HOW POOPSWA CAME TO BE
By Tangea Tansley
Co-founder of POOPSWA
Like many successful ventures, POOPSWA had its genesis at a social gathering. For many years, my husband Richard and I held end-of-year ‘fundraiser’ parties where we provided food and drink for around sixty or so friends . These friends in turn contributed a few dollars towards our choice of charity for that year, which was usually one of the animal shelters.
One year we decided it would be good if our fundraiser could include a ‘people angle’. Although there were several organisations that fitted the brief of people and animals, Guide Dogs being one , I was thinking of something less prominent where our small donation would really be felt.
It was at a dinner party in the last months of 2009 when we brought up the subject and a few ideas and suggestions bounced around the table until one guest said:
“I heard part of an interview on ABC radio…and I think it was an organisation that helped both pets and people. Perhaps that’s something you could look into?”
My search eventually led me to Pets of Older Persons in NSW. The charity itself sounded perfect, but I wanted the funds to remain in Western Australia and wondered whether they had a WA chapter. Somehow I unearthed the email address of POOPS founder Kath Gazzard, who worked at St Vincent’s Hospital in Sydney. Kath had started POOPS in response to the Aged Care Assessment Team’s frustrations when elderly people who needed to be hospitalised refused to leave their pets.
Kath responded to my email instantly. No, she wrote, NSW was the only POOPS, but there was nothing to stop me starting one in Perth.
Very disappointed and a little shell-shocked by her statement given all my commitments, I felt starting a chapter in Perth was definitely not something I had time to take on. But Kath didn’t let up. So at our party a couple of months later I asked if anyone would be interested in volunteering if such an association were to start in WA. About a dozen family and friends put their names on a list. Meanwhile we asked the local RSPCA to hold that year’s donation in trust for POOPS pending our potential partnership.
Kath sent me reams of forms and statistics, gave me permission to use a WA slash across the NSW brochure and tried to start negotiations between the two RSPCA branches.
In April 2010 we gave talks on the radio, presentations to all the major hospitals, many senior citizens groups, bowling clubs and community centres. That year we were also successful in our first application for a grant from the City of South Perth for $1000. To receive the grant we needed a business bank account, which meant we also needed a committee. Rapidly my family agreed to become committee members.
It was in April also that I first spoke to Kath. She called to tell me she was dying with only months to live. It was a great shock. I am no stranger to death and we had never met, but she was one of the most amazing people I have been privileged to know. She was passionate about POOPS and thrilled at the idea of another chapter in WA. I vowed then and there I would do all in my power to make POOPSWA work.
Despite many discussions and meetings and a lot of goodwill, POOPS never did become part of the RSPCA. The insurance umbrella a key element of the partnership always seemed to be just around the corner. In the end it was another friend in October 2010 who forced the issue:
“Why don’t we go ahead and get our own insurance. And then go it alone?”
So we did.
A team of wonderful and talented people – too many to name – gave willingly of their time and skill to set up a website and work on POOPS branding, including our very own brochure and posters. Plus we continued to spread the word on radio, through community newspapers and presentations to other groups. We were off and running!
If you’ve read this far, it will be clear that POOPSWA did indeed involve a long birthing process and it took a great deal of work from some terrific volunteers to make it happen.
That nearly ten years later, POOPSWA is not only alive, but continuing to grow and thrive would have given Kath immense happiness. Indeed, I’m convinced she knows anyway.
From a personal perspective, I have met some of the most remarkable, hard-working and unselfish people on earth through my own POOPS journey. My heartfelt thanks to you all.