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'Can Queen' spending retirement saving Muskegon County's animal shelters

Fruitport's Jackie Overkamp loves animals. She's spent months collecting and returning cans so she can donate money to shelters struggling because of the pandemic.

MUSKEGON TOWNSHIP, Mich. — It hasn't been an easy year for Faithful to Felines. The no-kill animal shelter on Hall Road makes most of its money through bingo games, which up until recently had been shut down because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

To make matters worse, the shelter's roof is leaking after being replaced just six years ago.

"We’ve had the people back to try to get it fixed, but it’s a flat roof, which are really hard to repair," said Faithful to Felines board president Janie Duca.

Faithful to Felines isn't alone. Many shelters are struggling to make ends meet and because of the pandemic, they've been open by appointment only for adoption services.

Muskegon County's shelters have an ally in Jackie Overkamp. The retired Muskegon native, who now lives in Fruitport, has been spending a lot of time volunteering for organizations like Faithful to Felines, Heaven Can Wait, The Noah Project, Pound Buddies, and Petco.

"They need help," Overkamp said, fighting away tears.

She put the call out on social media, asking her neighbors to donate returnable cans and bottles to the cause.

"I post it on informed sites explaining that I’m looking for returnables in the area and if people are interested for me to pick them up, PM me your address, and if the roads are clear I’ll be there," she said.

She fills up the back of her Jeep Liberty and takes the cans and bottles to Meijer, where she gets to work returning each and every one of them by hand.

"I go at 6 in the morning. I fill my Jeep and I do one or two loads at least," she said.

On New Year's Day, Overkamp presented Faithful to Felines with a check for $2,330. That's the equivalent of 23,300 cans and bottles that Overkamp returned over several months.

"We just couldn’t believe it, that we collected that much," Duca said. "Very, very thankful to everybody who has helped with it and donated."

Overkamp has also volunteered to return the cans and bottles that people have donated to The Noah Project. Their director, Mashele Garrett Arndt, recently told her she's returned $7,450 worth of cans and bottles that have helped the shelter "keep the lights on."

Michele Mortenson from Heaven Can Wait in Norton Shores says Overkamp is a part of their "can warriors," who have done "very well" in collecting cans for them.

In 2020, Overkamp provided 22 transports for spay and neuter procedures. She says she's happy to do all of it. 

"You’re helping the kitties. You’re helping the voiceless that can’t help themselves," she said.

"Just makes you feel good that you can help. I can’t do much. I’m retired. I don’t get a lot. So this is what I can do. My time? I don’t care. It gives me something to do. I’ll keep doing it."

Thanks to those who have helped Faithful to Felines, their outlook going forward is much more positive. However, they still have obstacles to overcome, like fixing their roof and opening back up to the public once the pandemic is under control.

Duca says people who want to help Faithful to Felines can make a donation, or sponsor one of their rooms. She says another one of the best ways to help is to make sure your pets are spayed or neutered.

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