Circle of Friends Animal Shelter is a pet project of seniors

Longtime Circle of Friends Animal Shelter volunteer Brad Thorson spends time with Xana Snack Princess, who later was adopted. (Photo: Circle of Friends Animal Shelter)

Circle of Friends Animal Shelter’s mission has a heart for seniors.

“Seniors are a priority. We want to make sure that those who have been in the community for a long time are being taken care of, make sure anyone who is elderly gets the support they need,” said Lauralee Tupa, Circle of Friends Animal Shelter’s CEO.

That support comes in the form of donating pet food to Hope Food Pantry so it is available to seniors and others who need it, pairing senior animals with senior shelter pets, and delivery of pet food to seniors' homes through a partnership with the Grand Forks Senior Center.

“Anyone who receives Meals on Wheels in Grand Forks and East Grand Forks can receive pet food from us,” said Kimmie McGuire, Circle of Friends Animal Shelter community outreach manager.

The Grand Forks shelter developed the partnership with the senior center after research showed one of the reasons seniors were surrendering their pets is because it is difficult for them to get to a store to buy food for the animals.


Before the coronavirus pandemic, volunteers who delivered the pet food often had long conversations with the owners, McGuire said. Because face-to-face contact is not safe during the coronavirus pandemic, she instead makes telephone calls in addition to the non-contact pet food deliveries, which typically are made on Saturdays.

“I call and see how they’re doing and how their pets are doing,” McGuire said. ”It’s really important that we connect with them for life and make sure the pets stay with their families.”

For their part, seniors contribute back to the Circle of Friends through their volunteer work, Tupa said. Seniors socialize animals through visits to the center, write thank-you notes to people who have donated to the shelter and hang shelter-related posters in area businesses.

“Age isn’t a limit for what they can do at the shelter. Whatever they have experience in, and are comfortable with, we have needs for, Tupa said. “They do laundry. They make adoption packets. They make packets for Hope Food Pantry."

Meanwhile, seniors also volunteer to foster cats and kittens. Because most seniors are retired, they are available to spend more time with the foster animals than fosters who are working.

“They have that in-home time. Cats that are frightened get that consistency,” Tupa said.

Another volunteer opportunity for seniors take is to make tie blankets for the pets, said Tupa, noting that the shelter can’t accept used blankets because of safety concerns with COVID.

“That’s really huge. That helps a lot,” she said.


Seniors with craft-making skills have donated items, such as aprons, to the shelter. The shelter sells the items and uses the proceeds to buy food and pet supplies.

The shelter appreciates any time and talents seniors can share, Tupa said..

"We’re a very welcoming environment for them. It’s a place they’re going to feel appreciated because we’re excited to have them come,” she said.

Information on how to donate or volunteer for Circle of Friends Animal Shelter:

Phone: (701 )775-3732, on the website at: or on the shelter’s Facebook page at:

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Senior citizens reach out to a Circle of Friends Animal Shelter dog. (Photo: Circle of Friends)

Ann is a journalism veteran with nearly 40 years of reporting and editing experiences on a variety of topics including agriculture and business. Story ideas or questions can be sent to Ann by email at: or phone at: 218-779-8093.
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