• Flat Rock charity benefits no-kill animal shelters


    Kyle Kissman, who can be seen on TheCableVine.com's FaceBook page is featured in this article.

    BlueRidgeNow.com

    EDNEYVILLE — He pulled up in a green 2002 Toyota pickup, not a sleigh, and his tall, lanky physique didn't exactly scream Saint Nick as he shouldered his sack of holiday goodies.

    But for the staff at Blue Ridge Humane Society, Kyle Kissmann's arrival Sunday at the animal adoption and rescue center off Chimney Rock Road was like Christmas morning, as he came bearing the gift of hundreds of pounds of dog food.

    Kissmann, 36, is the founder and “head elf” of Project Santa, a charity similar to the Toys for Tots program but one that provides needed food, toys and supplies to two no-kill shelters in Henderson and Buncombe counties.

    “It's been an amazing help,” said Nicole Carper, director of operations at Blue Ridge Humane Society, which along with Charlie's Angels Animal Rescue in Fletcher benefits from Project Santa's donations.

    Five years ago, Kissmann — a utility locator who lives in Flat Rock — adopted a pit bull-Catahoula Leopard Dog mix named “Pinky” from the Humane Society.

    “She pretty much trained herself and she was such a joy, I wanted to give back to the shelter that saved her,” Kissmann said. With his job requiring him to be on call at random times, it was too hard for him to commit to volunteer hours at the Humane Society.

    “So I said, 'let me just do a donation drive,'” Kissmann said with a grin. “That seemed easy enough. But it's kind of turned into a part-time job and I realized I should've just volunteered!”

    Every November since 2011, Kissmann and his volunteers ramp up their collections of pet food, cleaning supplies, toys, leashes, collars and anything else the shelters need. They put blue bins at 11 drop-off locations, including Pet Source on Spartanburg Highway and Etowah Valley Veterinary Hospital on Highway 64.

    The pet food they collect not only helps feed cats and dogs awaiting adoption at the no-kill shelters, but also supplements food supplies for foster caretakers and the Humane Society's community pet food bank.

    “If people have fallen on hard times and are having trouble feeding their animals, they can come by the shelter and pick up some food,” Carper said. “Some people have to turn over their animals because they can't afford them, and we're hoping our (food bank) keeps some animals out of the shelter.”

    The Human Society is currently at capacity with 88 animals, Carper said, and goes through about 700 pounds of dog and cat food per month.

    “When the weather starts to get cooler, we do get a lot of calls from folks wanting to surrender their dogs, if they're keeping them outside,” she said. “Typically, it's not horribly elevated. Adoptions do go up this time of year and really, we don't see a lot of returns...We're pretty careful with our screening for adoptions.”

    Toys are another constant need, Carper said, especially with a steady flow of teething puppies ripping through stuffed ones. For adult dogs, chewing on a Kong or a Nylabone helps “occupy their minds while waiting for someone to adopt them,” she said. Shelter workers call it “enrichment.”

    Kissmann said sometimes the used toys Project Santa receives are “more appreciated than the new toys, because they've got other dogs' scents on them. That's kind of a puzzle for them: 'What dog was using this before me? This is great!'”

    Project Santa also collects cleaning supplies such as bleach, laundry detergent, paper towels, disinfecting wipes, spray cleaners such as 409, trash bags and used or new linens.

    “We go through a ton of laundry here,” Carper said. “They don't have to be new, so we'll take used blankets, towels, sheets, anything soft for them to lay on.”

    For more information about Project Santa or a list of drop-off locations for donations, visit www.project-santa.com. To view all of the pets currently available for adoption at Blue Ridge Humane Society, go to www.blueridgehumane.org/adoptions.