FFF donation

Pictured, from left, are Laurie Bennett, assistant kennel manager; Hayley Barrett, Amaris Marshall and Chantelle McNamee, kennel attendants; Natalie Hoag; Tanner Hoag, 2; Mackenzie Hoag, 6; and Jeff Hoag.

There was the stress as nurse at the emergency room at Excela Health Latrobe Hospital and the unknowns of helping coronavirus-infected patients. Add the anxiety that comes from being a cop’s wife, married to Indiana Borough police officer Jeff Hoag.

And add the worry about being a mom of two young children in a time of uncertainty.

Helping animals was Natalie’s more recent initiative to help where it was needed.

Sewing was her unheralded skill, though.

“My husband said, you need to do something. I decided to sew … it’s always like good therapy for me,” she said. “I decided to make some masks. That’s what’s going to save us, and help protect us. They’re talking about shortages of PPE.”

Two yards of fabric was the start. It turned into masks for coworkers at the hospital and batches for the Indiana fire department and the borough police. “Everyone who reached out to me,” she said. “It was all by word of mouth.”

It went on. Sewing occupied her spare time, nights after putting the kids to sleep. The masks went to many states and Canadian provinces.

About 1,500 masks later, all provided to those who needed them — in exchange only for free-will donations — sewing had done the trick.

“I took it up to … clear my mind. To occupy my mind,” Natalie said.

Next, she thought about the animals and found a way to use the money people paid her for the face masks.

Natalie Hoag said she consulted a wish list that Four Footed Friends supervisor Jeanne Stelmak provided, and plowed the donations into a cache of goods needed at the White Township shelter.

“Cleaning supplies, office supplies, little cots for inside the kennels, some treats, chew bones, toys, literally a little bit of everything from the wish list,” she said.

To let the shelter staff buy the right food for any finicky animals, she provided gift cards for Tractor Supply.

Natalie delivered the bounty of goods to the shelter Friday.

“I thought if I ever won the lottery, I’d build a shelter. That would be my thing,” she said. “This is like winning the lottery — the donations for the masks are helping the animals.

“It’s a whole circle of help.”

Staff writer/Web Editor, The Indiana (Pa.) Gazette

Staff Writer/Web Editor

Chauncey Ross represents the Gazette at the county courthouse; Indiana Area and Homer-Center schools; Blairsville, Homer City, Clymer, Center and Burrell; and is something of an Open Records, Right to Know and Sunshine Law advocate in the newsroom.