Let's Be S.M.A.R.T. Greek Non-for-Profit Cat Shelter Saving Animals and Educating Humans
- Written by Yanna Darilis
- Published in Greek of the Week
The Let’s be Smart cat shelter and adoption non-for-profit foundation in Athens, Greece, was founded by American living in Athens, Julie Kelley during the peak of the Greek economic crisis after noticing the numerous strays that were starving and in danger on the streets. Since, the foundation has met great milestones and has piqued the interest of global citizens and celebrities, who are all doing their part to save animals and assist in spreading the message that adopting an animal can also help fight depression while saving precious lives.
New Greek Tv caught up with Let’s be S.M.A.R. T’s new President, Thomas Arvanitidis, who brings compassion and an expanded mission, to share his input on our community’s responsibility towards homeless animals.
New Greek: Tell us about your mission as an animal lover and protector?
Thomas Arvanitidis: I can’t imagine how anybody cannot be an animal lover. My mission is to be more involved with L.B.S. and their welfare projects so that I can better help in the U.S. I would like to also help people in Greece understand more about our great animals and how we can better protect them whether as strays or to adopt them and domesticate them. I think it’s really cool to live in the U.S. and have a Greek cat! Bringing awareness also helps protect them so that the more people who understand how amazing they are, the more they will be able to help against others that might harm them. If we work together we can help to make sure they are safe and get the best care possible whether in Greece, the U.S. or anywhere in the world. All animals provide so much to humanity, we need to love, care for, and protect our animals more.
New Greek: Were you a member or donor to any animal foundations prior to getting involved with Let’s Be smart Cat Shelter in Greece?
Thomas Arvanitidis I’ve supported and donated to many animal foundations such as ASPCA, however, never have never been affiliated with them in any way.
New Greek: How did you learn about LBS?
Thomas Arvanitidis I learned about LBS when they were having a children’s event in NYC, where education for animal welfare and engaging children were the main activities. My company (Alpha Lighting Solutions) was one of the sponsors. That was when I found out Julie ran a 5-star cat rescue in Greece to also help the strays there and was helping get some of the cats adopted in the U.S., so they would have safe and loving homes. I saw all the great effort to find solutions over and above the ordinary.
New Greek: What was your interest in supporting LBS?
Thomas Arvanitidis: I was amazed that a Non-Greek US Citizen (Julie) has already done all the hard work in helping our cats in Greece, I felt as a 1st generation Greek American, that I had to be a part of helping our animals back in the homeland. It just didn’t feel right being Greek and not supporting such an amazing organization that not only supports the US strays but also the Greece strays.
New Greek: Prior to getting involved, did you realize there was a stray animal problem in Greece?
Thomas Arvanitidis: Absolutely. Don’t know much about other countries but in Greece we seriously have a stray problem. Everywhere you look on any given day you will see a stray cat or dog. This summer I took my family to Greece for a 6 week vacation and we must’ve fed over 30 stray cats and dogs ourselves.
New Greek: As a Greek American tell us about your relationship with the homeland?
Thomas Arvanitidis: Newly married, my parents came to America as immigrants at a young age. My brother and I, and 3 other siblings were born and raised in Queens, NY. From a very young age our parents would take us to Greece almost every other summer to meet our immediate families and our cousins. They didn’t want us to lose our relationships with them and they wanted us to know where we come from. We loved going to Greece in the summers and from a young age I would love to go with my grandfather to feed his goats and chickens in the field. That’s where I felt a connection with animals and started to love them. I feel bad about this now, but I remember as a child I couldn’t understand why his chicks had wings but couldn’t fly, so I would take them and try to help them by throwing them off the 2nd floor balcony. Haha! Luckily, they didn’t get hurt, they would just glide down, but that’s why LBS is so important, because they educate children to prevent them from hurting animals, or doing something silly as I did in my childhood. They have many videos in English and Greek explaining how to care for stray animals and much more information for children of all ages. I’m sure the videos would help many adults get a better understanding as well.
New Greek: What was so different about LBS that compelled you to join the foundation?
Thomas Arvanitidis: I believe that the foundation offers a global approach to the stray problem both in the U.S. and abroad, and specifically Greece. We can compare our problems and solutions (as all countries have problems and are trying to find solutions) and we can share them to help each other.
New Greek: Tell us about the founder Julie Kelley?
Thomas Arvanitidis: Julie Kelley is just an amazing human being and I wish we had more people out there just like her. I admire all the work she does and all the time and money she devoted to helping our stray animals in Greece, while at the same time running her very successful construction company (Aerial Design & Build) in NY. Not too many people I know can do half of what Julie does. I respect her and wish I can help in any way possible.
New Greek: As the new president, what are some initiatives that you would like to put forth?
Thomas Arvanitidis: I would like to help implement some of the great programs like the SMART video series for children into the schools, and even the Greek schools such as St. Demetrios, the Cathedral, etc. Also some of the programs that are run from Greece could be helpful in the U.S. such as the SMART feeding stations where the communities are involved, and also honoring businesses and individuals with the SMART award when they take time to care for animals in their area. I would also like to help make the Greek Americans respect what LBS does for the cats and to help adopt them for their U.S. families. All the cats are well cared for, and all treated medically, have their vaccines and everything ready to travel. The organization also has a great global volunteer program which brings people from all over the world to learn about the Greece stray issues and to learn about Greece in general, and this gives a better perspective into why LBS has created the SMART videos and programs they have as they were inspired.
New Greek: Where do you see the future of stray animals and how can we help eradicate cruelty to animals?
Thomas Arvanitidis: NY just passed a new law to ban the sale of cats, dogs and rabbits at the pet stores, this will give the strays a chance for adopted rather than being euthanized many times at shelters. We hope that the communities can start treating the stray cats as part of the community rather than pests and create dedicated feeding areas that can be kept clean and neat (like LBS is doing in Greece). Furthermore, educating our children to have compassion for animals is a very big relation to having compassion for humans.
New Greek: How can we all do our part to help?
Thomas Arvanitidis: Whether we are learning about the stray animals in the U.S. or Greece we have to try and find a way to do a small part, whether helping toward their care, donating to organizations that help sterilize, medically treat and find homes for the strays, and to just be kind to all animals. It will help humanity to be kinder. LBS goes out of their way to provide amazing benefits for the strays they help, to create education programs and to work with the local Mayors and communities. This is very important. What I also notice is animal welfare is usually related with females, and I am more than happy to show that men have a lot of compassion as well and can help quite a bit! I have many male friends and colleagues that always help and adopt stray animals themselves. I personally helped 6 cats get adopted from LBS and they’re the best cats you can ever have, Julie must really have something magical in that cat shelter!
More About Let's be S.M.A.R.T.
Let's be S.M.A.R.T. campaign in Greece has been launched with the aim to promote animal rights in Greece and to help local communities of stray animals to get much-needed assistance.
Our Greek campaign includes educational activities, running a Let's be S.M.A.R.T. sanctuary, helping to find a permanent home for rescued animals through adoptions, and offering a volunteer program.
Visit Greece S.M.A.R.T. Campaign at:
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