By Jennifer L. Warren
NEWBURGH – Jeanette Drake’s daughter, Tabby, loved animals so much she dreamt about being surrounded by as many of them as possible some day.
Tabby Cruz, who was attending college to become a veterinarian, was denied that opportunity, when she was senselessly and violently murdered at a Halloween Party on Broadway in the City of Newburgh on October 30, 2016. Her mother, Drake, devastated by the tragedy that impacted the entire community, refused to have that passionate vision be lost as well.
Soon after her daughter’s passing, she was involved in several events aimed at her daughter’s passing as well as that of another City of Newburgh resident, Omani Free, who also lost her life at the hands of the same gunman at that party that day: A celebration for both of their, one day apart birthdays- Omani &Tabby Day- as well as a Annual Halloween Walk from their homes to the site of the tragedy, followed by a memorial have been consistently organized by Drake, along with Omani’s mother, Rhonda Valentine. Most recently, Drake, with the assistance of Max Cuacuas, developed Tabby’s Tails, a 501 (c) (3) with aggressively outlined-pursued intentions.
“We wanted to continue Tabby’s mission of a love of animals; our mission is to provide a temporary shelter for all animals until we are able to find them a permanent home,” explained Drake. “We have plans to secure a lot to place a 10-20 mobile kennel housing unit, which are cost-effective solutions for animal shelters, being less expensive to purchase and maintain than traditional brick- and-mortar shelters.”
Possessing heating, air conditioning, plumbing, electric as well as indoor/outdoor living spaces for the animals, the mobile shelters carry a price tag starting at $70,000. Funding for that costly and critically needed space is the present top priority of Tabby’s Tails. The mission continued Saturday, inside the Armory Unity Center, with a Second Annual Tabby’s Tail’s Vendor Fair; this year marked the first with Santa Claus photos, available for both pets and people. In total, the well-attended venue included 15 vendors, each of whom paid for the use of a table, selling handmade crafts and food, as well as a We Are Newburgh Gently Used 200 Coats Giveaway, free face painting and Mobile Magic Massage, LLC.
“Today is a great day for the community to show their support for a much needed animal shelter we are trying to establish in the City of Newburgh for Tabitha Cruz’ memory,” said Cuacuas.
One of those vendor supporters on hand was Vincent Crawford, of “Vinspiration.” Selling his authentic service dog hoodies which he crafted during COVID as a tribute to their essential worker status, one not solely relegated to humans, Crawford was excited to offer any support he could to the day’s mission.
“I met Jeanette through We Are Newburgh, and we did a lot of community service together, and during this time, I came to find out about Omani and Tabby and her Annual Halloween Walk and Memorial to remember them,” explained Crawford. “We also belong to the same church, and refer to one another as ‘family,’ so I always support anything she does, especially her wanting to start an animal shelter in the City of Newburgh in her daughter’s memory; it’s something so needed and a really special way to honor Tabby and all she wanted to do some day.”