and donate their dining dollars to this important cause."
Nearly 60 restaurants, coffee shops, bars and grills are on board for Tuesday's 11th annual Dine to be Kind, donating 15 percent of their sales from breakfast, lunch and dinner -- along with take-out orders and bar tabs.
Last year's event resulted in a donation of about $30,000, and with more restaurants taking part this year than ever before, AHS hopes to see that amount increase, said communications director Meghan Jordan.
"We are so fortunate to live in a town that cares about animals so much," Jordan said. "We have such a wide variety of people who are thrilled to help, and the response from restaurants has been overwhelming."
Until this year, Dine to be Kind was a fundraiser for Animal Compassion Network, which merged last May with the Asheville Humane Society. ACN is now its own department within AHS, focusing on programs like spay-neuter, veterinary and pet food assistance, pet behavior and training classes, low-cost vaccination clinics and the overall Safety Net program.
Angie Wilt, former Animal Compassion Network staff member and now interim director of operations for the AHS, said she's seen no loss of interest in Dine to be Kind with the joining of the two nonprofits. In fact, support for the fundraiser continues to grow, she said.
"It's really cool when I advocate at a restaurant and I'll thank them for their support and go into the spiel, and they'll interrupt me and say, 'We're here for this.' It's a destination event -- people mark their calendars and go out and eat three times a day just to support this," Wilt said.
The merger "hasn't affected us at all," she said. "People know that we're here to help the animals of Buncombe County, and they buy into that 100 percent."
Jordan and Wilt said the merger has been positive for both agencies and strengthened their ability to save animals' lives.
"There were a lot of things Animal Compassion Network did very, very well that we didn't have the resources or ability to do, like their tremendous transport program (to animal welfare organizations up North that have a scarcity of adoptable pets), so that's one of the things that's been a huge success in terms of the merger," Jordan said.
"We've been able to double the amount of receiving agencies we can go to, and double the amount of animals we can send, and we don't have two people doing the same job. We've also merged our resources as far as volunteers and fosters," Wilt said.
"The marrying of these two organizations just made what we were both already doing twice as strong, if not more."