CPW’s longest-serving volunteer has retired from regular duties at the shelter – after 30 years of service.
Heather Campbell has been a part of CPW almost as long as the charity has been in existence, and she is well-known to many of our members and volunteers.
She was one of the volunteers involved in Cats Protection League Wellington when it was still at its first location behind the Penthouse Cinema in Brooklyn.
She recalls becoming a member of CPL at the National Cat Show at the Wellington Winter Showbuildings (now Te Whaea) in the early 1980s.
“CPL had a little stall there where they were selling T-shirts and things,” she says. “There were two ladies on duty and we signed up. I bought a T-Shirt or something.
“They had an elderly cat they wanted someone to sponsor, a black cat called Trudy, who was unsociable.”
Heather’s first visit to the shelter in Brooklyn was to visit Trudy, and at that stage the facility was “quite basic and down to earth”. The charity, which had begun in 1982, was still getting started and needed volunteers to care for the cats and fundraise for supplies.
“It was different when CPL started. We were at the Penthouse Cinema. We just had a little area at the back of the theatre.
“You get attached to the cats. I enjoyed making a difference for the ones that are needy or difficult. I’d concentrate on the ones that needed special attention. I just continued from there, really.”
After the shelter moved to its second location on Ohiro Road in Brooklyn, Heather was on the committee for eight years, as well as picking up cleaning shifts, homing duties, and fundraising through garage sales and street appeals.
Over the years, she has found homes for hundreds of cats, and her hard work on behalf of the cats is legendary. She not only took them to the vet, she would visit any who were in for an extended stay, and spend time with them to help them feel less lonely and afraid.
“I have a soft spot for the shy ones. I love it when you get a breakthrough.”
Heather was also there when the shelter moved to its present location in Kingston in 2007, and helped with the huge effort involved in moving each cat from one place to the other, and then settling them in.
Two of the cats who moved that day were Jeremy and Godfrey, who still live in the shelter. Jeremy especially adores Heather, climbing a tower and yelling for her attention every time she walks in the door.
Heather’s also famous in the shelter for bringing piles of cooked chicken in for the cats at least once a week, a habit that has since been adopted by other volunteers.
Her home is run by Molly, a feisty black and white girl who clearly adores Heather and follows her around chatting.
Molly had been in the shelter for a year, and absolutely hated being around other cats. She had taken over the kitchen, but was still depressed when Heather decided to rescue her.
“I felt sorry for her,” Heather says. “She was so miserable and unhappy, so I took her home.”
Now 17, Molly is a different cat, with huge friendly green eyes, and plenty of confidence. She spends the afternoons snoozing on Heather’s bed, when she isn’t prowling around a courtyard garden.
Although she no longer has formal duties, Heather won’t be able to stay away from the shelter, and volunteers are still likely to see her visiting, with cooked chicken treats for our lucky CPW cats.
Heather has quietly and determinedly dedicated a huge part of her life to the welfare of our cats, and given so many of them another chance at happy homes.
That’s an incredible legacy, and one which she can be very proud of. All the best, Heather!