Panama City woman who has spent $24K helping stray cats gets nationwide aid after sharing story

·7 min read

PANAMA CITY — In a span of a week, Street Cat Society Founder Molly Grady said her life has been forever changed.

After going public about the ups and downs of running her cat rescue nonprofit in an article published in The News Herald, Grady has received an outpouring of support and donations from around the country.

From donations and new volunteers to even a web designer, Grady said it has all been amazing seeing what has come from sharing her story. She said she could not believe the number of comments, reactions and shares she received.

Panama City: A Panama City boat operator is salty over St. Andrews cats. Traps might soon be set to remove them

More: Panama City animal lover seeking purrfect spot to open area's first cat cafe

Molly Grady, founder of the Street Cat Society, checks on her cat colonies around Panama City on Jan. 5.
Molly Grady, founder of the Street Cat Society, checks on her cat colonies around Panama City on Jan. 5.

“I was dumbfounded at the response,” Grady said. “I was just amazed there's so many people out there that care and want to help.”

Street Cat Society’s marketing volunteer, Melinda May, said she is happy to see Grady get the support and love she deserves after she has been taking care of these cats for years. May joined the nonprofit after meeting Grady where she works and has been helping with engagement on social media platforms.

“I shared (the previous article) across some of the local groups that I know of that are animal lovers or just local groups,” May said. “I opened my computer again later that night and I saw, I think it was 150 comments and 150 shares, or something crazy like that. And I was just blown away. That tells you that there is definitely a love for cats first of all, in the area. And that Molly has such a good story.”

Where It Started: A Panama City woman has spent nearly $24,000 to help stray cats. Now she's seeking aid

Cats cause drama in PC: A Panama City boat operator is salty over St. Andrews cats. Traps might soon be set to remove them

History of Street Cat Society

In an interview last week, Grady discussed how she started her nonprofit nearly four years ago after seeing a surplus of feral and sick cats throughout the city when she moved back after 35 years. Little by little, she got to work doing whatever she could to help the colonies she discovered, while getting businesses' permission.

Molly Grady, founder of the Street Cat Society, checks on her cat colonies around Panama City on Jan. 5.
Molly Grady, founder of the Street Cat Society, checks on her cat colonies around Panama City on Jan. 5.

“There's not enough homes for all these cats,” Grady said last week. “I started making them comfortable on-site, providing them shelter, food and water, feeding them consistently, getting them fixed if they're sick or injured, I get them to the vet.”

This turned into Grady dedicating every single one of her mornings to feeding almost 100 cats before work and spending upwards of $24,000 per year on food and medical bills, not including TNR (trap-neuter-return). She would build every structure by herself with recycled materials, while giving love and a name to each cat she came across.

Despite the financial burden weighing on her, Grady stressed that saving and helping the cats was her main mission.

“Without thinking about it, I just did it,” Grady said. “And it's just when I see people, animals in need, I can't sleep if I don't try.”

Support comes flooding in

Not alone in that mindset, Grady gained the attention of hundreds of people online rushing to show support, offer advice and donate whatever they can. While she did not have an exact number for the amount of donations, Grady said she could definitely confirm it’s more than she has ever gotten since starting her nonprofit.

“It's one comment that says, ‘Hey, this post only raised $350, come on people, you can do better than that,’” Grady said. “And it's just it's mind boggling for me. Just for me, it's absolutely humongous.”

Molly Grady, founder of the Street Cat Society, checks on her cat colonies around Panama City on Jan. 5.
Molly Grady, founder of the Street Cat Society, checks on her cat colonies around Panama City on Jan. 5.

Many have since reached out to Grady to personally help out with her organization, having around six people offer to volunteer and help feed the cats. She welcomes those to help her and said she is just working out schedules and coordination for all the potential volunteers.

“I just have to find the right niche for these people because it's not like ‘Okay, show up at this location, punch the clock and go to work,’” Grady said. “I have to get everybody in the right job, locations.”

Facebook comments continue to come in, praising Grady’s actions, sharing their experiences with helping neighbor cats and some even calling her a hero for the work she does every day.

However, Grady wants to make it clear — she is not a hero. She just has a big heart for animals.

Molly Grady, founder of the Street Cat Society, checks on her cat colonies around Panama City on Jan. 5.
Molly Grady, founder of the Street Cat Society, checks on her cat colonies around Panama City on Jan. 5.

“It's not about me, it’s about the cats,” Grady said. “And it's nice, but it's overstated. But it's always nice to hear, I'd rather be called a hero than a crazy person. But I see something, I got to do something about it.”

Yet May thinks it is important for Grady to be reminded of the work she is doing and how much she is impacting everyone’s lives.

“She just wants it to be focused on the cats,” May said. “It's just refreshing to see, she's really in it for the right reasons and works her behind off for these babies.”

What's next for Molly

As for what is next for the nonprofit, Grady said while she is excited for what is on the horizon for her nonprofit, she is going to continue her mission of raising awareness of the severity of abandoned and abused animals in the community while educating lawmakers and the public to programs and solutions.

She wants the public to stop dumping their cats and encourages owners to get their cats fixed no matter what.

“People don't understand that cats are not okay outside, that they absolutely must be spayed and neutered and especially the males,” Grady said. “I've got a male cat in my yard and he's crying and he's fighting. I just can't say it enough, people get your animals spayed and neutered.”

May echoed the organization's mission for the future, saying she hopes to spread awareness and bring in more resources for Molly, so she can help more cats. She also said she wants the politicians in power to acknowledge the problem and try to find solutions.

“I'm hoping that it catches their eye or I'm hoping we're not going to stop until it does,” May said. “Because the neighborhood can help out as much as they want, but until the city is also able to help, we’re not going to get the full benefit of being able to help in all areas.”

Since people have also been reaching out about building shelters for the cats, Grady also said she would love to get to work and create a design for her dream “Cat Haven.” She said before anyone builds anything, she wants to draw, or have someone help her, create what she envisions in her head.

Grady said she thanks many people for getting her to this point — May, Jessie Ashbaker, her upcoming web designer, all the people who have donated and everyone who has commented their support. She said she feels wonderful knowing that people care just as much about her cats as she does.

“This has lifted my spirits, I feel like I'm 20 years old,” Grady said. “All those semi-trucks on my back are gone. I am so excited. It just lifted my spirits; it's given me hope. It's energized me; it has motivated me. Words cannot describe how good I feel.”

How to donate to Street Cat Society:

This article originally appeared on The News Herald: Panama City Florida woman gets help caring for stray cats