Christmas came early for Operation Education Animal Rescue, when Stones River Mall and Doggie's Day Out presented the group with cash donations and more than 60 bags of dog food.
Donations were collected during Stones River Mall's annual Paws & Claus, sponsored by Doggie's Day Out. Shoppers were invited to bring dogs and cats to have professional photos taken with the Jolly Ol' Fellow, and those who donated a bag of dog food received a free print.
"Our Paws & Claus is extremely popular, and we take that opportunity to support our local pet community," said Melinda Noblitt, marketing and events manager for Stones River Mall. "Our Breakfast with Santa event benefits Beesley Animal Foundation, so it's fitting that pet night with Santa benefits a variety of local animal rescues."
Doggie's Day Out selects a different local dog rescue each year to serve as the beneficiary of all the donations collected during Paws & Claus. Middle Tennessee Treasures and Large Breed Rescue have both received donations in the past.
"It's a pleasure to work with organizations like Operation Education and Stones River Mall, who really care about dogs," said Denise O'Connell King, owner of Doggie's Day Out. "I feel like we're really making a difference in the lives of these dogs."
Operation Education Animal Rescue, also known as OpEd, is a 501(c)3 non-profit, all-breed, foster-based animal rescue group serving Middle Tennessee. Its mission to educate the community on the importance of being a responsible pet owner; to provide a safe and healthy haven for abused, neglected, and unwanted animals; and to emphasize the availability and importance of spaying and neutering.
"We are so thankful for the community's support of our program, especially during the holidays," said Shelly Thorburn, volunteer and foster mom. "We are overwhelmed with the response from this year's Paws & Claus."
Thorburn explained how the dog food donations will be distributed to families fostering the more than 50 animals currently in Operation Education's program. The organization has plans to open a facility in 2016, and Thorburn says that with the community's support, that dream can become a reality.