Dara Eckart, CEO of Friends of Strays

by | Jun 26, 2024

Dara Eckart–CEO of Friends of Strays, St. Petersburg’s oldest no-kill animal shelter, currently undergoing a significant transformation, including opening a cats-only adoption center, The Cat Box on July 1—outlines the shelter’s history, citing key milestones of the early years. Eckart explains that Friends of Strays began in 1978, when co-founder Jean Bomonti, who’d been volunteering at a shelter, became increasingly displeased by the sheer number of stray cats brought into that shelter, and how they were treated, including not-infrequently being euthanized. It’s fitting that Bomonti and her initial Friends of Strays friends traveled around St. Pete, rescuing stray cats, aiming to find homes for them, within a no-kill operation…when, 45-plus years later, the shelter is unveiling a new, free-standing building (bright-green, no less!), The Cat Box, entirely devoted to cat adoptions. Eckart recalls arriving at Friends of Strays some seven and a half years ago, and while not given a mandate, exactly, she says there had  clearly been a leadership void that she was expected to fill. Too, an expectation to run Friends of Strays as an business (Eckart had a  tech/business background, while no animal welfare/rescue experience.) She goes on to recount changes she implemented, which yielded bigger and better budgets—and what those things yielded, including the resources to hire an in-house veterinarian (at first, just one day per week, eventually full-time), and a director of development. A more polished, professional operation has other virtues, including attracting significant philanthropic gifts. For example, Eckart notes that The Cat Box represents the first of three phases of what will constitute the Schwartz Family Adoption Campus, while phase two focuses on the creation of the dog-only adoption facility, the Milkey Bone Dog House, as in the Milkey Family Foundation. And so on. (https://www.friendsofstrays.org/, https://www.facebook.com/FriendsofStraysAnimalShelter, https://www.instagram.com/friendsofstrays)

COMEDY CORNER: A special edition of the Comedy Corner today, in recognition of Friends of Strays’ new cat adoptions center, The Cat Box, I played Todd Barry’s recent “Tonight Show” set, which consisted of all cat material: “Pet Cats” (https://www.toddbarry.com/)

MUSIC: Rebekah Pulley’s “Talking Animals Theme,” instrumentals

NAME THAT ANIMAL TUNE:  We didn’t play “Name That Animal Tune” today.



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