BANKING ON DOGS AND CATS
Paula Fasseas is all business. The hard-driving bank
executive spends fourteen hour work days meeting with corporate movers and
shakers, high-powered politicos, high-society trendsetters, and dog and cat
adoption volunteers. Huh?
Paula is the Vice Chairman of the Metropolitan Bank Group, but her passion
is homeless dogs and cats. Increasingly, she has put her considerable time,
talent, and influence to work on their behalf.
It all started four years ago when Paula's daughter began volunteering at a
local animal shelter. Says Paula, "until then, I had never really thought
about the plight of abandoned animals, and certainly hadn't donated time or
money to an animal welfare cause. But my daughter said I needed to get
involved because too many healthy animals were dying in our shelters."
Paula gathered the facts and went to work on the problem. For starters, she
asked her bank group to purchase 300 spay/neuter vouchers from local animal
shelters. The six banks gave them away to customers free of charge.
Then, in 1998, Paula organized a high-profile adoption event and invited
every animal shelter in the area to participate. She persuaded all of the
department stores and upscale specialty stores on prestigious Michigan
Avenue to offer windows or in-store space to showcase adoptable animals, and
Angels With Tails was born. The event saturated the local media, especially
TV, and every animal who attended was adopted--one hundred and ten in all.
Angels With Tails has since become a highly anticipated annual event.
Paula didn't stop there. She formed her own organization,
PAWS Chicago, and with the help of
the Metropolitan Bank Group, opened the PAWS Adoption Center downtown. The
all-volunteer no-kill facility focuses on cats because they're easier to
place in the downtown high-rise neighborhood. Dogs get their due on weekends
when many of the organization's 1,200 volunteers take shelter dogs awaiting
adoption to upscale shopping malls. The dogs have been so popular at stores
like Lord & Taylor, Bloomingdales and Marshall Fields that more and more
malls are requesting visits. Last year, PAWS Chicago rescued 300 cats and
200 dogs from local shelters and placed them in loving new homes through the
Cat Adoption Center and offsite adoption program.
But Paula still wasn't satisfied that she was doing enough to help animals.
In December 2000, she opened the brand-new, 3,000 square foot, high-volume
Lurie Family Spay/Neuter Clinic. Says Paula, "We did a study to determine
which neighborhoods were responsible for the highest number of strays. We
chose one of the highest as the location for the clinic. In addition to
providing spay/neuter, we also provide testing and vaccinations at a cost to
the client between $5-$35. Upstairs, we've built a humane education center
and we employ a full-time Humane Education Director. Our clinic has been
extremely well received and well used. We're averaging twenty-two surgeries
When asked to identify the keys to her success, Paula ticks off four:
"having a business background and knowing how to get the most bang for a
buck; having the ability to attract so many volunteers and utilize them
almost exclusively; targeting the solution and reaching for it; and going
into the business community and asking them for help. It's true that I know
a lot of Chicago's business leaders but you don't have to be well connected.
We received a big donation from a Chicago sports team without any contact
there. If you can articulate the need, many businesses will respond."
Paula's goal is to help end the killing of healthy, adoptable animals in
Chicago. She's tracking euthanasia data from the city's Department of Animal
Care and Control to monitor progress towards the goal and has seen death
numbers decline from 41,000 to 36,000 in the last year alone.
As for PAWS Chicago, "Our immediate goal is to get the Lurie Family
Spay/Neuter Clinic endowed. Once that's done, we want to set up spay/neuter
and education facilities in two or three other Chicago neighborhoods with
the hopes that these clinics can be a model for the nation." If the past is
any indication, it's a done deal.