If your house burned down, who would take care of your pets while you tried to piece your life back together?  What if your dog couldn’t stay with you or you had no money to feed your cat?  It’s a horrible thought, right?  But there’s help available – and that’s where Red Paw Emergency Relief Fund comes in.


Meet Heather Lindner.  Heather works as a emergency dispatch operator for Chester County in Pennsylvania and fields nearly 100 calls on her 12-hour shifts. Her mother was an animal lover who volunteered with animal rescue groups and provided transport for needy animals. Her love of animals rubbed off on Heather, who began to work with her county’s animal response team about six years ago.


While volunteering, Heather learned that people struggling to recover from a local disaster or  home fire often have difficulty caring for their beloved pets as they try to get their lives back on track.  And that’s how she began volunteering with a local charity called Red Paw.  Heather says, “Red Paw is best described as the Red Cross for pets.  When a family is displaced by fire, flooding, or building collapse we respond.” The Red Paw support network is made up of volunteers who are willing to foster and board the animals. If the family is staying at a hotel or with friends,  Red Paw provides bedding, food , and toys and will also pay for pet fees associated with the hotel.  And lastly, Red Paw provides spraying, neutering, and vaccinations free of charge.

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Red Paw’s primary goal is to reunite the family with their pets once they are either able to return to their home or find a new place to live.  Occasionally, pets are ultimately surrendered or abandoned.  These pets stay in Red Paw’s care and are placed for adoption.


Caitlin:  In thinking about both your life and your volunteer work, what is your definition of success? 


Heather: All I want to do is make a difference, even if it is a slight one.  I have always loved animals and I feel that they have no voice of their own.  If I can make a slight difference to the little cat that is displaced by no fault of their own and alleviate stress for a family that has so many other things to worry about, I have been successful.  I am not only able to help an animal but people as well!

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Reunited with his owner.


Christmas week, my co-coordinator Tammy and I responded to two fires and took in three cats.  The first cat we had to trap overnight because she was hiding.  Her owner was in tears on Christmas Eve when we told her that her cat was alive and safe.  That made our Christmas!  Her cat, Goldie, is temporarily staying with Tammy and her owner checks in regularly.

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Caitlin: Tell me about an inspiring person you met through your work.  What did they tell you? How did their story touch you?


Heather: Jen Leary is the founder of Red Paw Emergency Relief Team.  She came up with the idea while working fulltime as a firefighter in Philadelphia as well as Red Cross Volunteer.  She established Red Paw on  July 25, 2011 after seeing that there was no assistance provided for animals displaced by fires.  Most were left in their burned out homes, in vehicles, in yards or surrendered to Animal Control.  Her first call was that day for 6 displaced pitbulls!

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Red Paw helps all types of animals, including dogs and cats but more exotic pets, too, like birds and snakes.


Jen amazes me!  She is always on the go responding to most of the calls in Philadelphia herself as well as the surrounding counties.  She has spread out from Philadelphia and now covers surrounding counties in Pennsylvania with plans to move into Camden County, New Jersey shortly.  Her ultimate goal is to become nationwide.


Caitlin: What organizational tool / tip / gadget has made a difference in your life?


Heather: Social networking is amazing!  We are able to reach a large audience in a matter of minutes via Facebook and Twitter.  This has also helped us gain volunteers as well as donations for our organization.   It is also used as a way to educate the general public in fire safety.


Caitlin:  How can others help you?


Heather: Red Paw relies on sponsorships, grants and donations.  Please follow us on Facebook and Twitter.  We also have a wish list on Amazon and are a charity option for Amazon Smile!


To learn more about the Cabot Celebrity Cruise and read the first post in this series, check out Do Good: Battle for a Cure.


Is “doing good” a goal of yours for 2014?  What organization do you volunteer with or would you want to volunteer with?  I would love to find time to work with animals like Heather!



  • Sara @ LovingOnTheRun January 8, 2014, 10:13 am

    Aww what a great organization! Doing good is always a resolution of mine and I always try to strive and find new ways I can help in the community!

  • Colleen January 8, 2014, 10:48 am

    This is an amazing organization! It is definitely needed everywhere.

  • em@simplypresent January 8, 2014, 11:00 am

    I don’t even want to think about making the decision of whether or not to leave my 3-legged kitty behind!

    One of my resolution is to find an organization that I can volunteer regularly at. I’ve started doing research on food banks in my area. There’s the North Texas Food Bank but I’d like to start with something smaller.

  • Patty January 8, 2014, 11:09 am

    I am a puppy raiser with Guide Dogs of the Desert in
    White Water CA (near Palm Springs). I have been a volunteer
    For 6 years and am currently raising my 4 th dog. I receive the
    Pup from the guide dog school at about 3 months old and train and
    Socialize them until they are about 2 yrs old at which time I return them
    To the school where they complete their training and become a guide for
    The blind and visually imparted.
    Guide Dogs of the Desert is a non profit organization that survives solely on
    Donations and gives the dogs to the blind person free of charge.
    It is an amazing experience to raise your pup and see him/her become a
    Guide for a visually impaired person!!
    I’m not sure who receives the biggest blessing, me, (the puppy raiser) or the
    Blind person who receives the miracle of independence.

  • Liana@RunToMunch January 8, 2014, 11:11 am

    I want to save all the animals too =(

  • Mel @ Mel's Miles January 8, 2014, 11:24 am

    I volunteer at a residential community for people who have disabilities. It’s such rewarding work and I always leave with a smile on my face – the residents probably bring me more joy than I bring to them 🙂

  • Melissa @ Mel's Miles January 8, 2014, 11:27 am

    I volunteer at a residential community for people who have disabilities. It’s very rewarding work and I always leave with a smile on my face – I think they bring me more joy than I bring to them 🙂

  • Casey January 8, 2014, 11:58 am

    “Doing good” is a goal of mine for 2014! I had my orientation for Hands on Charlotte the first weekend of the year and have my first volunteer opportunity tomorrow with Second Harvest Food Bank. I can’t wait to get started and I hope to have 25-30 hours of service each month. They have many different areas of volunteering, allowing everyone to find a special project that they can enjoy and use to give back to their community. I think Red Paw is awesome and I hope they can reach their goal of becoming nationwide!! Great post, Caitlin! Thanks 🙂

  • Aria January 8, 2014, 12:28 pm

    I live in Chester County, PA and have never heard of this organization but what they are doing is fantastic!! I’m planning on following them on Facebook and donating to them when I can. I already donate to the Chester county SPCA so what’s one more? 🙂 thanks for this post Caitlin!!

  • Angela@Fit to Inspire January 8, 2014, 12:28 pm

    What an awesome organization!! Thank you so much Heather for all you do!

  • Michelle @ A Healthy Mrs January 8, 2014, 4:10 pm

    What a great organization! Kudos to Heather & Red Paw for their amazing work!

  • Beks January 8, 2014, 4:22 pm

    That’s such an inspirational group. I guess I’d always assumed the Red Cross helped out with pets, too, but it’s great that she saw a need and stepped up. We have lots of rescue organizations in the Omaha/Council Bluffs area, plus an amazing humane society who’ve been known to step up for this kind of thing. I hope it does go nationwide. It’s such a worthy cause. I couldn’t imagine my life without my furbabies. <3

  • Casey @ Salted Plates January 11, 2014, 10:47 am

    As a Philadelphian, I enjoy following Red Paw’s facebook page and seeing all the local animals they are helping. I hope that I can foster for them once we have a slightly bigger living space and my kitty grows up a little. They are such a lovely organization!

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