Carlson Helps ‘Home for the Holidays’ Support Shelter Animals’ Medical Care

By Pam…

Pam Johnson/

11/24/2021 08:30 a.m. EST

Fundraising for Dan Cosgrove Animal Shelter is a job Lena Carlson is happy to take on, especially when every dollar raised will help fuel a fund that helps ensure needed medical care will be provided to give shelter animals a second chance at life, and a shot at finding their forever home.

On Monday, Dec. 6, readers can join Lena and the shelter staff, volunteers and community supporters at Home Restaurant, 1114 Main Street, Branford, for a special Home for the Holidays fundraising cocktail party, from 5 to 9 p.m. In addition to serving up delicious home-style hors d’oeuvres, the event will be packed with prize baskets to be raffled off that night.

All proceeds benefit the shelter’s medical fund. Tickets for the event, $25, are on sale now and can be purchased via Paypal at or at the shelter’s temporary location in the former Canoe Brook School, 11 Cherry Hill Road in Branford. The shelter is open to the public.

“We usually do sell out for this event,” says Lena. “We hope we sell out again. We got a bit of a late start this year because of the uncertainty of COVID, and we’re really excited to back at Home.”

The shelter especially thanks Jared Schulefand, owner, operator and head chef of Home, for graciously opening the doors of his downtown restaurant for the return of this annual event. Home for the Holidays has taken place at the restaurant for several years, but couldn’t be held there in 2020 due to the pandemic. Adding to the excitement, Home for the Holidays is the first in-person fundraiser for the shelter’s medical fund since COVID hit in 2020.

Lena, who is running and hosting Home for the Holidays, was hired about two months ago as the shelter’s new full-time program coordinator and is exactly the right person for the job, says Shelter Director Laura Burban.

“Lena is energetic, motivated, and positive,” says Burban. “She comes from a digital marketing background and has been invaluable helping organize data, developing spreadsheets, learning all about animal care and behavior, and pursuing new programs.”

Lena says that, while she’s still “fairly new to this role,” she’s been very familiar with the cause of the Dan Cosgrove Animal Shelter for quite some time.

“I definitely knew I wanted to work for them,” says Lena, who grew up in Manhattan and now lives in Branford with her husband, Jonathan Carlson, who grew up here—the couple met while attending Boston College.

Seeing Home for the Holidays through from start to finish has given Lena even more insight into the support that is so frequently returned by this community, and beyond, to assist with the mission of the Dan Cosgrove Animal Shelter.

The municipal shelter, which is currently undergoing a major expansion and renovation at its East Main Street location, serves the towns of Branford and North Branford. For many years, it’s received national and international attention and support due to its effort to rescue, rehabilitate, and re-home every animal, including some suffering from severe abuse, injuries ,and illnesses.

Just one example is Jason, a kitten recently found crying under a bush with an apparent broken leg and paw that, unfortunately, had healed to a painful point beyond correction. Through care provided by the shelter, a vet specialist surgically amputated the damaged limb last week. Jason is now healing and recovering at the shelter.

Right now, the shelter is experiencing a rise in abandoned animals during what is a “very strange time” says Lena—a combination of those who adopted pets during quarantine bringing them back due to returning to the workplace and those who have experienced financial difficulty during the pandemic surrendering their pets because they can no longer afford their care.

“It’s a very strange time, because on the one hand there are people going back to work and looking to surrender their animals, but then there’s also a lot people facing a really tough time financially, and they just can’t care for their animals,” says Lena.

In fact, the shelter recently added information to its website to help pet families who may be facing financial difficulty. Visit to learn more.

“We added a new page with some resources to help if you are struggling, or need assistance finding things like a low-cost spay and neuter clinic. We’re also happy to help, so they can give us a call anytime,” says Lena.

The shelter can be reached at 203-315-4125.

An important message the shelter has recently been sharing frequently at its popular Facebook page (@dancosgroveanimalshelter) is “please do not abandon animals outside,” Lena also notes. The Facebook page is filling up with photos of animals, most notably cats and kittens, left out in the cold and retrieved by the shelter.

The shelter is currently renting out some kennels at the Guilford Animal Shelter to help house dogs and larger animals while in the temporary site, while some smaller animals, including cats and kittens, are being sheltered at the Cherry Hill site.

“A big thing that we’ve noticed this year, in Connecticut in general, is a lot of upper respiratory issues with cats. Especially being in our temporary shelter, it’s difficult to quarantine the ones that are sick, so we’ve been going back and forth to the vets and a lot of emergency visits to the vets, too,” says Lena. “So hopefully the Home for the Holidays event will raise some money to help with that.”

To help raise funds, Lena is working to gather even more donations of items, or entire prize baskets, to be included in the Home for the Holidays raffle. Donations of gift cards or an item or two that can be built into a bigger basket are also welcome, through Dec. 5. Donors can drop off any items at 11 Cherry Hill Road or email [email protected] Lena says many community members have already made contributions and many baskets have come in from local businesses.

“We honestly couldn’t do it without the community,” says Lena. “And many of these baskets are coming from businesses in the community. I think it’s great how we all find ways to support each other. That’s another thing that I love about Dan Cosgrove Animal Shelter.”

In addition to helping out with fundraising on top of her work for the shelter, Lena plans to receive more hands-on animal training.

“The animal care part is inevitable if you work here,” she says, adding, “and it always helps to be able to pop into the next room and snuggle some cats or some Guinea pigs. I love it.”