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- The Forecaster
BRUNSWICK — More than 100 kittens and cats have found homes thanks to a 15-year-old who has been volunteering at Midcoast Humane since she was 8 years old.
Blake Austin, a freshman at Brunswick High School, was recognized March 8 by U.S. Cellular as one of its “16 Under 16” recipients in the company’s National Future of Good program. Austin has put in more than 1,800 hours fostering and taking care of at-risk kittens and cats.
On Friday, she was presented with a $10,000 check from U.S. Cellular to use as she sees fit for animal welfare services, a responsibility Austin said she is not taking lightly.
“I am going to use some of the money to help Midcoast Humane find a new shelter location, and I am also going to use the other part of the money to keep finding creative ways to help find these cats homes,” she said.
An essay and her use of social media accounts to find homes for animals helped her catch U.S. Cellular’s attention, Austin said.
“It’s just such an honor to be recognized for my work,” she said. “It really doesn’t feel like work to me. I am just here to help the cats in any way they can be helped. They come to the shelter in need of a kind person to rely on because some are in such helpless situations.”
Kate Griffith, Midcoast Humane’s community programs manager, said Austin is willing to help in any way possible.
“The amount of help Blake has provided to our animals in need cannot be overstated,” Griffith said. “She is always happy to help with anything the shelter needs, and can often be found doing laundry, staffing tables at events, participating in parades and helping with our humane education programs.”
Austin is also a certified adoption ambassador for Midcoast Humane, which means she can adopt cats directly out of her own home so the animals never have to go to the adoption floor at the shelter.
Austin said she has fostered 103 felines from her home – even though her father is allergic to cats and dogs. Her family even has a dedicated room in the house they call the “cattery,” where prospective owners can interact with their potential new pet.
“It’s nice to be able to bring these cats home and use our free range room because then these cats are able to show their true personalities,” Austin said.
“Once you see that connection between that cat and the adoptive family, it’s instantaneous and overwhelmingly heartwarming,” she said. “Even when the family has some doubts in the beginning, it’s all worth it when you see those photos or get those letters of the success stories.
“Knowing how desperate these cats were before we found them and to see them with a loving family is a feeling I just can’t describe. It’s what keeps me involved in animal welfare.”
She first considered volunteering at the shelter when her grandmother took her to Midcoast Humane to look for a puppy.
“I knew at that time I wanted to help these innocent animals,” Austin said.
Austin’s mother, Meg, said she’s proud of her daughter’s accomplishment, and has learned a lot about her in the last seven years.
“When I saw her with that check, it took me back to the days when she was just a little girl on the floor of the shelter playing with the cats,” Meg said. “I am proud of who she has become and I am so happy she is being recognized for her generous work.”
In addition to her volunteer work in animal welfare, Austin plays volleyball, basketball and softball. She also plays the flute in the school band.
But she always makes time for the cats.
“I go into the shelter at various times and I really haven’t kept extremely close track of all the hours I have put in here and there over the years,” Austin said. “I just enjoy every minute of it, and it’s just the best feeling when these animals find their forever homes.”
Austin said even though she’s still young and has a lot of time to make decisions about her future, she’s certain her path will have something to do with animals.
“My career will have to involve animals in some way,” she said. “I enjoy animal welfare work so much.”
Blake Austin, 15, of Brunswick, has volunteered more than 1,500 hours at Midcoast Humane Society and fostered more than 100 cats and kittens at her home.
U.S. Cellular’s Gary Hebert presents Blake Austin of Brunswick with a $10,000 check on March 8 that she can use to help further the cause of animal welfare. Austin said she will use the award to help Midcoast Humane find a new home for its shelter.