One man's trash is another man's treasure, the old saying goes. In this case, thousands of dollars of people's spare change became Rick Snyder's $21,495 donation to the Gulf Shore Animal League.
"I've always liked animals. I've been taking care of feral cats for years and I started noticing a lot of change laying around," Snyder said. "So I started picking it up and keeping track of it."
Snyder would go around at car washes and dig change out of vacuums and vending machines during his daily walks to care for feral cats in the area. He goes out around 4:30 a.m. every day and spends about four hours on those trips.
He's done that for more than 10 years, finding an average of $5.60 in change per day. He said he walks between 45 and 48 miles per week.
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Snyder said he also uses those trips to collect towels that have been thrown away, wash them and donate them, and he picks up plastic bottles out of the trash to take them home and recycle them.
"It astounds me how wasteful people are," Snyder said.
Volunteers from the Gulf Shore Animal League came to his residence Tuesday morning to help him gather 2,500 pounds of coins.
Gulf Shore's main focus is taking care of cats. The volunteer organization, exclusively funded through grants and donations, adopts 250 cats per year and spays and neuters about 2,000 per year to cut down on homelessness and overpopulation.
Cheryl Wade, president of Gulf Shore, said the $21,495, which is the largest donation it has received from an individual contributor, would mean a lot for what they're able to do. She brought out a nearly newborn kitten named Blair to illustrate what Gulf Shore does.
"From about the stage she's at now to get her ready for the adoption program, it will probably cost us about $250, which includes the formula, the food and getting her spayed," Wade said. "Then she'll be put up for adoption, and our normal adoption fee is $75. So as you can tell, we put a lot more into them than we get back in adoptions."
Just to spay and neuter cats cost $60 for females and $40 for males, Wade said.
Gulf Shore is distinct in the specialized care it gives to cats. Wade said Manatee County Animal Services frequently calls to see if Gulf Shore can take on kittens, which typically must be bottle-fed every three or four hours.
"They can't provide the constant care that we do," Wade said.
Snyder said he feels strongly about the issue. In addition to taking care of feral cats, he owns five cats personally and said he's found homes for about 100 cats, many of them with tenants in the 48 units in Burgundy Condominiums that he owns.
"People do avoid me now, if they see me coming," Snyder said. "'I don't want another damn cat!' is something I frequently hear.'"
Asked if he ever thought about keeping the money for himself, Snyder shook his head.
"I have enough money," he said.