Hercules, an 8-year-old male American bulldog/Staffordshire terrier mix who was born with front leg deformities, is one of many animals helped by Ligonier-based Helping Hearts & Healing Tails Animal Rescue. The nonprofit is hosting its fourth annual benefit event from noon to 4 p.m. Sunday at the Masonic Temple, 130 Valley Pike, Johnstown.

An area nonprofit is now turning to the area it serves for a helping hand.

Helping Hearts & Healing Tails Animal Rescue, a foster-based rescue dedicated to helping animals in the Ligonier area and surrounding communities find homes, will hold its fourth annual benefit event on Sunday. The fundraiser will take place from noon to 4 p.m. at the Masonic Temple, 130 Valley Pike, Johnstown. 

Amber Noel, who worked to launch the foster rescue a few years ago, said the annual fundraiser helps to offset many of the expenses incurred by the organization throughout the year.

“We need the fundraisers to keep the rescue operating, so they are pretty important for us,” Noel said. “This basket raffle is probably our biggest fundraiser for the year.” 

The benefit event will include a basket raffle, silent auction, food and bake sale, a vendor show, children’s games and a demonstration by the Johnstown Police Department’s K-9 officers. Noel said there will not be any animals present at the event, but encourages those interested in learning more about the organization to visit the nonprofit’s website at www.helpingheartshealingtails.org.

While the organization is based in the Ligonier area, Noel said it primarily takes in animals from Greater Johnstown.

“It’s been a little rough. I don’t know if there’s more enforcement of the animal cruelty laws or people are being more observant of it, because we are getting a lot more calls for neglected and abused animals that are being surrendered to us,” Noel said. “We recently took in two dogs from the city that were emaciated. There were three dogs altogether, but two of them were in very, very bad condition. One of the dogs was extremely ill and was hospitalized for four days.”

Noel said the end goal is to rehabilitate the rescued animals and to get them into good homes.

“We try to place every animal into a foster home, and that way they aren’t sitting in a shelter,” she said. “Not that shelters are bad, but this allows the animals to sit in a home environment and recover better. And people can work with them one-on-one for training, so it makes them more adoptable.”

Noel said there is still a need for baskets, auction items and monetary donations. For information on how to donate or to get involved, contact her at 814-421-7078.

Tickets for the event are $10 each and can be purchased at Spawtique Pet Grooming, in Ferndale Borough; Everit’s Fat Cat Grooming, in Windber; Admiral Peary Doggie Lodge, in Cresson; Paw Spa, in South Fork; and Ligonier Agway, in Westmoreland County. Purchased tickets include a sheet of raffle tickets and a light lunch.

Ronald Fisher is a reporter for The Tribune-Democrat. Follow him on Twitter @FisherSince_82.