S.O.A.R. volunteers stand next to the Molly’s Miracle spay-and-neuter trailer.

I never win anything—other than that one time when I won a lifetime supply of Saran Wrap. That’s why I was so thrilled last year when I won a raffle at one of the most-enjoyable fundraisers for animals in our valley, Society’s Outkast Animal Rescue’s Mutt Margaritas.

Of course, large gatherings aren’t possible now due to COVID-19, so S.O.A.R.’s seventh-annual Mutt Margaritas event will move online on Saturday, Sept. 26. However, because of all the giveaways and surprises the event promises, I’m confident this year’s Mutt Margaritas will be just as fun and effective—and it’s crucial that the fundraiser is effective, because all of the money raised goes to help animals in the Coachella Valley and Slab City, near the Salton Sea.

S.O.A.R. was founded in 2014 by Janeen Hudson Bahr and Belinda Zaparinuk. Trust me when I say that founding an effective rescue organization involves a lot sweat and tears, with countless hours of labor. I asked Bahr, a Coachella Valley resident for more than 55 years, what made them decide to found S.O.A.R.

“I became a volunteer for the Riverside County Department of Animal Services when the Indio shelter closed, and I saw a need for local rescues to help with the huge number of animals that were entering the shelter system,” Bahr said. “At first, we were funding freedom flights—and realized that as soon as we loaded up a plane and emptied the shelter, it filled right back up again. We needed to do more.”

Bahr and Zaparinuk realized that they could do more by providing funding and care for animals here in the desert than the rescues coming in from outside of the valley.

“We felt that by everything being donated or volunteered, 100 percent of what we were raising was going right back into our community,” Bahr said.

One of the most important things S.O.A.R. has done is build Molly’s Miracle, a spay-neuter trailer that allows more large dogs to be spayed and neutered at a time. Molly’s Miracle is leased to the Animal Action League, which provides the veterinary staff.

“The statistics are excellent,” Bahr said. “In the almost three years since she was put in service, including six months of down time due to COVID-19, Molly has fixed 3,000 animals.”

S.O.A.R. does a lot of work in Slab City, adjacent to the Salton Sea. S.O.A.R. initially provided beds, blankets, toys, puppy pools, thousands of pounds of dog food and vaccines for the numerous animals that reside there. S.O.A.R. also funded the first several spay-and-neuter clinics at Slab City, and now Molly’s Miracle goes down there three or four times a season to continue to spay and neuter. S.O.A.R. also helps with the community’s extraordinary Doggie Christmas celebration, and helped create a nonprofit to make sure the resident animals receive medical treatment, inoculations and food.

Andra Slaburbia, one of the hardest-working Slab City animal mothers, said S.O.A.R. has been vital at helping both the humans and animals that call Slab City home.

“I call S.O.A.R. our Slab City dog godmother organization,” Slaburbia said. “S.O.A.R. has helped save many, many Slab dogs’ lives, by helping us have enough parvo/combo vaccines to help address our sadly, very real, parvo problem; by having Molly’s Miracle, the mobile spay/neuter clinic, come to our community to ensure a rigorous spaying and neutering of our animals; by supplying emergency dog food and such things as kiddie pools, so our Slab dogs can weather the torturous summer heat at our off-grid conditions; and last but not least, by being our doggie Santa Claus for our Slab Doggie Christmas celebrations.”

At the county’s Coachella Valley Animal Campus, S.O.A.R. funded a 5,000-square-foot play yard, including agility equipment and a shade structure. The organization also sponsors adoptions by veterans and others from CVAC, and provides Christmas cheer and presents to the campus’ animal residents.

Last year, S.O.A.R. even paid for bulletproof vests for the five Riverside County Sheriff’s Department canine officers not already protected, at a cost of $1,700 each.

In 2017, S.O.A.R. started the Lucky and Huey (L&H) Fund, after trying to help save a sweet but sick rescue puppy from CVAC. Thanks to matching grants, the fund has helped more than 135 people with their vet bills and more.

S.O.A.R. does so much good in the community; to help them in their mission, or to virtually attend Mutt Margaritas on Saturday, Sept. 26, visit www.facebook.com/SocietysOutkasts.

Carlynne McDonnell is the founder and CEO of Barkee LaRoux’s House of Love Animal Sanctuary, a senior animal sanctuary and hospice in the Coachella Valley. She has been rescuing animals since she was 4 years old.