“What greater gift than the love of a cat?” wrote Charles Dickens over 150 years ago. Certainly this means that this week’s Neighbor to Know lives a truly gifted life. Please meet Old Town Neighbor Annelle Baum.
Seal Beach seems to attract an extraordinarily high proportion of native born Californians. This is most certainly true of Annelle, who was raised and still lives within the same si
x miles of where she was born in Belmont Shore. The middle child of three, her mother was a nursery school teacher and for many years her father was the produce manager for John’s Food King market on Main Street. She spent an abundance of time with her dad and remembers vividly driving to the produce farms not so far away at the time in Anaheim and Cypress to pick up for the store, not at a warehouse, but at the farms which used to exist here back then.
The family always had cats around and her mother told her that at 8 months old the first clear word she ever spoke was “kitty” from her high chair, and then did not utter another word for months. Her first attachment was a kitten, Ziffy that came into the family and bonded with Annelle when she was just 3 years old and stayed with her until she was 21.
She attended Lowell Elementary and remembers one of the first times she recognized that she was an “animal person.” She won a pair of baby ducks at a school carnival; live ducks which would never happen today. But a house in the city was no place for them so her father took them to a park that had a small lake, where they set them free. They would come back to check on their welfare, and she knew she was already on a path of caring and doing right by animals.
When she graduated from Wilson High she was sure she was ready to test her wings by starting college at San Jose State. But college was not her thing and she instead spent a few amazing youthful months bumming her way with friends through Europe, staying in youth hostels and traveling by Eurail. She eventually found her way into a career in the travel industry, arranging trips and memories for others like she had experienced for herself. She loved it and worked for both independent agencies as well as corporations such as Boeing, where she booked corporate travel. She has been all around the world, seeing most of Europe, the South Pacific, Asia, Tahiti, and South America. Her most favorite place on earth, she says, is Fiji because “the people there are so amazing.”
In 1973 she married first husband Mike and moved to what is now her forever home on 3rd Street. The home was a typical beach bungalow then, with two units. She and Mike lived in the back unit and rented out the front for many years until they built the home that stands there today. She and Mike were divorced in the 90’s but she has continued to live in and love Seal Beach for over 43 years.
In 1989, Annelle was part of the startup that has now become the Seal Beach Animal Care Center, noting that Seal Beach actually had its own animal control officer back then. She served as volunteer for years, walking dogs, caring for cats and on the board of directors, finding a clear connection and outlet for her love of animals.
But it was meeting Helen Sanders soon after coming to Seal Beach in the 70’s that would be a game changer for Annelle. Helen was our very own “Cat Whisperer.” Her life was devoted to the care and well-being of the feral cats that lived along the river jetty. It was a common dumping ground for unwanted cats, and the population used to number well into the hundreds. Helen would catch, spay-neuter and care for these cats. When Helen passed away in 2005, Annelle and others knew they needed to pick up where Helen left off. She and others tried for a few years on their own to continue the work, but it was financially draining.
As a result, in 2010, Annelle founded CatPAWS, a 501(c) 3 organization whose charter is simple: Providing education, support and resources to the community to help more cats lead full and cherished lives. They do this by working toward three simple goals:
Promote spay/neuter through education and providing vouchers
1) Support Trap, Neuter and Return (TNR) efforts through providing medical care and food
2) Save cats/kittens from public shelters where they would otherwise be killed
At the time Helen passed away, there were over 180 feral cats at the jetty. Today, due largely to the efforts of CatPaws the population now is less than 20 and declining each year. In addition, CatPaws has built a strong relationship with the Long Beach Shelter, which is a euthanasia site, so they can pull cats and kittens and find foster homes and then permanent homes for them. They provide the means for foster parents to care for babies and they have established amazing relationships with both Petco Seal Beach and PetSmart Long Beach to place adult cats in their adoption centers. They also provide free spay and neuter vouchers for adoptive parents. The organization is always is need of donations to help with medical care, program costs and supplies.
Annelle would meet her soul mate Kris Baum in 2003. Kris was a native born Seal Beach resident whose parents still reside here on the Hill. They married on April 1st of 2004 at the Cottonwood Falls, Kansas courthouse where they were visiting an uncle who was turning 100. They took advantage of the simple and idyllic setting and with just a few family members with them, tied the knot. They had 11 wonderful years together, before their time was cut short in December of last year with Kris’ unexpected passing.
She has found solace in the focus on her organization as she works through this devastating transition in her life, and if you visit her, her home is abundant with fur-baby love, from her dog to her cats and fosters who also give her focus and meaning each day. Annelle exemplifies the day-to-day care that so many of you do each day to make our community better without fuss and fanfare. She has gone about this so quietly you would never know, but we all should know and thank her and her volunteers for their efforts. Make sure when you see her to say so.
If you would like to know more or would like to donate to CatPaws, please go to helensanderscatpaws.com.
Do you have a Neighbor you think we should know? Send them to me at” EBETHL@hotmail.com.