$5,000 donation

From left, East Fairmont Middle School Principal Debra Conover, Lydia Hayes, art teacher and Humane Society Club Adviser Misty Skarzinski, Chloe Barker, Colby Boone present a $5,000 check to Jonna Spatafore, director of the Marion County Humane Society.

FAIRMONT — In her art classes at East Fairmont Middle School, Misty Skarzinski teaches her students about how to use their imagination to create works of art that inspire and move people’s emotions.

As adviser of the school’s Humane Society Club, Skarzinski teaches students about the responsibilities involved with raising and caring for pets in hopes of creating a better world. On Thursday, Skarzinski, School Principal Debra Conover and three club members presented a $5,000 check to the Marion County Humane Society which will use the funds to create the “East Fairmont Middle School Faculty, Students and Staff Blanket Room” in the Society’s new shelter.

“I want the children here to understand that we need to be more compassionate to children and animals that are less fortunate than ourselves — they don’t have a voice,” said Skarzinski, who owns three dogs and four cats. “We have to be that voice for them, especially the animals. My passion is the love of children and animals, so this is like mixing them both together and creating a better society, a better future.”

Since 2015, the middle school Humane Society Club has raised $18,765.50 for the Marion County Humane Society.

“I try to teach them too about being a responsible pet owner, to have your pet spayed and neutered because that’s the key and vaccinations and I let them know when there’s a rabies clinic going on because that’s just as important as what we’re doing here,” Skarzinski said.

Marion County Humane Society Director Jonna Spatafore said she is always surprised at how hard the kids at the school work to raise money for the nonprofit.

“They are amazing — they do this for us every year. Every year, they work, they sell candy bars, they do fundraisers — this group is amazing,” Spatafore said.

Skarzinski said she wants students to understand that they can be kinder, gentler people. Conover said she sees how the work of the Humane Society Club impacts students.

“They do become more compassionate. It starts with learning how to take care of an animal and learning how to care for that animal and care for yourself and care for the others in your vicinity, in your building or wherever you are,” Conover said. “They build these skills and, hopefully our goal is, through all of this is, for it to carry forward to their later years. We don’t want it to stop when they leave us (at middle school).”

Many of Skarzinski’s students are already pet owners when they take her class where they learn about pet care.

For example, 13-year-old Chloe Barker, of Fairmont, has a dog, a cat and a rabbit.

“You have to make sure you’re feeding them, you’re taking care of them, taking them to the vet if they need it,” Barker said.

Skarzinski said when the numbers from a recent Sarris Candies sale were tallied, and she realized they had $5,000 to donate, she called Spatafore and asked her if her school could sponsor anything in the new shelter with that amount of money. The result was a list from an excited Spatafore.

“She sent me the list of things we could sponsor and the one thing that stood out in my mind was the Blanket Room, which is a room that has all the blankets for the incoming animals and the ones that are residents there,” Skarzinski said. “And, I thought, ‘What a neat thing to have our school and our students be memorialized on this Blanket Room.’ You know, caring is sharing and these kids have cared and they’ve shared.”

Skarzinski said she is grateful for the school administration, staff, teachers and all of the parents, grandparents and others in the community who helped raise the record-setting amount of money for the club.

The Marion County Humane Society recently launched its “Raise the Woof” campaign, which has a goal to raise $1.5 million to fund construction of the new shelter. Spatafore said she and the nonprofit’s board signed the contract with their builder on Monday and have moved the animals to temporary quarters at 864 Husky Highway, past the Barrackville turn off, on the right hand side in a brick building. In the next two weeks, the facility on Locust Avenue that dates back to the 1970s will be demolished and construction will begin on land they already own.

“When children gather together like this to raise all this money and learn about the care of animals, it really gives you hope for the future,” Spatafore said. “We have these people preaching spay and neuter to these young people, so they are learning a whole new way of looking at animals that wasn’t like that in the past.

“It’s hope for the future — it really is. It excites me.”

“We’re building a better future one student at a time,” Skarzinski said.

Reach Eric Cravey at 304-367-2523.

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