Retired teacher providing help for man's best friend
Arlene Krajnik admits she never used to be much of a pet lover.
But these days, the retired Ringgold High School teacher is spending her time as a volunteer to save the lives of pets in the Mid-Mon Valley.
And she is the proud owner of a beloved cat, Meesie.
Krajnik, of Belle Vernon, is a volunteer for H.E.L.P. Animals Inc. (Health Educate Love Project), a non-profit organization based in Orange City, Fla., that supplies oxygen masks used in search and rescue efforts by firefighters and other emergency personnel.
She said she was inspired to get involved with fund-raising for the pet oxygen masks after reading a newspaper article. A former student working as a veterinarian in Philadelphia told her about HELP Animals Inc. and, within a short time, Krajnik, along with the help of family members, had raised enough money to buy six kits to donate to Mon Valley Emergency Medical Services in Monessen.
Krajnik said each kit costs $55, which includes a small, medium and large oxygen mask and instructions.
To date, Krajnik and her supporters also have donated two kits each to the Rostraver, Monongahela, Belle Vernon and North Belle Vernon fire departments.
"We don't go door-to-door," Krajnik said.
"We just spread the word and buy the kits as we can," she added.
To date, HELP Animals Inc. has distributed more than 5,000 mask sets and over 160 large K-9 masks throughout the country, including Alaska and Hawaii, and several cities in Canada and Europe. The masks are supplied solely through monetary donations.
Krajnik said she has grown to become a pet lover thanks to her daughter, Kristen Michaels.
While she was a math teacher at Ringgold, she said her students would often participate in projects to help the Washington Area Humane Society in Eighty Four.
She said it's her hope that with the use of the oxygen masks, first-responders will have the ability to also help save the lives of precious pets, too.
"I know that many people feel like their pets are part of their family," Krajnik said.
Krajnik said she would like to raise enough money to supply at least two to four masks to all of the local ambulance and fire departments in the Mid-Mon Valley.
(For information about HELP Animals Inc., call (386)775-4966, or go to www.helpanimalsinc.org.)