Anna Allison had an audience as she learned how to use a nail gun Friday morning. The onlookers didn't critique Allison's style. They just sat and enjoyed the sun.
Allison's audience consisted of cats. She and other UC Merced students were at Last Hope Cat Kingdom in Atwater, helping to build shelters for the animals.
"We're expecting about 80 students to come out here by the end of the weekend," Allison, a junior at the university, said.
Last Hope Cat Kingdom, a nonprofit rescue for all animals, suffered a devastating fire in December. Scores of cats were killed, and the office was burned.
The students were working Friday on the foundations for storage sheds that will house homeless cats.
"I'm the vice president of community outreach on the UC's fraternity and sorority council," Allison said. "We're helping rebuild some of the structures today."
A couple of weeks ago, the students helped put gravel on the driveway to the shelter and reseeded lawns.
Antonia Burns, a junior at the university, said she was helping because she's a sucker for animals.
"There's so many strays in Merced, and this place is a no-kill shelter," Burns said. "The number of strays is clearly a problem."
Pam Moody, who works in administration at UC Merced, has been volunteering at the shelter for about two years.
"After the fire the students started contacting me," Moody said. "They wanted to help. Sigma Chi took the lead and organized the event."
Moody said she started volunteering at Last Hope because she saw how deep the need was there. Moody met Renate Schmitz, who runs the shelter, at adoption events and decided to help.
"Everybody has talents or skills they can bring to the shelter," Moody said. "Not everyone has to work with animals. We need computer skills and building skills too."
The Associated Students at UC Merced donated $3,000 to help build the shelters.
"This is all done from new donations. There's no Last Hope money involved," Moody said.
Bill Kavanagh, a contractor from Auburn, was teaching the students how to work a nail gun and how to level the foundations for the shelters.
Kavanagh's nephew, Shane Kavanagh, a student at UC Merced, came up with the concept to help the shelter and got the materials and money flowing.
"This is the slow time of the year for me," said Bill Kavanagh. "I'm donating my time because the students might as well learn to do this the correct way."
Jose Canchola, a sophomore and president of Raza Unida at the university, said about 15 of the 22 members of his organization would be helping to build at the shelter.
"We want to do community service, and we know a lot of the animals need help," Canchola said.
Taking a break from learning to work the nail gun, Allison said she believes it's important for university students to get out into the community.
"People need to see that the UC is involved in Merced, and we're not just in our own little world," Allison said.
Picking up the nail gun, Allison went back to work. Her audience dozed in the sun.
Reporter Carol Reiter can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (209) 385-2486.