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Morning Sun
  • PATRICK'S PEOPLE: Mary Kay Caldwell and her cat are both calendar stars

  • Mary Kay Caldwell is the November “calendar girl” for the 2013 Women of Distinction Calendar presented by the Pittsburg Area Chamber of Commerce, but a favorite family cat, Pretty Boy, can boast that his handsome face is featured in twice as many calendars.

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  • Mary Kay Caldwell is the November “calendar girl” for the 2013 Women of Distinction Calendar presented by the Pittsburg Area Chamber of Commerce, but a favorite family cat, Pretty Boy, can boast that his handsome face is featured in twice as many calendars.
    He is the only cat winner in the Newspaper for Education calendar competition conducted by the Pittsburg Morning Sun, chosen by his fans who paid 25 cents per vote. He is the February pet of the month.
    Pretty Boy also scored on the national level, and is November cat for a calendar produced by Alley Cat Allies, the only national advocacy organization dedicated to the protection and humane treatment of cats.
    Caldwell is president of the Southeast Kansas Humane Society, and it was her love for animals that brought Pretty Boy into her life.
    “It was a cold February morning in 2003 and I was at a place where I feed feral cats,” she said. “The first time he saw me, he ran under a house. I left food, and it was so cold that steam was rising up from the food.”
    Caldwell continued leaving food for him and was finally able to capture the cat.
    “I left him overnight at the Doggie Bag Resale Shop, then took him to the veterinarian,” she said. “His fur is just like cotton, and he was so matted and the mats were so  hard that they had to peel his back.”
    After Caldwell got the cat in good shape, she thought about turning him loose again. But the formerly feral cat had become so sweet and gentle that he charmed himself right into her heart and home.
    “He’s so responsive to people,” she said. “His personality is really more like a dog’s in some ways.”
    Caldwell said she became a SEK Humane Society volunteer because of cats.
    “Somebody called because they needed someone to clean cat cages,” she said. “It just evolved from there. I feel I’ve been blessed to pursue my passion and still run a business.”
    Caldwell noted that the SEK Humane Society is one of very few that has managed to survive over the years without government funding.
    “We’ve had some good times and we’ve had challenges,” she said. “One time we had 67 cents left in our treasury, but we’ve always managed to pay our bills. We have a very caring, animal-oriented community and people have always come forward to help us.”
    Caldwell remembers the days when the society’s animal shelter consisted of eight dog runs and a cat room that doubled as an office.
    “Now we have a 43,000 square foot facility,” she said.
    Money comes from donations, from estates left to the organization, memorials and proceeds from fundraisers such as the annual chili feed and the  Doggie Bag Resale Shop.
    Page 2 of 2 - “We opened the shop in 1987,” Caldwell said. “The first location was in a building across the street from the Pittsburg Community Middle School.”
    The Pawprints on the Heartland program, with a mobile spay/neuter surgical van, was started in 2000. Its mission is to decrease the number of homeless pets by preventing  the birth of unwanted litters.
    “We’ve performed more than 70,000 spay/neuter surgeries so far,” Caldwell said. “We have prevented millions of  births.”
    Working with this program, and assisting Caldwell with the Humane Society over the years, has been Joanne Wenzl.
    “Joanne has been a really hard worker with me, a wonderful help to me,” she said. “It takes many people involved to make this organization work and we have a lot of wonderful volunteers. Everybody has a job to do and they get it done.”
    Though the SEK Humane Society does not receive government funding, Caldwell said that the organization is grateful for the help it has received from governmental agencies, including Crawford County.
    “Last spring county workers cleaned out the area behind the animal shelter,” she said. “We want to put a dog-walking area back there.”
    A Frontenac native and lifetime area resident, Caldwell also finds time to run her business, Futures Career Development.
    “I’ve been doing this for 16 years,” she said. “We contract with the State of Kansas and cover four counties, doing vocational rehab, conducting training workshops and doing job placement.”
    Though the economy is poor, Caldwell said that many who come to her are placed in jobs.
    “We have a lot of contacts,” she said. “These are often entry level jobs, but a job is a job, and they don’t have to stay in it after they find something better.”
    Caldwell said that, for many people, the problem is lack of confidence.
    “If  we can give them some encouragement and make them believe in themselves, they can do almost anything,” she said.
    Caldwell gets deep satisfaction from both her work for her business and her volunteer service to the SEK Humane Society.
    “I love helping people find jobs, and I love helping animals find homes,” she said.

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