A pandemic couldn’t stop a group of local residents from growing their nonprofit.
Established in 2010, Strong Island Animal Rescue is a 501c3 that focuses on answering local calls regarding injured, abused and neglected animals.
“We started out with cats and dogs, and then we saw a need for wildlife rescue,” said vice president of the rescue Erica Kutzing.
Just last week, president of Strong Island Animal Rescue Frankie Floridia, of Port Jefferson Station, helped save a raccoon in Bohemia that was trapped in a car grill, after the driver hit it and got stuck.
Within minutes, Floridia and other volunteers safely removed the animal, who is expected to make a full recovery.
“We’re available 24, seven days a week for abandoned and abused animals,” he said. “We’re a local rescue that likes to give back to the community and we’re always here for everybody. That’s the way it’s been, and we’d like to keep it that way.”
Whether it’s a trapped raccoon, a deer with a paint can stuck on its head, a mother cat and her kittens found in a shed or an abused puppy left on the side of a road, Strong Island has dedicated their lives to helping animals.
Kutzing, of Sound Beach, has more than two decades of animal rescue and animal medicine experience.
“I think back to when I was 12-year-old little girl who started out more than 22 years ago,” she said. “And I don’t think I ever expected this to actually happen. It was always a dream, but seeing it come to fruition has been like an out of body experience — even though we’re doing it during a pandemic.”
Floridia said that the pandemic has made it hard for fundraising efforts, since before the lock downs they were able to hold events.
“It’s been a tough year for us, not having those events that we have usually every other month,” he said. “Fundraising is all based online now, and thank goodness for that, but we can’t wait to get back to having an event in the place and being able to do stuff like we did before.”
And just this month, they were gifted one generous donation — a new property.
Neighbors of Floridia, Valerie Rosini and Alan Haas, had owned a home in the area that they knew would help the group out.
Right now, the location is under wraps while they clean up the space, but Floridia said he plans on using the three-acre property as a clubhouse and meeting space for their dozens of volunteers.
Surrounded by woods, wildlife roams the backyard, making it the perfect spot for animals to feel safe, while animal lovers plan their next move.
“He wants to do something good,” Rosini said. “These guys don’t even take a salary.”
The couple said they could have sold the massive property to developers but knew that the cottage and woods surrounding it are special. If they cleared the area, birds, deer and other wildlife could have lost their home. When Rosini sold the spot to the volunteers, it became a new partnership and friendship of neighbors helping neighbors.
“Alan’s been coming down, Val’s been helping out the rescue … so it’s not only getting them motivated to be part of the rescue, as well,” Floridia said. “We’re all helping each other and we’re saving animals.”
Kutzing said the property will give them the ability to turn the space into an actual meeting space, instead of utilizing their homes.
“Eventually we’ll be able to turn this into our dream,” she said.
And the extra room will be helpful as the team gears toward their busy season — baby season.
To keep doing what they’re doing, Strong Island is always looking for the public’s help in raising funds and donations.
“We’ve always been the type of group that gives to the community,” he said. “And hopefully, it’ll come back.”