Homeless animals hope to share in a wee bit of the luck of the Irish this month as the Celtic Club of Ohio puts a twist on traditional St. Patrick's Day celebrations by renaming it St. Pet's Day.
Money and pet food donations collected by club members this week and March 16 and 17 will be donated to rescue groups and animal shelters in Portage, Stark and Summit counties.
"There is a real need out there," said Jim Collver, who is organizing the fundraising events for the Akron-based Celtic Club.
Collection sites include several fire stations in the region.
The club plans to sponsor Irish-themed programs at several events where admission will be free with a donation of pet food, he said.
Relief can't come soon enough for animals at the Summit County animal shelter, said Christine Fatheree, animal control manager.
''We are full up,'' Fatheree said Monday.
The shelter has as many as 90 dogs and 50 cats, she said, and with the combination of a poor economy and warmer weather, people will begin turning loose animals they can no longer afford.
''We are packed and we expect it to get much worse,'' she said.
The club hopes to collect at least 10,000 pounds of food that will be divvied between rescue agencies in the three counties.
''Each year, we've had a single event and each year, it has gotten bigger,'' Collver said.
Last year, the club took in 1,000 pounds of food for area shelters.
On Monday, dancers from the O'Hare School of Irish Dance and the popular Akron Celtic-rock band the Mickeys performed for children and teachers at Miller South School for the Visual and Performing Arts. Kent poet Merle Molenkopf emceed the program. Admission was free with a can or bag of pet food.
Earlier in the day, Green Fire Chief Bob Calderone welcomed Molly, a black Labrador retriever/border collie mix, and 80-pound Brutus, both rescued by families in the O'Hare dance troop. Representatives from area shelters were also on hand for the event.
The main station in Green is one of 11 area fire departments that are collection points for pet food donations.
''We have boxes in the lobby where people can drop off food day or night,'' Calderone said Monday.
Karen Conklin, executive director of the Humane Society of Greater Akron, said she appreciates donations from the children who attend the events.
''Teaching kids to help those that can't help themselves is always a good lesson. This is a tough economy and we appreciate all the donations we get,'' Conklin said.
Anyone interested in donating pet food or money to St. Pet's Day can contact one of the participating fire stations today through Friday and March 16 and 17.
Participating fire stations are:
• Barberton, 580 Wooster Road W., 330-848-6732.
• Clinton, 7717 S. Cleveland-Massillon Road, 330-882-4828.
• Coventry, 68 Portage Lakes Drive, 330-644-3228.
• Green, 4200 Massillon Road, 330-896-6610.
• Hartville, 411 E. Maple St., 330-877-2478.
• Kent, 320 S. Depeyster St., 330-673-8814.
• Lakemore, 1400 Main St., 330-733-6125.
• New Franklin, 5605 Manchester Road, 330-882-3111.
• Norton, 3230 Greenwich Road, 330-825-3086.
• Springfield, 2459 Canfield Road (Town Hall), 330-784-7210.
• Uniontown, 13055 Oakwood Ave. NW, 330-699-3239.
Kathy Antoniotti can be reached at 330-996-3565 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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