Introducing: 2015 – 2016 Board of Directors

board collage

VOKRA recently held it’s 2015 Annual General Meeting where a new board of directors was elected. Here’s  a look at all the board members who will serve from now until August 2016.

Karen smilingKaren Duncan
Co-Founder and President Emeritus

“Seeing cats with no hope find wonderful forever homes is beyond rewarding. We get to see them trust again, and get the life and love that they deserve.”

Karen Duncan, along with Maria Soroski, founded VOKRA in 1999 with a mission: specializing in homeopathic care for kittens that needed around the clock treatment. With the assistance and training from Arbutus West Animal Clinic, Karen was able to make her dream a reality. Over the years, Karen has seen VOKRA expand and grow with a team of volunteers and she could not be more thrilled to have the Operations Centre which has enough space to allow for storage and room for volunteers. While Karen devotes her time to caring for VOKRA’s many charges, she always finds time to show her own cats love. 

AlannahAlannah Hall

“You’re never going to find a more caring, dedicated team. We all work together for the good of the cats.”

Bringing her business expertise to VOKRA since 2012, this is Alannah’s second year as board chair. With years of working for consulting teams, Alannah has the knowledge, expertise and experience that has helped our association prosper. With her business skills, VOKRA was established as a registered charity and has been able to secure funding through various grants. Alannah, a graduate of the MBA program at the University of London, may not be a cat expert but she’s an expert at knowing all VOKRA volunteers play a very important role in the organization’s success. This hard working business owner has travelled the world, but what she loves most is to spend rainy days curled up with a book and her cat Max.

photo(73)Maria Soroski
Co-Founder, Co-chair

“VOKRA takes the right to life of cats very seriously; being a no-kill shelter is so important. Whether it be cats born on the streets, cats living feral or sick cats, they are not turned away.”

Maria Soroski co-founded VOKRA with Karen Duncan in 1999, after years of volunteering with cats and kittens. While volunteering, Maria saw a desperate need to develop a holistic approach to cat and kitten care, as well as a TNR (Trap-Neuter-Return) program in order to keep the feral and homeless cat population down. After VOKRA’s inception, Maria’s dream started coming true. Local shelters were seeing a dramatic drop in feral cat and kitten numbers in Vancouver – something Maria is proud to have helped with. She paved the way with VOKRA’s founding values and continues to ensure that as a no-kill organization, the TNR program is one of the best in BC. With a passion for giving homeless and feral cats a happy and healthy life, Maria always ensures VOKRA uses organic and nutritious food for all cats. With VOKRA keeping her busy, the former prairie gal loves to reward herself with time spent at home relaxing with her cats.

Jen McMillanJen MacMillan

“It’s rare to find rescues willing to work with difficult cases, such as kitties that have ringworm, kittens that have Cellebellar Hypoplasia, scared and feral cats – but VOKRA cares for them all.”

Jen MacMillan started her VOKRA career in August 2013 and quickly became a staple with the VOKRA family, acting as secretary to the board. Jen learned the ropes of fostering back in Eastern Canada and eagerly continued her foster journey when life brought her to beautiful Vancouver. Jen says, “I submitted an application to foster the day we got our apartment and had a pregnant momma cat by the end of the week.” Working as an adoptions counsellor made Jen realize how important it is that every VOKRA cat is placed with an adopter who will give the cat just what it needs. Jen goes above and beyond to make sure every adoption is a success story. An alumni of the University of Guelph and Western University, when she’s not working, Jen loves to spend time with her foster cat Olivia. The pair lounge, do crafts and enjoy having a relaxing Caturday.

cheryl_rogers_headshot (2)Cheryl Rogers

Being a part of a charity dedicated to helping cats and kittens – that’s what makes me so proud.”

As our resident treasurer and CPA, Cheryl Rogers is certainly a business-savvy volunteer. Cheryl, a graduate of SFU, keeps all fiscal matters and policies running smoothly. Her business skills melt perfectly with her passion for helping to reduce the population of homeless cats; which is what inspired her to begin volunteering with VOKRA. She loves being a part of a charity that works to prevent the overpopulation of cats, but it’s the supportive and lasting care that she’s most proud of. Cheryl has a jam packed schedule of working and volunteering, yet she and her six cats manage to find time on weekends to relax and read.

beckyRebecca Ahmed
Director at Large

I love seeing my foster cats get to their perfect homes. Being able to help with some of the more difficult cats and see them flourish is just wonderful.”

As lead of VOKRA’s medical research committee and the resident cat behaviour specialist, Becky has proven time and time again to be an integral part of VOKRA. Joining the team in 2014, the London, England native has risen to show her talents with not only the operations medical team and the vaccination team, but also has a gift of working with difficult cats. Graduating from the University of Liverpool with a BSc in Zoology, and with years of volunteering at animal sanctuaries under her belt, Becky is proud to bring her knowledge to our organization. As a foster parent herself, Becky is a proud advocate of the importance of VOKRA’s techniques in finding cats their perfect foster parent on their way to their forever home. When she’s not working with VOKRA cats, Becky still has animals on her mind. Her energetic weekends are filled with cooking, traveling and showering her many foster cats with love.

ShelleyShelley Dowson
Director at Large

“We are so very passionate about animals care. From the moment we get them, until they are adopted and become a VOKRA alumni, we will be with them.”

After volunteering for more than six years, Shelley has pretty much done every job imaginable, including cat care, foster coordinator, adoptions interviewer, adoption contracts, driving and transporting cats to the vet, to her current role of overseeing VOKRA’s Operations Centre. Being organized and thrifty, are just some of the traits that led Shelley to not only work tirelessly setting up the Operations Centre, but be the brains behind some of VOKRA’s successful past events, such as the Pride Parade and VOKRA’s first Christmas Craft Fair.  Running the daily care at the Ops Centre has shown Shelley how rewarding her work is and, after working her 12 hour a day job, she can be found working nights or weekends on whatever needs to be done at VOKRA. She’s also a foster parent for the more difficult older kitties. Shelley’s VOKRA cats, Chookah and Ubu, always keep her on her toes and have become her greatest pals. When this former Saskatchewan girl isn’t at home with them, she can be found searching the thrift stores for the best deals, usually finding something VOKRA could use.

ColleenColleen Fitzpatrick-Killorn
Director at Large

I am proud to be a part of VOKRA. So many lives are saved and wonderful homes are found for the precious and most vulnerable cats.”

Colleen has been with VOKRA for seven years and has helped rescue and foster hundreds of cats. After a personal cat tragedy struck, Colleen was inspired to begin her journey of rescuing and caring for cats. Arriving in Vancouver, she contacted VOKRA and was fostering kittens within a week. Colleen is passionate about kitten care and, as one of VOKRA’s leads on the fundraising committee, she works hard to make sure the organization is constantly meeting and exceeding fundraising goals. A former Nova Scotian and alumni of Dalhousie, she’s proud to be a part of VOKRA and knows her hard work is making a huge impact on the lives of homeless kittens and cats in Vancouver. When she’s not volunteering, the artistic Colleen can be found painting or photographing her travels.

LucyLucy Hough
Director at Large

In animal rescue one sees the worst of humanity in how people can treat animals, but through VOKRA we witness the most beautiful of humanity in the selfless volunteers who care for the kitties directly.”

Adoptions team member Lucy was inspired to become involved with VOKRA during our annual Walk for the Kitties event and is now a powerhouse volunteer. With the adoptions team, Lucy is the link between many cats and their foster parents and also helps cats and kittens make the transition to their forever homes. Along the way, Lucy also responds to emergencies, new foster parents and everything in between. This SFU graduate is also proud to be a director for an organization that is no-kill, one of VOKRA’s main principles. With her years with VOKRA, Lucy has carefully screened hundreds of adopters and follows strict qualifications on who will help our cats thrive and flourish in their forever homes. As a mom to four rescue cats herself, Lucy knows the importance of proper and through screening. When she’s not spending time with her cats, Lucy can be found soaking up the Vancouver sun in her garden, enjoying a run or relaxing with yoga.  

MAJID PICMajid Khoury
Director at Large

“To see the power of volunteerism translating itself in running such an organization is wonderful. The fact we are able to  save and adopt out thousands of homeless cats every year is simply amazing.”

After giving one of VOKRA’s cats a forever home, Majid was so impressed with the passion and genuine care the team had that he was eager to become involved with the organization With a BA in Economics and an MBA from Concordia University, Majid is a perfect fit for the VOKRA board. As co-lead of the marketing and communications team, Majid works tirelessly to make sure we’re exceeding marketing and fundraising goals so that we can continue to change the lives of as many cats as possible. Working as hard as he does, Majid always makes sure to find some time to relax. A food blogger, Majid is always trying out new recipes. 

Sam LevySam Levy
Director at Large

“I love being part of a group of compassionate and committed people looking out for the best interests of cats and kittens. Saving furry lives and finding them forever homes is truly a wonderful thing to be a part of.”

Sam is honoured to be a part of VOKRA and truly believes the organization and its 100% volunteer driven team are “good people doing great things for gorgeous kitties!” Sam has moved through many duties in her years with VOKRA. She started out as a foster but quickly became a “foster fail” so she moved on to coordinating drivers. She connected drivers to fosters which ensured people had rides to the vet and new foster kitties were delivered to homes. She also coordinated drivers for last year’s Spay Day. Sam became a member of the board in 2014 and has become an integral part of the team. She’s always working hard, not only for the benefit of the cats, but because she loves seeing the results of all the hard work of everyone involved. This self-proclaimed “gadget junkie” loves surfing the web, and taking photos with her digital SLR camera. Sam isn’t about to run out of subjects to photograph, as her two cats Henry and Tony keep her on her toes.

BarbBarb Mount Poulsen
Director at Large

“I’m so proud to be part of a true grass-roots organization that saves the lives of more than 1,800 cats per year – with zero paid employees.”

Barb has been working with VOKRA for four and a half years and is beyond proud to be a part of the 100% volunteer driven team. She started her career with us after finding a stray cat in her neighbourhood and turned to VOKRA and its no-kill policy for help. Barb knows VOKRA makes a tangible difference every day in the lives and welfare of cats, which is a message that is evident in the treatment of the cats in our care. Being a no-kill rescue and caring for cats in foster homes, not a shelter, are just a few of the ways Barb thinks VOKRA is setting the new standard for the value and treatment of cats, as well as setting itself apart as a premiere non-profit society. Being born in Long Beach, California means Barb is truly a sunshine loving girl. In the warm weather, she and her cats Flynn, Flash and Toe love soaking up the rays in their enclosed patio.

Special thanks to Elizabeth Ettles for putting all these bios together.

Volunteer of the Month – November 2015

Drum roll please! It’s time for another volunteer-praising post to recognize VOKRA’s Volunteer of the Month, the wonderful Janet Cox!

Janet started volunteering at VOKRA in 2005 trapping feral or abandoned cats, a skill she was trained for when she volunteered with the Maverick Cat Coalition in 2000. During the Janet works in a LA/life skills program at a Vancouver High School and she brings two students every week to the VOKRA Operations Centre for work experience. This enables the students to not only gain good work skills, but also extend their love for cats by learning about compassion and how to care for them.

What Janet loves about volunteering with VOKRA is that every rescue is never the same – they’re all unique. The greatest thing about her volunteer position is knowing the lives of the rescued cats and kittens will be forever changed, for the better. They’ll never have to struggle living on the streets in fear and starvation and will be sure to find a loving home through VOKRA.


Janet with Midnight and his spooky eyes.

Janet shares the story of rescuing a semi-feral cat, Midnight:

“It was November of 2014 when I decided to rescue a cat I’d been feeding in an industrial area for the past 10 years – Midnight, who was a semi-feral cat. Initially, there were 12 other cats in his area, but they slowly disappeared and, after Midnight’s sister went missing years ago, he never seemed the same. I could feel his loneliness and struggle each time he would try to climb up the large fence to get back to his safe area.

I trapped him, got him checked by a vet and took him into my home after a decade of interactions with him. When I rescued him I could fully pat him, which meant he was fairly tame and I hoped for the best and that he’d adjust to living in a condo with three other cats. I was happy to see Midnight didn’t have a hard time adjusting to the good life and I’ve never seen or felt the gratefulness and love from a cat than I do from him. He loves being rescued and is a very sweet cat. He also loves the companionship of the other cats; he lowers his head so the other cats will lick his head every time he goes up to them. It’s extremely rewarding knowing his remaining years will be full of love, warmth, and relaxation.”

She’s entirely dedicated to saving cats and kittens and here’s another story from Janet to prove it:

“My friend Peggy was camping in the interior of BC and found that somebody had dumped a mother and her three kittens at a remote campsite she was staying at. Peggy called me in distress looking for advice, though my suggestion to contact the SPCA in Grand Forks was shot down because they were unable to go to the campsite due to the lack of manpower.

Peggy left notes for campers to feed the cat and kittens and also talked to the park ranger about them. When she came back from her vacation, she convinced me to drive back to the campsite with traps to rescue the poor cats. We managed to trap the mom and two kittens, but the third was nowhere to be found. A week later, the park ranger called us after sighting the kitten, so we drove six hours back to the campsite and trapped the lone baby. It was the end of summer, so none of the cats we rescued would have survived; we were happy to know the lives of these kitties would be forever changed. Peggy kept the mom, Sadie, while two of the kittens – Mika and Teela – were adopted by people I knew. Leo, a little orange tabby boy went to VOKRA and was adopted straight away. This was the furthest I’ve ever travelled to trap cats and I have to say it was well worth it!”

“Janet is a valued and dedicated volunteer/trapper with VOKRA. She’s unrelenting, dedicated and determined when looking for a lost and scared cat and never forgets them nor stops trying when they cannot be found. Janet is tactful, sincere and very humble; we all recognize her skills with cats, her kindness and compassion.”
– VOKRA Volunteer

Janet’s stories give so much hope and her passion is what drives the entire VOKRA team to do what we do. She plays a vital role in saving cats and kittens, giving them better lives and much more promising and fulfilling futures. Thank you Janet for being the amazing volunteer you are! Don’t ever change and keep being awesome. Always remember you are forever changing the lives of countless cats and kittens. They thank you too – meow!

Post written by Aurora C.

Top 10 Best Things About Black Cats

Black cats are some of the best cats around – ask anyone who is lucky enough to have one in their lives.  Sadly though, black cats are usually the last to be adopted, despite the fact they’re just as loving and wonderful as a cat of any other color.  A quarter of the cats we currently have for adoption are black.  Most of them are adults, further lowering their chances of adoption.

In honor of Black Cat Day, here are the Top 10 Best Things About Black Cats featuring some of our very own kitties currently up for adoption:

10. When you befriend a black cat, you have a friend for life. They’re some of the most loyal cats around!

Shay and Taya

Shay & Taya, 1.5 year old sisters

9. They know how to cuddle and they’re experts at it.

Katerina and Wookey

Katerina & her brother Wookey, 1.5 years old

8. What they lack in fancy colors they make up for in purrsonality- no two are alike!

Sir Pounce

Sir Pounce, 4 months old

7. They have gorgeous eyes that, thanks to their beautiful black coats, truly stand out.


Ziggy, 6 years old

6. They’re like miniature black panthers, just small enough to fit in your home.


Fishsticks, 2.5 years old

5. They have very distinct meows- you’ll know who’s calling for dinner.

Lucy Lui, 9 months, and her best friend Bear, 7 years old

4. They purr so much and so loudly that you wonder how they never run out of purrs.


Jahan, 10 weeks old

3. They usually have a trick or two up their sleeve, like headbutts or hi-fives or turning shoes into beds.


Gustaf, 11 weeks old

2. They’re good luck – bring a black cat into your life and it will only get better. And better.


Bartholomew, 6 years old

1. They have sooo much love to give. They’ve often waited so long to be adopted that when they finally are, they will truly be all yours.


Daisy, 1.5 years old, has cerebellar hypoplasia. This doesn’t affect her health, but makes her a little wobbly when she walks.

In loving memory of Karona, who touched the hearts of many VOKRA volunteers.



The Great Grocery Stock Up

The Safeway and Save-on-Foods blitz deadline has been extended!

grocery catDid you know when you purchase a gift card through us the retailer donates to VOKRA and you still receive full value for your card?

Right now when you stock up on grocery cards from Safeway and Save-on-Foods we get 8% of the profits.

We need to bulk buy the gift cards in order to get this special 8% return. We’re short of our targets – but you can help by ordering your Safeway and Save-On-Foods gift cards by Friday, October 23.

  • Cards are available in $25, $50 and $100 for both grocery outlets and you can also get Safeway cards for $250.
  • Order now and you don’t need to pay until October 31 (we’ll even take a post-dated cheque for November 2!)
  • The cards will be delivered in early November.

Last year we raised $2,500 which helped buy things like cat food, litter and flea medicine.

To place your order by October 23 email and let the Gift Cards Gals know what you’d like. They’ll confirm your order and contact you to arrange payment and delivery.


Zoë Knows: Cats & Halloween

Zoë is 12 years old and loves cats. She loves learning about cats and how best to take care of them and has agreed to share her knowledge with us as she learns. When she’s not hanging out with her two cats Libra (age 4) and Spooky (age 14), Zoë likes to read, draw, cook and swim at the beach.


This is Zoë’s cat Spooky

Halloween is an amazing time of the year and one of my favourite holidays! But, as a cat owner, I have to remember this can also be a dangerous holiday for my cats. That’s why I decided to write this article to help you keep your cats safe on Halloween.

1. Costumes? Really? For a cat? That may not be a good idea. Some people like to dress up their pets on Halloween, but usually your cat won’t like it. It can make them uncomfortable, scared and uneasy so I suggest skipping costumes.

2. If you’re one of those people who loves going all out on your Halloween costumes that’s awesome, but may also be a bit dangerous. Things like face paint, fake blood or small plastic accessories that go with your costume can be very harmful to your cat if they eat them. Make sure to keep all your costume supplies safe in a drawer away from your cat. Same goes for decorations.

3. On Halloween night there will be trick or treaters coming to your door so remember to make sure your cat is safe and secure. I suggest putting your cat in a different room, but one that she feels comfortable with. For instance, don’t lock your cat inside a small room she doesn’t usually go in to. Put her inside a large room she likes to sleep in and make it really cozy with lots of blankets, cat beds, toys, food, water and maybe even a litter box. You should go check on her once in a while to make sure she’s happy.

4. Fireworks. You probably know how noisy they are and you also know they can really scare cats. Please don’t leave your windows open anywhere in the house, especially in the room your cat is in. You might also want to close the blinds. Think of ways to keep your cat feeling safe inside the room. You could put cardboard boxes in the room and put a blanket inside and give your cat places to hide.

5. And finally, always remember to keep your cat indoors. VOKRA only adopts to indoor homes because it gives cats the best opportunity to live long and healthy lives. You’ll also have fewer worrisome nights.

By following these simple tips there’s no reason why you and your cats can’t enjoy and safe and fun Halloween!


The Tale of the Parking Lot Persians


Hi. My name is Wendell and this is my story.

In June of 2014, my sister, Prudence, and I were left in a carrier in the parking lot of a medical building in South Surrey. We are Persians who were used for breeding purposes and had never been socialized with humans. When we arrived at the VOKRA intake center we were very frightened –  especially little Pru – who would huddle behind me for safety.


I had no choice but to protect her, so I would hiss and growl, and put on my most menacing face at anyone who came near our cage. I also couldn’t see very well as I had entropian eyes. My eyelids turned in and the lashes and fur would rub against my eyeball and constantly ooze mucus that would glue my lids shut.


VOKRA fed us, bathed us, groomed us, has us fixed, tattooed us and corrected my entropian eyes with surgery – but we still did not trust any of them.  I did my very best to scare all of the volunteers during the two months we spent at the intake center. Then we went to our first foster home, where we spent most of the time hiding under the furniture. At the second foster home, we spent less time under the furniture, but were still not friendly or trusting and were considered unadoptable.


During those 8 months in foster care a red haired lady would show up every day to put drops in my eyes. She said that I was family. She believed that I was the son of a famous VOKRA cat whose picture is on the wall of the intake center. His VOKRA name was Willie Nelson and he was also abandoned by a breeder. This lady had adopted him. That is his picture above.


Then one day the red haired lady came and took us to a new foster house. We lived in a room with no furniture. There was a giant cat tree in front of a big window, cushions on the floor, toys and stuffed animals. The red haired lady was there all the time and she would feed me and pet me –  besides putting the drops in my eyes. And there was also a very tall man who was great at playing with toys . He even taught my sister how to play and she allowed him to pet her.


After a month we were slowly introduced to the rest of the house. We learned that it is nicer to nap on furniture than to hide underneath it.. We learned that all humans do not mean you harm when they come near you and touch you. I learned that I do not need to hiss and growl. Prudence learned that she does not need to be protected.

We have been living in the home of the red haired lady and the tall man for six months now. Almost one year to the day that we were rescued, they adopted us.


We have awesome siblings too! Prudence is particularly fond of her handsome brother, Hamish. And I have a soft spot for my new sister, Olive – also a VOKRA rescue with an amazing story of her own!


Thank you VOKRA for giving us a second chance at a happy life. If you would like to know more about our progress, follow @missolivepolive and us, the Persian Posse, on Instagram.  As Olive would say, LOVE SLURPS!!!!

As a non-profit association VOKRA relies on the support of people like you. If you’d like to help them rescue more cats like me and Prudence please consider donating today.

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TNR Works!

Mr pochadie trap

It’s hard to keep track of all the acronyms that exist these days, but in the cat rescue world TNR is a big one. TNR stands for Trap-Neuter-Return and describes the process of trapping feral cats, spaying or neutering them, and then returning them to the location they came from. According to VOKRA co-founder Maria Soroski, it’s the most effective and humane way to help control the feral cat population.

When VOKRA formed back in 2000, Maria had no idea what a feral cat was, which is hard to believe for someone who is such a strong advocate for Vancouver street cats. She, along with fellow co-founder Karen Duncan, began by bottle feeding kittens that had been brought into the SPCA before branching off on their own to create VOKRA.


Maria with a bottle baby.

“I had no idea where the kittens were coming from,” says Maria, who wondered what happened to the kittens’ moms. “I assumed they were from owned cats or that they’d been orphaned.” However, as kittens kept arriving from the same addresses, Maria and Karen started to do a little sleuthing. They soon discovered a whole world of feral cats. The mother cats hadn’t been brought in because they were wild – no one could touch them, let alone pick them up and transport them into care.

Maria discovered entire colonies, some with upwards of 50 cats. They were all the moms, dads, aunts, uncles and cousins of all the bottle-fed kittens that had come in. Thanks to the guidance of local rescuers and the resources of Alley Cat Allies, Maria quickly learned to trap and hasn’t looked back since.

VOKRA’s volunteer trappers, spearheaded by Maria, spent eight years trapping seven days a week in Vancouver and Burnaby. It’s estimated there were more than 8000 – 9000 free roaming cats in Vancouver before VOKRA came along. The number of feral cats is now down to less than 300 with the remaining colonies under control. Some of the colonies now consist solely of senior citizen cats, who pass on humanely after living a life on their own terms.


It’s estimated there were more than 8000 – 9000 free roaming cats in Vancouver before VOKRA came along, but now that number is down to less than 300 with the remaining colonies under control.

For cats that we can’t return to their original site, we try and find them another home – specifically a barn or hobby farm. Janet, who coordinates the barn cat placement program, says “It’s an alternative option for feral cats that are unable to be returned to their original location for various reasons.” The barns are located throughout the Lower Mainland, from Abbotsford to Squamish, and Janet often drives the cats to their new homes herself. Potential placements are interviewed in advance and the cats are guaranteed fresh food and water daily, along with a safe shelter area. In their new “jobs” as rodent control technicians they have a better life than they would out on the streets.

If the cats are young enough or semi-tame, then we’ll try to socialize them so we can adopt them to forever homes.  “We’re not scared of hissy babies,” says Maria. Armed with gloves, towels, treats, and a whole lot of patient love, VOKRA volunteers socialize kittens in their homes.  VOKRA runs workshops and provides coaching to these special families.  Fosters tell us this is an immensely rewarding part of being with VOKRA.  To watch a kitten or adult cat transform from an untrusting and extremely frightened creature to one that seeks out your affection with headbutts to your hand, and who purrs at the very sound of your voice, is a truly amazing experience.

tuffy goodbye

We respond to as many calls we can and trap feral cats, tame moms protecting their kittens and tame adults that are too afraid to trust humans just yet. Sometimes this involves all-night efforts and sometimes it involves walking into an abandoned house in protective gear so as not to be eaten alive by the swarms of fleas. Whatever it takes – the fate of all cats is important to us and those who were never given the chance to live a safe, indoor life deserve the best that we can give them.

Join us in celebrating National Feral Cat Day October 16.

As a non-profit association we rely on the contributions of people like you. If you’d like to support our TNR program click here.

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Post written by Ellen R.