Creature Comfort: Cathey's Sewing Drive Supports Humane Society

(L to R) Andy Cathey, Donny Cathey, and Carly Timpf at the Christmas-In-July event.
(L to R) Andy Cathey, Donny Cathey, and Carly Timpf at the Christmas-In-July event.

More than a hundred shelter animals awaiting adoption are now a little more comfortable — and stylish — thanks to a donation from Cathey's Sewing & Vacuum to the Humane Society of Southern Arizona.

The donations are part of Cathey's annual Christmas-In-July sewing event, where customers and staff create specialized items for local nonprofits. In addition, Cathey's also raises funds for the selected nonprofit from raffles and events. This year, the Humane Society of Southern Arizona received 165 pet bandanas, 85 cat beds and $3,250.

"Every year we try to choose a different nonprofit, as locally oriented as possible, with a sewing challenge we can connect them to," said owner Donny Cathey. "Often it's not too difficult to come up with something for a charity... Animals touch everyone's lives, so to support a charity that helps house and support animals is always worthwhile." The sewing takes place during Cathey's Saturday classes, and culminates in awards given to the volunteers who are most artistic and go above-and-beyond. During the finale, attendees vote on their favorites and the best use of embroidery to decide the winners. Award categories include "Pawsome Embroidery," "The Cat's Meow," and best of show. In addition, above-and-beyond awards went to Rita Morrow, who created 19 cat crate beds, and Rosalee Zipp, who created 30 pet bandanas. Rewards for award-winners include gift cards for customers, or a paid day off for employees.

"We see some unbelievable examples of creativity from our staff and community," Cathey said. "It's a hot time of year, and there's not a lot of events going on in July in Tucson. So we thought this was a good way to keep people engaged. And connecting it to a charity is a good way to give back. Tucson's been exceptionally good to my family, and we have a responsibility to give back."

Cathey says the idea for the Christmas-In-July event came from him and his wife, and they've been hosting it for more than 20 years. They started tying it to local nonprofits 10 years ago. They select nonprofits by asking their staff and customers for a list of potential charities to support, then select ones they can connect with a sewing challenge. Previous charities include Aviva Children's Services, as well as initiatives for breast cancer awareness.

"We are over the moon about the funds, because it will help us save a lot of homeless pets," said HSSA spokesperson Camille Hall. "Generally, the money goes wherever we need it. We never know what case will come through our door next, so we put that money wherever we can to help pets... The people who participated in Cathey's event really got to customize the bandanas with whatever embroidery they wanted. They say really adorable things like 'ready to go home.' Others have cute patterns, suns and glitter."

Other phrases on the pet bandanas include "Ready to be rescued," "Take me home," "I heart to chew toys" and "Looking for my forever home."

The Humane Society will not be selling the donated bandanas and crate beds. Instead, they will give the items to the animals in their shelter, who will be able to keep them even when they're adopted.

"This really touched our hearts for a number of reasons," Hall said. "The transition to a home for a shelter pet can be really difficult. Switching from environment to environment can be very stressful for a pet, and having a familiar item, like a bandana for dogs or a crate pad for cats, can really make that transition easier."