Dellia Holodenschi is the creator and volunteer director for the Lucky Paws Foundation. Travelling throughout the Caribbean for over 15 years in her position as a Director for prestigious luxury brands of perfumes and cosmetics, Dellia was deeply troubled to see the suffering of the stray animals, a common denominator on all of the islands. After many sleepless nights, she came to the realization that these tormented creatures were just part of the landscape and the sad fact was that very few people cared.
After conducting a tremendous amount of research, and receiving much needed guidance from many animal welfare organizations, she established the Cat Café program in 2007. This no-kill community cat colony caretaking program humanely manages the islands feral, stray and abandoned cats through the proven and effective Trap-Neuter-Return–Maintain (TNRM) method of overpopulation control. The Cat Café program, which maintains more than 25 feeding stations across St. Thomas, is the principal program of the Lucky Paws Foundation.
In an effort to further her goal at eradicating the surplus animals being born and assist those in financial need in the community, Dellia, along with fellow animal welfare advocate Jim Hines, founded SNIP (Spay/Neuter Island Pets) in 2010. SNIP is an organization that offers financial assistance to individuals who cannot afford the cost of spaying and neutering their pets. Every month SNIP distributes the funds needed to cover the cost of veterinary bills in an effort to support their no-kill mission.
Jim’s passion for ending animal suffering and his desire to stop the killing of healthy and adoptable pets was the driving force in bringing to fruition the first ever mass Spay/Neuter event in St. Thomas in October 2010.
Dellia and Jim’s efforts to eliminate the high rate of euthanasia through the Cat Café and SNIP programs have been widely recognized and are slowly becoming the preferred and most efficient models used to fight the overpopulation in other parts of the Caribbean including: Puerto Rico, St. Maarten, Dominican Republic, Antigua, Barbuda, Jamaica, Vieques and St Croix.
Jason Robbins is publisher of The Virgin Islands Daily News and its affiliated publications, including Island Trader and www.virginislandsdailynews.com. He has been in that role, overseeing all business and journalism operations, since 2007. Robbins came to the Virgin Islands in 1999 when he joined the newspaper staff as an editor. His work at The Daily News has been honored with over two dozen national awards, including the American Bar Association Silver Gavel and seven national Associated Press Media Editors Awards for Public Service. Robbins previously worked for Hearst Corp. and Gannett Co. at media companies in Texas and Florida. A native of Texas, he holds a bachelor’s degree from Texas A&M University, where he was an honors student, and a certificate in organization development from the Georgetown University Center for Professional Education. In the Virgin Islands, he has worked with a number of community causes and served on the board of Beacon Schools of the Virgin Islands, Caribbean Islands Education Foundation, other local education and community outreach programs and the Anglican-Episcopal Church.
Animal welfare has been an issue that Claudia has championed for many years. She served as a member of the board of directors of the Humane Society of St Thomas beginning in the late 1980’s and over a period of 10 years, twice served as board president. Euthanization statistics presented at monthly board meetings were heartbreaking. Claudia believed then, as well as now, that it’s totally unacceptable to destroy healthy, happy, adoptable animals just because there is no space at the Shelter or not enough homes to place them in.
While serving on the board Claudia implemented the distribution of no-cost spay/neuter certificates during National Spay/Neuter Week. These vouchers were distributed throughout the community to any pet owner, no questions asked. The focus was on reducing the intake into the Shelter and the stress that employees lived with on a daily basis in having to make the senseless decision of picking who lives and who dies. The results of this campaign were tracked for the two years following the voucher program and intake into the Shelter dropped by over 25%.
In 2001 Claudia and her husband relocated to Tampa, Florida for a period of 10 years and upon her return she quickly joined forces with long-time friend, Dellia Holodenschi, to help support the mission of the Lucky Paws Foundation. Peace and conflict resolution is an initiative that many of our community organizations are focusing on and Claudia believes the mission of Lucky Paws has a direct relationship to these initiatives. She states that “only when we learn to live in harmony with our environment and all creatures we share the Islands with will we have peace.”
Since buying their first home in the early 1980’s Claudia and husband, Al, have been “parents” to 5 Dalmatians, 2 English Mastiffs, a Great Dane and a Rottweiler. In 2011 the LaBordes added a cat café to their property and reached out to abandoned community cats – 13 to be exact. Today they enjoy a whole new relationship with their feline baker’s dozen.
Sharon Hupprich and her husband arrived on St. Thomas in July 1981 with two Boston rescue cats. They are passionate animal lovers and have saved hundreds of animals over their years on St. Thomas as well as in the Boston area. Sharon was a Boston hospital administrator until she could no longer face another winter in New England so off they went to live their dream in the VI. Sharon went to work for the real estate company who sold them their home and the rest is history. Until hurricane Marilyn visited and destroyed their home and the company closed in 1995. So, lemons to lemonade and they rebuilt their house and Sharon opened Calypso Realty in 1996 where she is happily selling and listing properties to this day! All through the years Sharon (and Fred) have passionately advocated for the homeless animals of St. Thomas and have trapped, neutered and spayed more cats than they can count, raised money, donated money, transported animals to the States for adoption, and have helped build awareness that we must have a massive Neuter/Spay program to help become a no-kill community. Sharon is thrilled that Lucky Paws asked her to join the Board and her intention is to build a lasting bond between Lucky Paws and St. Thomas Humane Society for the betterment of all the animals of the islands. In the meantime, expect Sharon to call on you to help with programs and to donate funds for our programs!