PALMETTO -- It was a banquet fit for royalty. Trays of steaming mushroom cream lasagna, baked chicken, Italian sausage, a Black Forest trifle cake, cookies, fudge and more. All served by the smiling cooks who made it.
The food, prepared in kitchens in Lakewood Ranch and elsewhere in East Manatee, was delivered Friday to the staff of Manatee Animal Services in Palmetto.
It was a thank you for the tough, thankless work that Animal Services does, trying to save thousands of cats and dogs each year as Manatee County becomes a no-kill zone.
“We may not have a lot of money, but we have a lot of good cooks,” said Susan Giroux, co-president of the Humane Society of Lakewood Ranch. “Animal Services has the hardest job on the planet.”
Not only did the Humane Society volunteers feed the Animal Services staff, they also picked up two Lab-mix dogs and returned them to the no-kill adoption center and clinic at Lakewood Ranch.
William Hutchison, director of Manatee County’ Public Safety Department, couldn’t remember the last time anyone brought lunch to Animal Services.
“This used to be the place that animals came to die. And they did by the thousands,” Hutchison said.
Hutchison and Kris Weiskopf, chief of Animal Services, couldn’t stop smiling over the lunch, which Humane Society members had been planning for at least a month.
“I started cooking last night and finished up about a half hour ago,” said Judy Kamps, one of Friday’s most prolific cooks.
“We wanted to say thank you and spread some Christmas cheer. They are so wonderful,” Kamps said of Animal Services.
Did anyone say there was a lot of food?
“We planned for 30. No one is going to go hungry,” said Cindy Jackson, a River Club resident who serves as volunteer coordinator.
Members of the Humane Society at Lakewood Ranch had another reason to be thankful for their partnership with Animal Services: a donated truck.
Humane Society volunteers use the truck to transport dogs to adoption events or to parks to get exercise.
Karen Corradino of Mill Creek was one of the Humane Society volunteers who turned up for Friday’s lunch.
“This is a great family. They foster, they walk and they clean pets,” Jackson said of the Corradinos. “You name it, they do it. The kids are as involved as the parents.”
The volunteers couldn’t say enough about youngsters who have stepped up to help the new Humane Society at Lakewood Ranch.
Sydney Ashley, 12, received $130 for her birthday and used it to buy provisions for the Lakewood Ranch animal shelter.
Calissa Foege, 10, makes toys for cats, and everyone who adopts a pet at Lakewood Ranch receives one of her toys in a gift bag.
The Lakewood Ranch chapter is planning a Walk of Fame on Main Street on Jan. 15, when pet owners are invited to dress themselves and their dogs as their favorite movie stars, Giroux said.
But that’s next month. On Friday, it was all about saying thank you for what has already been accomplished.
Lakewood Ranch volunteer Fred Meyer sat across the lunch table looking at Hutchison, Weiskopf and the Animal Services staff and put it nicely:
“You have one of the most thankless jobs in the world. Thank you. God bless you.”
For more information about the Humane Society of Lakewood Ranch, call 941-361-1071 or visit www.hslwr.org.
James A. Jones Jr., East Manatee editor, can be contacted at 941-745-7021.