Handsome Hector, an inquisitive-looking Tabby cat, was very much loved for 13 years.
Lisa Kalisperis-Benjamin, who adopted the kitten Hector when she attended Cabrini College, recalled how the previous owners had locked him in a closet for long periods of time, because they could not successfully litter-train him.
She said it was not a hard decision to give Handsome Hector a “forever home.”
“I always wanted a cat,” she said.
By August 2012, Kalisperis-Benjamin lived in Jeffersonville with her husband. Living with them were five rescued animals: two dogs and three cats, including Handsome Hector’s sister Wiggles.
However, also by that time, Hector became gravely ill.
“It was all kinds of awful things,” she said. “We took him to vet to vet to vet, but we couldn’t save him. It was heartbreaking.”
The Huggies Project, In Honor of Handsome Hector
After Hector’s passing, Kalisperis-Benjamin was looking for solace, and found herself wanting to help other rescue animals just like Hector.
On Aug. 15, she started “The Huggies Project, In honor of Handsome Hector” Facebook page. On the “about” section of the Facebook page, the public is encouraged to donate clean towels, blankets and newspapers, describing such donations as “a hug for homeless shelter animals.”
Prior to the page launch, Kalisperis-Benjamin reached out to the Chester, Delaware and Montgomery counties SPCAs, as well as the Kitty Cottage Adoption Center. She called and visited such shelters in person, asking what was needed.
She said that she focused on the towels, blankets and newspapers, because they were accessible as donations and inexpensive.
“They’re something people will have around the house,” she said.
She added that the donated items provide a certain level of comfort for animals in shelters, where all they can do is wait.
“The poor animals that are there, are there for such a short time,” she said. “Either they get a home or are put to sleep.”
Huggies Project Drop-Off Locations
The public may give donations at a Huggies Project drop-off location.
Working as the marketing director for Plymouth Auto and Tire Center, Kalisperis Benjamin used her community connections and reached out to local businesses and organizations for partnership with the Huggies Project.
The first business to sign up was the Plymouth Auto and Tire center itself, located at 2014 Butler Pike in Plymouth Meeting.
“They were very supportive and wanted to honor Hector’s memory by taking care of other rescues,” Kalisperis-Benjamin said.
In less than five months, the Huggies Project had successfully partnered with the following businesses or organizations as drop-off locations:
- St. Luke Greek Orthodox Church, 35 N. Malin Road in Broomall
- Halliday Florist, 29 S. Church St. in West Chester
- Menchie's, 2953 Swede Road in East Norriton
While she said she is very grateful for the public support of the Huggies Project, she is often surprised by how much generosity can be mustered for potential pets in need of rescue.
“I was hoping, but I was not expecting it,” Kalisperis said. “There’s no way to go to a shelter and not become emotional.”
Kalisperis-Benjamin emphasized that the Huggies Project does not have a nonprofit status, and only accepts what’s needed for the participating animal shelters. The Huggies Project does not accept monetary donations of any kind. In fact, with the help of her husband and family, she manages the entire project on her personal time.
She said she visits the drop-off locations at least once a week, organizes the donations at a family member’s home, then provides the donations to the shelter in need that week.
“We always appreciate what she brings in,” Joe Gould, who works in the Montgomery County SPCA adoption office, said.
Gould, who has worked for the SPCA for the last two years but speaking for himself, said that individuals often bring in donations. However, the Huggies Project would be a first in his professional recollection that an individual has organized such a campaign for his and other local shelters.
“I think she should continue what she’s doing,” Gould said. “She’s doing a great job.”
For more information, visit The Huggies Project Facebook Page or contact Lisa Kalisperis-Benjamin at the Plymouth Meeting Auto Repair at 610-825-6558.