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Change of heart on cats

Formerly no fan of felines, Jackie Borjan helps make them safer

By CLARK MASON
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Jackie Borjan admits it freely, even though nowadays she volunteers at a store that supports feral breeds.

“I used to be a cat hater, because cats kill birds,” said Borjan from behind the counter of Pick of the Litter, the thrift and gift shop that generates most of the income for Forgotten Felines.


Jackie Borjan organizes the bag and luggage area of the Pick of the Litter Thrift and Gift Shop in Santa Rosa, Friday, Feb. 15, 2013. Borjan has volunteered at the shop since November of 2000. (Crista Jeremiason / The Press Democrat)

Borjan is one of 28 volunteers and 12 paid staff members at the Santa Rosa store on Piner Avenue, which for 14 years has been pivotal in helping to pay for spaying, neutering and caring for feral cats, as well as adopting them out.

The store’s growth and success has enabled the nonprofit agency to go from fixing 100 cats per year when it first launched to more than 2,100 cats in 2012.

Initially, Forgotten Felines operated out of someone’s spare bedroom. Today, it has a clinic and administrative offices on Empire Industrial Court, off Coffey Lane, where the organization also parks its mobile spay and neutering van.

“We raise half-a-million dollars a year here,” Jennifer Kirchner, executive director of Forgotten Felines, said of the thrift store. “It’s our No. 1 fundraising source. It allows us to do what we do.”

Pick of the Litter recently increased from 5,000 square feet to 8,500 square feet after expanding into a neighboring space formerly occupied by a smog shop.

Donated items come into the back of the warehouse, where they are sorted, cleaned and readied for sale in the adjacent retail space.

There is also a room where a few adult cats can be seen lounging in the afternoon sun, all available for adoption.

Pick of the Litter prides itself on offering above average items for sale, made possible by generosity of donors who sometimes give gold and diamond jewelry and even collectible art.

“We make sure prices are fair and competitive,” said Denise Eufusia, store manager, who avoids musty merchandise.

“My motto is, ‘If you can smell it, we won’t sell it,’ ” she said.

Cashier Ellen Perman said donated clothing with a hole or stain gets passed along to other organizations.

“Our store is top quality,” she said. “It still feels like a thrift store. It’s not a Nordstrom, but it sells really wonderful stuff. It’s comfortable. Prices are good, and the personnel are accommodating.”

Some type of discount sale is going on every one of the seven days of the week. On a recent Tuesday afternoon when shoes and clothing were 50 percent off, the store bustled with about two dozen customers.

Volunteers play an important role.

“The vast majority of our volunteers are here a long time,” Eufusia said. “People come and find something very rewarding to be a part of.”

Not only do they get satisfaction aiding a worthy cause, she said, “we want all volunteers to do something they find interesting.”

Whether it’s sorting books, records, linens, clothes or jewelry, or making sure donated electronic items are in working order, volunteers seem to find a niche.

“I joke that I’m the bag lady,” Borjan says of her specialty. She handles anything resembling a bag or suitcase, whether children’s totes, wallets or “whatever goes in a bag.” She likes the dolls, too.

As far as Borjan’s past dislike of cats, she started to appreciate them after her daughter, who was studying to be a veterinary technician, began bringing kittens home.

Borjan volunteered to trap feral cats to keep them from breeding out of control, and to prevent situations in which people sometimes poison cats when they over-multiply.

She said Forgotten Felines has made an impact.

The feral population is down “and euthanasia rates at shelters have diminished,” she said.

(You can reach Staff Writer Clark Mason at 521-5214 or clark.mason@pressdemocrat.com)