SL native helps rescue pets

Marie Havenga • Jul 21, 2015 at 11:49 AM

The 2007 Spring Lake High School graduate is working as an administrative assistant for the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in New York City. White helped organize rescue and relief efforts after the East Coast storm left thousands of animals in need of assistance.

“We're swamped over here,” White said this week from her New York office.

When the storm hit in late October, White was in Los Angeles, running a benefit half-marathon. Flight cancellations left her stranded on the West Coast until the following Friday.

Her own cat, Chauncey, was alone in the dark for five days.

“It was very challenging for me to not be in New York, and to not be here with my own pet when the storm hit,” said White, 24. “A co-worker's mom braved the traffic and gas shortages, and got there every other day to check on him. I can't imagine the people who didn't have someone to do that.”

The morning after White was able to fly home, she sprang into action with ASPCA relief efforts.

“I was helping out with whatever I could,” she said. “I got thrown into a lot of different things and pulled in a lot of directions.”

White arranged for forklifts to load pallets of pet food, portable restrooms and other supplies for multiple distribution centers. She also arranged lodging for more than 60 volunteers.

“We were able to start sending out supplies right after the hurricane from our Syracuse distribution center,” White said of the mass effort to unleash cat and dog food, cat litter, crates, food bowls, and other pet supplies in the storm's wake.

The cruelty prevention organization assisted more than 15,000 animals through a mobile wellness clinic and helped reunite another 300 or so pets with their owners.

“When something like this happens, it's very, very unfortunate — but some of the best part is seeing that hope in people,” White said. “And so many people were willing to come to New York City and volunteer. It really brings people together.”

The logistics of a large city made efforts difficult, but not impossible.

“It was really difficult for people to check on their animals and figure out where they are,” White said. “That's why we pushed the message that if it's not safe for you to be there, it's not safe for your pets either. The other part was informing people that shelters were willing to take their pet until they had a place for them.”

White also jumped into the action with the many distribution runs.

“A co-worker and I went to a volunteer fire department to hand out 50 bags of dog and cat food,” White said. “It was absolutely amazing and a very, very humbling experience to give to people that really needed it.”

White said the area had no power, and residents had moved their wet furniture and belongings in front of their homes.

“All their stuff was ruined from the flood waters,” she said. “It really puts everything into perspective. There was a lady there with a cocker spaniel that kept hugging us. She didn't have power or heat, but she did have food for her animals.”

White said it's an eerie sensation to experience New York City without its normal glitz and lights.

“After I got home from LA, my boyfriend and I had to walk 12 blocks to the grocery store,” she said. “Everything was pitch black. It was like there was nothing out there.

We were walking down the street with headlights and flashlights, looking pretty stylish for New York City. It's definitely the first time I've been able to wear a headlamp in New York City and have a reason.”

When the power switch flipped on their way home, White said it was pure elation and celebration in the Big Apple.

“All of a sudden, every single window started lighting up,” she said. “It was like a game show — one window here, the next one and the next one. Everyone was cheering out of their windows, they were so excited that we had power.”

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