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Edna Nute never had children of her own, but the former teacher nurtured the students who passed through her classroom.
When she retired, she directed all the love and affection that she had bestowed on hundreds of children toward the real loves of her life–cats.
In 1988 she founded Feisty Acres, a no-kill cat rescue center located between Bronson and Williston and in 1995 incorporated it.
Four years ago, the center was doing well and Nute, the CEO of the non-profit, was overseeing 12 dedicated volunteers who helped her look after more than 160 cats, many of whom were special-needs.
But then Nute began suffering some health issues and had to find someone else to handle the day-to-day operations and maintenance of the rescue center.
During one of her hospitalizations, those caretakers took advantage of their situation and before she knew what had happened, Nute was thousands of dollars in debt, her credit ruined and all of Feisty Acres' funds were depleted.
Now 73, Nute is paying for all the rescue's expenses out of her retirement and Social Security and, coupled with her own living needs, the funds are falling short.
Volunteers have dropped off by more than 50 percent, and it is all the remaining help can do to attend to the 100 cats who call the 10-acre center home.
Longtime supporter and volunteer Chris Howard is with Nute almost daily and sees the struggle – financial and emotional – that has taken over her friend's life.
"It takes about $1,500 a month to operate. She [Nute] cannot continue to pay for Feisty Acres out of her monthly income," Howard said. "We have to get back on track, but we need help."
Because of the lack of funds, the center can no longer accept cats. This distresses Nute who worries about the felines she can no longer help.
Volunteers, supplies and funds are all in short supply and the center is in dire need of it all–in abundant supply.
Everything from paper goods to food and litter is appreciated, but right now the rescue is looking for people who can donate time.
Volunteers not only clean litter boxes and feed the felines, they also attend to those that are ill or just need some love and affection.
Additionally, the maintenance on the property's buildings is a never-ending job.
"We are reforming our board of directors," Howard said. "We really want to have an open house but we need volunteers who will come out and help us clean and ready the property for visitors."
To that end, Feisty Acres is looking for a general contractor and laborers who are willing to donate their time to assess what it will take and cost to get the facility in top-notch shape.
"Everything has to be pro bono," said Shelley Stanley, another volunteer who drives here from Leesburg. "There's no money to pay anyone right now."
The facility has a lawnmower, but it's broken and therefore, even the grass can't be mowed.
"It's named after my cat, Feisty – a stubby tailed Manx," Nute said. "Until him, I'd never felt loved. This place is here in his honor."
Nute said no person will ever own the 10-acre tract and it will always be a home for her furry friends.
"We save cats," Howard said, "and cats save lives."
If you are interested in either volunteering at the cat rescue or donating any talents or supplies, contact Howard at 352-283-4426.