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New Bissell Pet Foundation will benefit animal organizations near and far

Proceeds from Blocktail Party will aid ten Greater Grand Rapids agencies.
Dogs of all shapes and sizes attended last year's Bissell Blocktail Party at Mangiamo.

Dogs of all shapes and sizes attended last year's Bissell Blocktail Party at Mangiamo. /Mary Ullmer photo

Underwriting support from:

Seventh annual Bissell Blocktail Party

What: A night out for people and their dogs, including "yappetizers," a cash bar, music and a silent auction featuring one-of-a-kind items.

When: June 13, 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.

Where: Mangiamo!, 1033 Lake Drive SE

Tickets/information: Available soon through or via Tickets are $50 if purchased online in advance of the event, $60 at the door.

Last year: A record $150,000 was raised at the 2011 event, which welcomed 500 guests.

Benefitting: Carol's Ferals and Friendlies, Crash's Landing Cat Rescue, C-SNIP, Focus on Ferals, Humane Society of West Michigan, Kent County Animal Shelter, Mackenzie's Animal Sanctuary, Reuben's Room Cat Rescue, Safe Haven Humane Society, Vicky's Pet Connection






/Courtesy of Bissell Pet Foundation

For more than 136 years, Bissell Homecare, Inc. has been synonymous with floor care equipment and cleaning products. In the past few years, Bissell also has established itself as a pet-friendly company, with a line of pet-specific cleaning products and appliances and a “dogs welcome” workspace at its Grand Rapids-based headquarters.

Bissell recently went a step further in an effort to aid pets with the Jan. 25 announcement of the Bissell Pet Foundation. The foundation, national in scope, will be funded mainly through donations and a percentage of sales from Bissell's pet products. But the force behind the pet foundation, Cathy Bissell, is making certain a large portion of the funding is staying home.

The Bissell Blocktail Party, which last year raised $150,000 for the Humane Society of West Michigan, will be a major fundraiser for the foundation and will directly benefit ten animal welfare organizations in the greater Grand Rapids area. Blocktail committee members, many of whom have relationships with the local organizations, will sort through grant applications to determine funding based on size and need, and Blocktail proceeds will be divided accordingly.

“We moved to the next step, and I'm so excited about it,” said Bissell, the company's director of corporate affairs who is well known for her animal advocacy. “It was kind of out of having Blocktail grow so large and realizing the potential with the money we were able to make last year. As a committee, we decided we wanted to be able to share some of that money because there are so many organizations locally. We raised $150,000 last year. If we gave one organization ten (thousand dollars), that was going to make a world of difference to them."

“We realized we could kind of share some of the money we raised and that was going to be a good thing,” Bissell added.

The ten area animal welfare groups range from the two largest – HSWM and the Kent County Animal Shelter – to successful self-starters like Carol's Ferals, Vicky's Pet Connection and Crash's Landing. Rounding out the ten are Reuben's Room, Mackenzie's Animal Sanctuary, C-SNIP, Safe Haven Humane Society and Focus on Ferals.

Each already is receiving funding from this year's Bissell Blocktail Party, scheduled for June 13 at Mangiamo! restaurant.

“They'll first get $1,000 up front, before the party starts, because we know we're going to be able to make $10,000 up front (on Blocktail),” Bissell said. “Then they'll apply for more money through a grant, and then we'll sit down and decide. Kent County (animal shelter) and the Humane Society are the two largest, so I would assume that they'll probably get larger grants. It's based on need.”

Pat Schoen, Executive Director of C-SNIP, said she's thrilled to have her non-profit be a part of Blocktail this year.  “Bissell is one of the true local organizations to recognize all the efforts people are making on behalf of animals in our community,” Schoen said. “We were notified that we were one of the ten recipients. And just for being named recipients we were given $1,000. We're thrilled we were recognized.”

C-SNIP, a low-cost spay and neuter clinic based in Kentwood, has spayed an neutered more than 85,000 pets since it opened in 2001. Schoen is proud of C-SNIP's policy of never refusing a surgery because of financial need.

“Our board is passionate,” she said. “We'll go out of business before we ever turn anyone away. The only solution to pet overpopulation is sterilization. If we can get it under control by making sterilization affordable and easy, and remove barriers, we're going to save taxpayer money (with fewer animals in county shelters), we'll have longer living happy animals and we'll have a healthier community.”

Carly Luttmann, program supervisor at the Kent County Animal Shelter, said the $1,000 up front for Blocktail participation will be used for the animals' comfort.

“As a county agency, we have to be fiscally responsible for – not extra – animal care,” Luttmann said. “The donation we get will be used to provide more comfort in the kennels and toys and treats for the cats and dogs."

“Bissell has done some in-kind donations for the holiday season with treats and toys, leashes and walking aids, and equipment in the play area … stuff that when you're strapped down and have to be careful with the way you spend your money can make the stay more comfortable for our animals.” Luttmann also said the association with Bissell's annual outdoor Blocktail event, which drew 500 patrons last year despite rain, can be as important as monetary donations for the animal shelter

“I'm looking forward to the opportunity to network with the community mostly, and be there with some of the other agencies committed to the public health and animal health,” Luttmann said. “Being with the other groups we work with and getting our name out there with people can be a resource. I'd like to improve our program, specifically our adoption program."

Bissell said seeing local animal welfare agencies in need and the popularity of Blocktail convinced her to take the step to forming the foundation. "I had been thinking about it and this just pushed me because we knew it needed to happen,” Bissell said. “We know we can make a difference now.”


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