Mac and Cheese, the River City Food Bank comfort cats

Mac and Cheese, the River City Food Bank comfort cats
August 30, 2011 Betsy Stone

Mac peered out the window after cuddling with a little girl

Losing Mac in the fire made our losses all the more painful. We never realized how Mac, and his missing brother, Cheese, had become part of our program of compassionate relief.

For Eileen and her family, it was a personal loss.  A River City Food Bank volunteer had unexpectedly become a “mom” to a litter of orange tabby kittens.  Eileen’s twin sons selected two and brought them home.  After a dinner table conversation, they were dubbed Mac and Cheese.  Eileen figured that if the growing kitties could be calm in a home with busy adolescent boys, they would be able to handle the sometimes-chaotic food bank environment.

When they were old enough, Eileen acclimated the two young cats by keeping them in her office.  During Mac and Cheese’s first week in residence, one of our regular clients came in.  She’d had a rough life, and could become agitated when her day wasn’t going well.  Eileen could hear things escalating in the other room, so she asked “Doris” to come in to her office.  Doris saw Mac and asked to pick him up.  Eileen encouraged her to do so, but reminded her that the kitty was young and to handle it gently.  Mac might as well have been a baby.  Doris’ demeanor immediately softened.  Crisis averted.

Mac did what he did so often — instinctively went to a frightened child or troubled client, and brought them comfort.

Mac and Cheese became our Comfort Cats.  Mac was the more outgoing, a homebody who liked to be in for the night.  Cheese was a little more independent, and given to sleeping in a crawl space under the house, or cruising around the neighborhood at night.  That habit saved Cheese from the fire, while Mac perished.

When Cheese returned on the Monday after the fire, our spirits lifted.  A vital part of our world before-the-fire was still with us.

Mac and Cheese became a poignant symbol of our mission.  They reminded us that River City Food Bank does more than distribute three-day emergency food supplies.  We address the humanity of our clients with compassion.  We respect their dignity.  We show them that someone cares.

From Mac’s loss, we learned how popular the kitties were to our clients, volunteers and the general public.  Cheese’s return was big news covered by the Sacramento Bee and Channel 40.  (Unfortunately, Cheese skeedaddled before his TV closeup, leaving Eileen to comment as his spokesperson.)

A well known Santa Fe artist (and cat lover), Melinda K. Hall, was moved by the story and painted a portrait of Mac.  The painting will become a warm and welcoming addition to a children’s corner in our new building when it is completed.

We plan to bring back kitties as a part of our vital program of compassionate relief in our permanent location.  Be sure to join us on Facebook so you can participate in suggesting names when the time comes.

Cheese heads to his new home

Chris Platz, who provided Cheese with a comfy, permanent home, reports that Mac’s brother has adjusted well (but he’s now living the safe life of an “indoor” cat).

Next:  the day-to-day challenges of resuming our mission with our scrappy street operation

Posted by @philanthrophile, also known as Betsy Stone

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