An Italian Kitty+PAWS=That’s Amore!

Photo by Mark Rogers 

Photo by Monica May

Judi Basolo has always had animals in her life, but says that she and Guido the Italian Kitty have una connessione unica— a “unique connection.” Both are native San Franciscans, and both have a strong drive to give back. Judi says it’s in their DNA.

Guido became certified as an Animal Assisted Therapy cat at the tender age of one, and the dynamic duo have been venturing out in public as a pair ever since. Together, Judi and Guido volunteer at the Arc of San Francisco, ride the cable cars, and more. “I realized people were always enthralled by this cat in my arms,” Judi recalls. “When I took Guido to the grand opening of the PAWS building, he just excelled at interacting with the guests and people would write to me asking about him.” With the help of social media, Guido’s fan base quickly skyrocketed, and together they knew it was time to put Guido’s star-power to good use.

On the eve of Guido’s fourth birthday, in 2010, he and Judi decided to fundraise for an organization that they think is just meowvalous—Pets Are Wonderful Support, of course! Since that birthday, Guido’s fans have donated every year to support PAWS, and this year raised over $1,200 to celebrate his twelfth circle around the sun!

Judi often jokes that she considers herself Guido’s personal assistant, but five years ago she gained a deeper appreciation for the kind of assistance that Guido gives to her—and the type of support PAWS provides. Stuck homebound for five months from a knee replacement surgery, Judi reflects, “that was the closest I’ve ever been to being a shut-in and my cats became my whole life.” Judi was not able to manage the 33 stairs to her apartment alone, and she only had help getting out to her physical therapy appointments. A social butterfly by nature, Judi says, “I experienced something that I had never had happen in my life. I was feeling so disconnected from the world and looking forward to when someone could visit or call me. Thanks to PAWS, clients who live in isolation are visited by volunteers and can stay together with their pets.”

Judi supports PAWS as a donor, volunteer, ambassador, and of course, with Guido’s help as a spokes-cat. She believes that “everybody should give back…it doesn’t have to be a lot as long as you give.” The gift of the human-animal bond? Like Judi says, “it’s priceless.”

Reflections on the New Tax Law by Shanti’s Interim Chief Financial Officer, Patricia Schnedar

Thinking about when to give? Now is the time.

The new tax law is estimated to result in a decrease in charitable giving to the tune of $13-$20 billion and a loss of at least 220,000 non-profits sector jobs as cited in a recent study by George Washington University. The first factor driving this dramatic change is the increase in the standard deduction and the corresponding drop in the number of people itemizing; currently 35% of filers itemize their tax return and it is estimated to drop to 5%-10%. Second, the new tax law more than doubles the size of estates that will be subject to the federal estate tax to over $22 million.

In addition to tax law changes, the nonprofit community is also seeing a reduction in government spending to provide services to people in need. The tax law’s impact is coming at a time when the private sector— comprising donors like you— is already being asked to dig deeper to meet critical community needs.

Now is the time to reflect why we give. I was taught at an early age to care for the elderly and help those less fortunate than I. Beginning with my first job out of college, I have tried to live the lessons learned as a child by giving time, effort, and money to support individuals and my community. I left a promising corporate career to work in the nonprofit sector.

I care deeply about my community and Shanti’s clients, and yet I find myself hesitating for the first time in my life. Without the tax deduction for charitable giving, will I continue to give at the level I have consistently given all my life? How much was my generosity tied to the tax benefit? The needs within my community have not changed—in fact, many will say they are only increasing. The need is there, how will I respond?

My initial instinct was to reduce my level of giving. With the tax change I am no longer “saving” money by claiming a tax deduction for giving, but I am now paying taxes on what I give. It is costing me more to give. Now is the time to stop and think about why you give. Connect with your own story of personal giving, and your own motivations. On reflection, I am committing to not reducing, but increasing my giving because the need is there. What will you do?

Shanti's Margot Murphy Women's Cancer Program Launches New Partnerships to Promote Wellness

Last year, the Margot Murphy Women's Cancer Program had a packed calendar of wellness activities.

Gatherings included writing letters to women newly diagnosed with breast cancer, learning make-up tricks with Sephora's "Classes for Confidence," and music therapy (shown left).

We are looking forward to even more fun this year!

(Above): Clients fill the community space of Sephora during the "Classes for Confidence" series offered in September.

Compassion in Action: Connecting the Dots to Care

When behavioral and mobility issues impede a person’s access to care, St. Francis Lutheran Church, San Francisco and the Shanti Project pave the path to the delivery of services.

Photo above: Shanti HIV Services staff and clients.

Located in the Castro neighborhood, St. Francis Lutheran Church, San Francisco, like Shanti, was a first responder in the earliest days of the AIDS epidemic. Today, both organizations are well aware that the crisis is not over for the most underserved individuals living with HIV. Recognizing this, the Shanti Project and St. Francis Lutheran Church started working together in 2014 to identify clients living with HIV who were missing grocery deliveries and medical appointments due to behavioral or mobility concerns.

Individuals served through this funding partnership often find seemingly simple tasks—such as being in crowded spaces at the local food bank or traveling to the doctor—extremely challenging. Thanks to the added staff time supported by this grant, Shanti Client Advocates are able to provide emotional support and intensive case management. Day-to-day, this means at-home enrollment, securing groceries from local food banks, and tracking medical appointments. Through these methods, staff work to make sure no client faces the challenges associated with multiple diagnoses alone.

One client, Kent*, has been accessing Shanti services for almost a decade. Kent faces many obstacles, including being a long-term HIV survivor and dealing with mental health challenges. Because of his mental health diagnosis, Kent struggles when in groups and crowded spaces, making it difficult for him to access services that are crucial to his well-being, such as the weekly grocery pickup at the local food bank.

Thanks to the trusting relationship our Client Advocate has built with Kent, the Client Advocate meets with Kent and confirms he has received groceries every week, either at the Shanti office or at home when needed. When Kent is in the Shanti office, he also accesses the Shanti Drop-in Service Center, where he can get a warm cup of coffee and talk with fellow long-term HIV survivors in a safe space.

For the past four years, St. Francis Lutheran Church, San Francisco has provided Shanti with the resources to fund more than 135 hours of staff time dedicated to clients like Kent. This partnership continues to ensure services once deemed out of reach are now easily accessible for all our clients.

*Name has been changed.

Donor Spotlight: Steve Chisholm

Donor Spotlight: Steve Chisholm
How an office cat without an owner turned into a monthly donor with a home.

Above: Steve Chisholm and Alexander, in their tuxedo best.

Steve Chisholm has an infectious laugh and a welcoming voice all his own. His monthly support of PAWS, he admits, is not from him. Every single donation for the past eight years he says comes straight from Alexanderone of his black and white tuxedo cats.

In fact, Alexander is one of Steve’s three tuxedo cats, and he joined feline friends Frank and Bob eight years ago. What makes Alexander’s addition to the household so special? Call it the perfect mix of kitty litter and kismet.

While familiar with food banks for humans, until 2010 Steve had never heard of PAWS, a program dedicated to care for the pets with services like free pet food, free or subsidized veterinary care and more, so that the owners facing challenging circumstances can care for themselves. “It was such an obvious idea—it was right under my nose. But when I heard about PAWS and realized how important that care is, well, it hit me like a ton of bricks,” says Steve.

“I think about the joy, love, comfort and peace of mind that a pet provides. Wouldn’t it be nice to give that to someone else? Giving clients the ability to just enjoy the pet—what a gift.”

Steve’s aha moment came during a work-sponsored volunteer event at PAWS eight years ago. Having worked in administration for 30 years, Steve’s volunteer role as “head of kitty litter packaging” for the day was certainly a change of pace. “It felt like playing in a sandbox—we kept reminding ourselves, at least it is clean!” Steve recalls.

As the day was ending and Steve was preparing to go home to Frank and Bob, the PAWS volunteer coordinator introduced the volunteers to Alexander. At the time, Alexander was the PAWS office cat, having come to reside there following his owner’s death because no long-term care arrangements had been made. Since his owner had been a former PAWS client, Alexander was quite comfortable at PAWS and even had a Facebook fan page.

“As soon as I saw Alexander, it struck me—his black and white markings were just like Frank and Bob. By the time we sat down together and he started purring in my lap, well, it was all over,” admits Steve. That very day he went home, discussed the matter with Frank and Bob, and two days later called the PAWS office. Alexander found his new forever home—and PAWS got a new monthly donor!

When Steve reflects on why he (and Alexander) support PAWS every month, he thinks about that first meeting. “I think about the joy, love, comfort and peace of mind that a pet provides. Wouldn’t it be nice to give that to someone else? Giving clients the ability to just enjoy the pet—what a gift.”

PAWS Stocking Delivery: 2017

120 Volunteers Bring Magic to More Than 500 Companion Animals this Holiday Season

Now in the 15th year, the annual PAWS Stocking Delivery celebrated its largest year yet! Volunteers brought holiday cheer in the form of treats & toys to nearly 400 clients and more than 500 beloved animal companions. From hand-decorating bags to handing out energy-efficient light bulbs, we are so grateful to everyone who joined in the fun!

Shanti's Fall 2017 Newsletter is Here!

The Fall 2017 Newsletter features the following articles:
  • The LGBT Aging & Abilities Support Network: Shanti's Newest Program
  • Dorothy Graham & The Graham Family Foundation
  • On the Road to Happiness: Hulda's Story
  • Volunteer Spotlight
  • Event Photos
  • Thank You to our 2016/2017 Donors
  • And More! 
Read the full newsletter here.