Blake Austin has been volunteering at Midcoast Humane for more than half her life.

During that time, Blake and her family have fostered and found homes for over 125 cats and kittens! In addition, Blake has been a Junior Counselor at Midcoast Humane’s Animal Camp, has dressed up to help out at fundraising events, and dressed down to assist in the shelter doing everything from working in the cat rooms to doing laundry. Simply stated, Midcoast Humane could not exist without the dedication of volunteers like Blake.

In March 2019, Blake’s inspired volunteerism was recognized by U.S. Cellular’s “16 Under 16” initiative, which highlights the outstanding humanitarian work of heroic young adults. Blake’s recognition came with a $10,000 grant from U.S Cellular. Blake decided to donate that money, along with her time, to a specific project at Midcoast Humane.

After consulting with our team, Blake envisioned her biggest impact and set about designing renovations to our cat patios, or “catios,” fenced-in areas where indoor cats can safely enjoy the outdoors. These spaces are a wonderful feature for a shelter, and not all shelters have them. Blake’s deep appreciation for how the catios at Midcoast Humane supported the physical and emotional wellbeing of our ever-changing feline population guided her designs for repairs and upgrades. Her plans also took into account that the catios had to be efficient for staff and volunteers working with the cats.

While observing the cats using the catios, Blake noticed that the large platform just inside each catio’s only door often became a parking spot for a lounging cat. With the only entry/exit point blocked by a cat, bottlenecks were common for cats trying to get in and out. Blake corrected this by creating two doors and replacing the platform with angled walkways that encouraged cats to move away from the doorways.

The catios had just a few elevated platforms for cats to relax, several of which needed replacement. Blake not only replaced the worn platforms, but she also added new platforms as well as hanging beds. She then installed hanging mobiles and toys that can be switched out by staff and volunteers as necessary and created litter boxes that are easier for the staff to clean. As with any renovation project, Blake also gave the catios a fresh coat of paint.

When asked about this project, Blake reflected, “While I’ve loved every project I’ve been involved with over the years, this one is probably my favorite. Re-working the catios in a way that was interesting and safe for the cats was a super fun challenge. Volunteering is an incredibly rewarding experience as you give back and help enrich the lives of others and your community. While in the future I hope that no animals will have to stay in a shelter, I want to do what I can to make sure their environment is mentally and emotionally stimulating”.

At only 17 years old, Blake has already found a way to leave her mark on the world, making it a better place for cats and the humans who care for them at Midcoast Humane. We look forward to watching how her impact grows as she goes forward in life.

To see some of the cats that Blake fosters, visit Blake’s Foster Cats on Instagram. Thank you for all that you do, Blake!

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