Our Volunteer Program
JILL’S NEXT DOOR FELINE ALLIANCE PROGRAM
CAT COLONY FEEDER & FOSTER PARENT
Jill Merjeski is a long-standing pet rescue advocate and owner of Jill’s Next Door Dog Walking & Pet Services, LLC. Due to Florida’s warm climate, Palm Beach County is absolutely inundated with cat colonies that need care. She began her rescue efforts in 2016 by feeding local cat colonies During this time, she undertook fostering kittens with Kitty Karma of Delray. Out of the 9 kittens fostered, 3 flew up north to forever families, 3 found local homes, and Jill adopted the last 3. After a year of fostering with Kitty Karma, she decided to impact the feline community on a deeper level and broaden her rescuing efforts by creating alliances with several local animal rescues in Palm Beach County, Florida. In 2020, Jill became a certified Trap, Neutered, and Release Professional through the Animal Rescue Professionals Association.
FOSTERING AND STUDYING CAT CARE
In 2017 and 2018, Jill continued feeding her cat colonies and also increased her feline knowledge base. She completed several online cat care classes, specializations, and certifications through Pet Sitters International (PSI) while fostering through Florida’s Forgotten Felines, Inc. In 2 years, Jill fostered and aided in adoption of over 50 kitties while working on her own cat rescue alliance program.
JILL’S NEXT DOOR FELINE ALLIANCE PROGRAM
In 2019, Jill was eager to expand her cat community outreach and founded Jill’s Next Door Feline Alliance Program (FAP). FAP is a self-funded, advocacy and feline adoption program created as an alliance with local pet rescues around Broward and Palm Beach Counties, Florida. FAP has worked with Florida’s Forgotten Felines, iHeart Animals, Kitty Karma of Delray, Animal Rescue Force, among others; aligning its goals with their feline saving and adoption endeavors. Despite the pandemic of 2020, her efforts have only grown stronger due to most rescues being closed. Jill is currently fostering 8 kittens and cats and promoting their adoption through multiple digital platforms. Although no one was able to predict this pandemic, Pet Sitters International’s Disaster Planning for Professional Pet Sitters certification certainly helped Jill with her preparedness and confidence. In late 2020, Jill became a certified foster home and parent through the Animal Rescue Professionals Association.
Speaking of disaster planning, Jill’s favorite story is from the Florida hurricane of 2019 when she was evacuated from her home with a mama cat and 3 newborn babies. She packed them all up, drove 3 hours to safety, and cared for them in a hotel around the clock for 6 days until it was safe to return home. She found all 3 babies homes, and reunited the strayed mama cat with her original owner!
ONLINE PET ADOPTION ADVOCACY
Today, Jill’s Next Door Feline Alliance Program has aided and served hundreds of rescue animals, and Jill has fostered over 100+ felines and counting as of May 2020! She is bringing adoption and rescue awareness through engaging FAP social media accounts she has created. Jill has a large following on her social media platforms and takes beautiful pictures and videos of her fostering experience, These online platforms connected forever families with FAP kittens, in addition, has reunited lost cats with their original owners! Jill is also a member of several pet rescue Facebook pages, offering fostering and help when needed through the community. Her online adoption efforts tripled since the pandemic began. Please click on the below to follow the link:
PET ADOPTION ADVOCACY BLOG
Jill also writes blogs about the importance of pet rescue that can be found here.
HOME KITTEN NURSERY
Since the number of Jill’s successful fosters and adoptions continued to climb, Jill designed a home nursery strictly dedicated to foster kitties. The nursery includes: wall cat mazes, pack and plays, playpens, toys, in addition to supplies for bottle feeding babies (heat lamps, heating pads, medicine, weight scales, etc).
Fostering kitties is a 24 hour a day, 365 days a year job. Jill needed some help with duties such as: socialization, medical care, raising awareness, adoption connections, advocacy and nursery clean up. Jill onboarded a wonderful volunteer, Mandy Plato, also a rescue advocate, to help aid FAP’s efforts. Mandy often spends hours in FAP’s home nursery interacting and socializing kittens, increasing their adoption probability. Our second volunteer is Tony Sakal, a Trap, Neuter, & Release (TNR) trapper and local cat feeder. We call on Tony when FAP receives calls of concern from the community regarding feral cats and kittens.Tony is dedicated to trapping cats/kittens for population control, providing FAP with medical care when needed, preparing them for adoption or releasing them back to their colony. You can meet Mandy and Tony here.
HELPING RESCUES UPDATE THEIR BUSINESS MODEL
FAP works very closely with our alliance Florida’s Forgotten Felines (FFF). FFF is an organization, dedicated to feeding and caring for over 850 cats in over 70 colonies in southern Palm Beach County. However, FFF was in desperate need of an updated website and business model to raise awareness and to increase donations. In addition to fostering for them, Jill also provided her professional services pro bono to build and design an engaging website found here: Florida’s Forgotten Felines, and redesigned their logo, as well. Jill took professional grade photos of FFF in action and included them on their website. Jill has also updated their out-of-date business model, created and now maintains FFF social media accounts (Instagram https://www.instagram.com/floridasforgottenfelines/, Twitter, Google My Business, etc) and developed a hiring system listed on multiple platforms to find qualified cat feeders to keep FFF thriving.
FUNDRAISING FOR A CATIO FOR UNADOPTABLE CATS
Most recently, Jill and her team member Tony Sakal have founded a residential cat farm in Loxahatchee, FL. FAP raised over $2,000 to build a farm catio (cat patio) shelter for disabled, elderly, or unadoptable cats, found through FAP. The catio serves to protect these innocent souls from predators whilst providing standard cat and medical care. On May 11, 2020, Jill broke ground for the catio launch and designed a dedication plaque to honor our generous catio donors. Jill is also placing 3 of her current fosters on the farm as barn cats–as they are too feral for adoption.
JILL’S PET CARE COMPANY GIVES BACK
Since FAP is self funded, a percentage of proceeds earned from Jill’s Next Door Dog Walking & Pet Services, LLC is dedicated to caring for fosters and colony kitties (food, supplies, and monetary donations).
ANIMAL RESCUE ADOPTION EVENTS & SPONSORSHIPS
Jill’s Next Door Dog Walking & Pet Services, LLC has sponsored and volunteered at local pet rescue events held annually in Palm Beach County. Namely, volunteering with Dezzy’s Second Chance Animal Rescue’s adoption event in 2017 and acting as a company sponsor for their Saint PETrick’s Day Parade in 2018. In 2020, we registered to sponsor additional events that have since been cancelled due to the pandemic–which is why we are strengthening our efforts to raise pet adoption awareness online.
“Jill has been incredibly generous helping me with FFF. I spend 7 hours a day cat feeding and do not have resources to make a website for my charity, let alone social media. I’ve seen an improvement in donations since the website and social media has been launched! I now also have a protective catio to place my elderly cats that I find on my feeding routes. I can’t thank Jill enough for dedicating her time out of the kindness of her heart to help me.” —Susan Carmichael, Founder, Florida’s Forgotten Felines “Jill was a terrific foster! The kittens turned around and thrived with her love and expert care! I highly recommend her services.” —Lori Finkel, President, Kitty Karma “I have a favorite quote by Paul Oxton. It states “There may be days when I can’t help an animal in need, but the day will never come that I won’t try.” Jill Merjeski is the epitome of this quote. She tirelessly advocates for the betterment of animals in Palm Beach County and I am incredibly proud to know her.” —Angela Price, Foster and Intake Manager for Wonder Paws Rescue “I have known Jill for almost 3 years now. The first time I met her was to actually bring her a litter of kittens that needed fostering. For 9 months, Jill had brought the kittens in for their weekly check ups, followed all the proper processes and ultimately did what was best for them. In the end, it worked out especially as a testament to who she is. A hard working, animal loving and caring person. To this day she continues to take in kitties who need help, often spending her own money and going above and beyond the original requirements. So from the bottom of my heart, “thank you Jill!” -Tony Sakal, TNR Trapper and Cat Feeder for Jill’s Next Door Feline Alliance Program and FFF “iHeart Animal Rescue and Animal Rescue Force (ARF) of S. FL partnered this year to save 5 orphan kittens and nursing Mom with 3 in her litter with Jill’s Next Door Feline Alliance Program. Sadly, we lost an orphan immediately. After thriving for 6 weeks we sadly lost Mom (whom we named Anna) and 2 of her original litter to feline distemper which had initially gone undetected, as none were symptomatic. Jill and I worked for 12 hours straight providing fluids, medicine, and warmth to the remaining kittens. She set up a nursery with heating pads, soft bedding and lots of obstacles for the kittens to strengthen their motor skills. Jill raised the survivors with supreme care and nourishment, even putting on nature shows to entertain the group. She showered them attention, affection, and socialization–grooming them for their forever homes. This has been an emotional case and she has handled it like a champ—never wavering in their fight for survival. I feel that if it weren’t for her dedication and compassion for this family we may have suffered more loss. We are truly grateful she accepted this challenge and are here to support her caring for the remaining litter. Jill even purchased a tree and a plaque dedicated to Anna, the generous giving tree mom that succumbed to distemper a few weeks after giving birth. Thank you, Jill, for all your hard work. You are truly an asset to the Rescue community.” -Brandy Martin Everington, Volunteer and Pet Rescue Advocate (iHeart AR, and ARF)
ANIMAL RESCUE AWARDS AND RECOGNITION:
PET SITTERS INTERNATIONAL (PSI) NAMES 2020 PET ADOPTION ADVOCATE OF THE YEAR
The association recognizes Jill Merjeski, owner of Jill’s Next Door Dog Walking & Pet Services, LLC, in Delray Beach, Florida, for her efforts to help feral cats and promote local pet adoptions.
INTERNATIONAL BOARDING & PET SERVICES ASSOCIATION NAMES PETATARIAN OF THE YEAR 2020
IBPSA names Jill Merjeski, of Jill’s Next Door Dog Walking and Pet Services, LLC, Petatarian of the Year. Jill and her team at her rescue alliance, JND Feline Alliance Program, recognizes her outstanding efforts in public service initiatives who contribute to the improvement of animal welfare.
Susan Carmichael, Founder of Florida’s Forgotten Felines: 561-641-5717. Please visit our News and Awards page!
Jill’s Next Door is always accepting volunteers for the JND Feline Alliance Program to help socialize, care, and increase adoption odds for feral cats and kittens. Please email [email protected] and www.felineallianceprogram (still in the works) for more information.