There’s no question Linda Gilliland is a pet lover and has a big heart for animal rights.

Gilliland co-founded the local Friends of Pets group about 25 years ago. Over the years, she and other volunteers have helped find homes for countless cats and dogs. The group now focuses only on cats.

But Gilliland’s charitable generosity over the years is now the reason her incoming mail has become unbearable.

Gilliland is swimming in mail from charitable organizations asking for her help.

In a six-day period when Gilliland saved her mail for me, she had 17.6 pounds of junk mail overflowing in a large basket. I weighed it. That was after she took out the mail she needed, like bills.

It was an assortment of pleas asking her to help save dogs, cats, elephants, tigers and horses, among other rescue groups. There were disturbing pictures of emaciated animals or slaughtered animals on the front of the envelopes — all designed to tug at the heart of animal lovers like Linda. There were also a few mail-order catalogs and solicitations from political organizations.

Linda and her husband, Bob, a retired oral surgeon, lived in a large West Akron home, filled with hundreds of foster cats for years.

But a few years ago, Bob had a massive stroke and is now in a nursing home in Toledo. Linda had to downsize to a smaller Akron home and no longer has the same means to be as charitable.

But still, Linda sends small checks to the various charities and admits she doesn’t really keep track of them.

“It’s in my DNA,” she said of wanting to help. “I can’t help it.”

Linda is particularly upset about what she says is the butchering of horses.

In that 17.6 pounds of mail over six days, I counted 11 different pieces of mail from horse rescue organizations. If that weren’t enough, three of those organizations within six days sent Gilliland two different mailings asking for her help.

Gilliland understands that her donations encourage the mail, and are part of the problem.

It creates a vortex of more mail — charities often sell their mailing lists to others in what are sometimes called “sucker lists,” or people who would likely be willing to donate to their cause.

Gilliland is not alone. Over the years, I have written other columns about big-hearted people — often senior citizens — whose generosity has turned into an albatross when they become trapped by so much mail.

Gilliland said she can’t explain why, but the junk mail seemed to quadruple after she moved — and even when she began giving less.

“I just can’t keep up with it,” said Gilliland. “If I skip a day (of checking the mail), it’s insurmountable.”

There are ways to significantly decrease the mail by registering with the Direct Marketing Association, the biggest group of marketers. I will provide that information in an accompanying piece to this column.

Also, for senior citizens and disabled residents living in Summit County, and their caregivers, there’s an even easier route: the Summit County Office of Consumer Affairs has a free service where the office will take the junk mail and personally write to the charities, solicitors and others and register your address with the Direct Marketing Association to cut down on your mail. The office will also help consumers opt-out of credit and insurance offers with the credit reporting agencies.

There are many ways people can find themselves on these mailing lists, from charitable giving to information consumers have filled out for warranty information or contest entries, said Chris Verich, who heads the consumer affairs office.

“There are companies that collect lists and resell them to other companies,” he said. “Then you get deluged with every charity known to man.”

Verich said senior citizens or disabled residents or their caregivers can call the office at 330-643-2879 or contact the office by email at consumeraffairs@summitoh.net to make arrangements. While the Direct Marketing Association charges a small fee ($2 for online registration and $3 for mail registration) to curb junk mail for a period of 10 years, Verich said senior citizens or disabled residents or their caregivers using the county’s service will not be charged a fee.

A helpful pamphlet from the office is also available at www.tinyurl.com/junkmailservice

I have updated the price costs above, per the most up-to-date DMA information and excerpts of the pamphlet are included in an accompanying story for other consumers to utilize to curb junk mail.

Verich said registering with the Direct Marketing Association’s list, and telling individual charities to remove a person from their mailing list should help with most, but not all junk mail. Like robocalls from telemarketers, registering with the federal Do Not Call List (888-382-1222) helps, but there are still spammers who don’t participate with the list. The same thing is likely true with junk mail.

Asked whether charities really comply with curbing the mail, Verich said “the only way to know is if your junk mail amount is starting to slow down. It does seem to have an effect.”

It can take up to 12 weeks to see a slow-down, since a lot of bulk mailers work ahead of time.

Gilliland will be working with the Summit County office to curb her mail.

She said she’d still like to donate to some of the organizations and knows she needs to stop donating to nearly all of them. Verich said the office can instruct the charity not to share her mailing address with others, in an effort to curb her address being sold, though there’s no guarantee.

Gilliland also knows that could still cause her to end up in the same situation she is in now, if it gets out of hand again. She’s working with some friends to help her gather the mail for the Summit County office and to make some decisions about her giving.

Betty Lin-Fisher can be reached at 330-996-3724 or blinfisher@thebeaconjournal.com. Follow her @blinfisherABJ on Twitter or www.facebook.com/BettyLinFisherABJ and see all her stories at www.ohio.com/betty