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How one local teen is helping homeless animals during the holidays
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Shannon Porter, 17, donated a truckload of supplies, food and toys to the Dawson County Humane Society that had been donated by community members to her charity, Christmas for Critters, Jan. 25. - photo by Jessica Taylor

The number of items donated to Christmas for Critters in 2018:

48 cans of dog food

49 rolls of paper towels

Eight boxes of dryer sheets

14 cleaning sponges

18 bottles of Dawn

Nine bottles of kitten milk

Nine gallons of bleach

12 boxes of dog treats

125 pounds of cat litter

78 cans of cat food

124 dog and cat toys

Six leashes

178 pounds of cat food

427 pounds of dog food

14 bottles of dog shampoo

20+ dog outfits

60+ towels and linens

$834

Various items such as dog diapers, bowls, cleaning products, flea and tick medication, trash bags, deodorizer and gloves 

Dawson County High School senior Shannon Porter has a tradition of bringing holiday joy to local animals at the Dawson County Humane Society.

On Jan. 25, Porter stopped by the humane society with a truckload of food, supplies and toys that were donated to her charity, Christmas for Critters.

Every year since 2012, Porter and her family begin the holiday season by collecting donations for the charity she began when she was 11 years old.

“Animals have always been the center of my heart so I started this,” Porter said. “I love it. It’s just become part of the holiday season for us.”

Each December, Porter and her mother, Cindy Lord, go around Dawson County placing donation boxes at local businesses and spend their Sunday afternoons in front of Kroger encouraging people to donate to their cause.

“We’ve met so many nice people and it’s just amazing that people will stop and give you their time and give you either cash or buy something and throw it in the box on their way out from Kroger,” Lord said.

Day after day the boxes would fill up and Porter would store the donations in her family garage, excitedly watching the pile of donated items continue to rise.

Every year, that large pile of food bags, treats, toys and other supplies makes it challenging to maneuver through the garage, but Porter says it’s a labor of love.

“It’s been a part of our life for the past six years so we’re all used to it,” Lord said, laughing.

After collecting donations through December and January, Porter sorted and catalogued the items before dropping them off at the humane society.

This year, Christmas for Critters raised $834 for the humane society along with 427 pounds of dog food, 178 pounds of cat food, 125 pounds of cat litter and numerous treats, toys, beds and cleaning supplies that will go to good use.

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Shannon Porter and her mom, Cindy Lord, work to unload animal supplies at the Dawson County Humane Society Jan. 25. - photo by Jessica Taylor
“It’s indescribable just how rewarding the feeling is to give to these animals,” Porter said. “You know, they can’t speak up for themselves and they don’t really have somebody, they don’t have a home. Even though this is their home, they don’t have a ‘home’ home so to be able to give them something that makes it feel a little bit more like home is so rewarding.”

Porter has been spending as much time as she can visiting the humane society and helping in any way that she could since she was 8 years old.

“I was taking my Christmas money and going to Walmart and buying stuff to bring to the humane society and I would be selling pencils in my neighborhood to raise money for their surgical center,” Porter recalled.

She said the relationship that she has with her pets at home continues to be her motivation to help the homeless animals of Dawson County.

“Seeing how lucky that they are, how blessed they are to be at home and then seeing all these animals here, you know, I want to give them that feeling,” Porter said.

As Porter finishes her senior year and prepares to enter college next year, the fate of Christmas for Critters is unknown. Lord believes if her daughter attends the University of North Georgia and stays close to home, the tradition will continue.

Porter, however, hopes to attend nursing school at Georgia College in Milledgeville.

“I think maybe next year I’m going to come back and try it out and see if it’s something that I can do when I’m out for the school year,” Porter said.

Whether Christmas for Critters will be continued or not, Porter said there are always ways to give back to the humane society throughout the year.

“We appreciate everyone that helps us out, but there is always needs here at the shelter,” Porter said. “Call them and check in. Adopt (animals). Get your animals spayed and neutered. Come spend some time with the people here.”

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Pantera, a cat looking for her forever home at Dawson County Humane Society, makes herself comfortable in one of the new beds donated to the humane society from the 2018 Christmas for Critters donation drive. - photo by Jessica Taylor
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