Local Animal Rescue Volunteer, Documentary Star to be Honored at Film Premier Gala
Saint Louis, MO, November 8, 2010– The homeless dogs of East St. Louis have a friend in P.J. Hightower. In many cases, she is the only person they’ve ever known. They congregate on the streets across the river and patiently await her car to appear from around the corner, as it has every morning for the last nine years.
No matter the weather or how she is feeling, Hightower drives from her home in Lafayette Square directly across the bridge to East St. Louis where she, herself was born and feeds the numerous strays that roam the streets. She rescues those she can- the most emaciated and sick, or the puppies that she finds inside abandoned and burned buildings – and finds new homes for them through her rescue organization, Gateway Pet Guardians. But for every dog P.J. Hightower saves, another litter of six are born to take it’s place.
“It’s a never ending cycle,” says Gateway Pet Guardians Executive Director Jamie Case. “As long as there is no affordable spay/neuter program in place in the city, the stray population is just going to keep multiplying.”
To further address the stray population problem, the group began documenting Hightower’s excursions with flip video cameras. Over the course of 2009 and early 2010, the group collected enough footage to edit together a documentary, which premiered in the Cinema St. Louis Showcase in July. It won the Humanitarian Award and was then selected to appear in November at the St. Louis International Film Festival.
Gateway Pet Guardians hopes the documentary will serve as a call to action for community members on both sides of the river and aid in their efforts to implement a low-cost spay neuter program and shelter in East St. Louis.
“I ride with P.J. on a regular basis. I’ve seen her go into buildings that look like they could fall apart at any minute or climb into crawl spaces to rescue a litter of puppies,” says Gateway Pet Guardians’ President Amie Simmons. “Riding with her in East St. Louis is such an eye opening experience. It made us realize that there is a problem here and that something more should be done about it. We can feed dogs, but we need to get them off the streets, into good homes, and keep them from repopulating.”
Hightower, along with other dedicated donors and volunteers, will be honored by the organization during Soiree For Strays, a Gala at Eden Theological Seminary to take place following the film’s November 18th screening at nearby Winnifred Moore Auditorium on the Webster University campus.
In addition to being recognized at the Gala, Hightower was also nominated for the St. Louis Rams Community Quarterback Award and has been selected as a top 10 finalist.
“P.J. hasn’t missed a single day of feeding the dogs since 2001,” says Jamie Case, Executive Director. “She knows every one of those dogs, she has a name for every one of those dogs, and they all know her. She shows incredible dedication and passion for what she does. She’s a special person, and we want her to be recognized for it.”
About Gateway Pet Guardians
Gateway Pet Guardians is a nonprofit virtual animal shelter that relies on donations and volunteer foster families to rescue starving and abandoned animals. For more information about Gateway Pet Guardians, events, purchasing tickets, or to donate, volunteer, or become a foster family, visit www.gatewaypets.com.