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Coffee House at The Oaks to benefit homeless cats

AGAWAM With a large number of feral and homeless cats in the area and not enough people to capture them, find homes for them or trap them to be spayed or neutered, Agawam Friends of Homeless Cats was formed to help. A non-profit organization, Agawam Friends of Homeless Cats (AFHC) hosts periodic fundraisers to benefit feral, lost, homeless or abandoned cats and kittens as well as groups and individuals who care for and rescue felines. Craft fairs and donations have maintained a minimal bank balance, but president Kathy S. Shepard and vice president Maureen C. Fredey wanted to try a different kind of benefit. Shepard approached Thomas L. and Thomas S. Sophinos, owners of The Oaks banquet house in Agawam, knowing them to be cat lovers, to see if they could offer a room for a cat benefit. The answer was affirmative but bittersweet. Shepard learned that the owners were retiring and The Oaks would close by the end of 2009. "My idea to have a night of folk music originated when Mary Travers of Peter, Paul and Mary passed away in September 2009. Tom S. Sophinos, the son, compared my idea to the concept of a coffee house with an open microphone." The Charlie Galvin Band will be the lead performers, and they have generously offered the use of their sound equipment for the other performers to share. There will be approximately 12 performers, but some of them will have other musicians to accompany them. What's The Buzz, a trio that includes Scott Thomson, music teacher at Agawam Junior High School and Buzz and Nancy Gagne will perform, as will Verne McArthur, who performs and leads community sings, and David Tivoli, who learned to play in the '60s listening to Bob Dylan, Judy Collins, Pete Seeger and several well-known artists of the times. Singer-songwriter Lisa Martin has showcased her unique blend of folk, rock and country music, locally, regionally and in parts of the Midwest over the past 10 years. Many other artists will perform, including Denny Marr, Al Rosatti, Mike Hogan, Corlene Roberts, Tom Shepard, Sande Linder and more. AFHC cares for feral and homeless cats by providing food, water and, wherever possible, shelter for the cats. More volunteers are needed, and towns need shelters for these felines. More veterinarians who will work with volunteer groups are also in short supply. "Our motivation to help cats is our complete respect for them," Shepard said. "Whether in pain, afraid, starving or otherwise suffering, cats maintain a dignity not unlike the statuesque stance of a buck. They are mysterious, yet playful, loyal yet somewhat aloof, but when they love a person, it is forever, and when their human friends are sad, they always come near to comfort. Even those living outdoors have subtle ways of communicating, like allowing a caregiver a view of them, quick as a wink, if the food has been late in being delivered or if something else is wrong." People can help by attending the benefit at The Oaks on Dec. 4 from 7 to 10:30 p.m. or by sending a donation to United Bank under Agawam Friends of Homeless Cats, 1325 Springfield S., Feeding Hills, MA 01030, Attn: Gina Fusick.

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