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If you spot a dog wearing a hand-sewn collar or bandana in the Tuscaloosa-greater area, there's a good chance that the canine's fashionable wear was cooked up in Mary Calhoun's kitchen. These wares — which range in a variety of sizes, colors and patterns — can be found at the Tuscaloosa Metro Animal Shelter or even at a of events throughout the year; they are available for grabs after making a monetary donation to benefit the cats and dogs waiting for adoption.

Without any prior sewing experience, Calhoun first made dog collars in as a new kind of fundraiser for the Rock Quarry Elementary School's student council to benefit Red Gate Farm Rescuean animal rescue on Crawford Road in Gordo.

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She used a sewing machine that she had stashed away in her home for about two years and found instructions online on how to make the collars. The first collar she made took about an hour and a half to create, Calhoun recalled, but she threw together about 30 white collars for the students to decorate with markers. And they sold "like crazy," she said.

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Calhoun, although retired in after 25 years of being an educator, had been working with the school doing part-time teaching and other related duties. It was around that she had also started volunteering at the Tuscaloosa Metro Animal Shelter, doing tasks such as cleaning towels or whatever else needed to be done. The volunteering first began as something she was going to do once a week but became a full-time, hour week activity for her.

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She reed from her extra teaching duties to focus her energy at the shelter. She continued sewing collars, and, later, bandanas, too, as a means to help raise money for spaying, neutering, and other medical treatment expenses at the shelter; it eventually became a primary task. The collars and bandanas grew in popularity, she said, saying that people would often seek her out to get new collars in different colors or patterns.

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More information about purchasing the collars and bandanas is at www. Her efforts with the shelter also expanded with the " Libby Listens " program, in which she would take her dog Libby to various schools to listen to children read.

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Libby, who was adopted from the shelter, helps encourage reading by providing a fun, judgment-free atmosphere and serves as a conversation starter to educate children about the shelter and pet responsibility. In the years since beginning the sewing project, Calhoun's skill and speed in making the accessories have improved.

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Using templates and an assembly-line-like strategy, she is able to make multiple collars and bandanas in only a matter of hours; averaging about 15 minutes per bandana and 30 minutes per collar. She does the sewing at her kitchen table. The island nearby is used for cutting the pieces and the counter behind her table is where pieces that are ready to be sewn wait their turn. She said she tries to keep an inventory of about 50 of the finished products in every size, extra small to large.

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Aside from her time spent sewing, Calhoun said the money she spends on the materials is another way that she is able to donate and contribute to the shelter. All of the monies collected from the collars and bananas go toward the shelter; none of the money is used to reimburse her, she said.

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Chesnutt emphasized the amount of sewing Calhoun has done over the recent years by noting that she has worn through three sewing machines, with each new machine being more industrial-grade than the last. There have been times where he was worried about her because of the amount of work and time she was committing to the fundraising project and the Libby Listens program simultaneously, he said, but knew she had the drive to do it.

The collar and bandana fundraiser slowed greatly upon the arrival of COVID inbecause of the cancelation of many art and market events.

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Emily Enfinger is a reporter for The Tuscaloosa News. Follow her on Twitter at EmilyEnfinger.

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Facebook Twitter. Meet the woman who makes collars, bandanas for Tuscaloosa Metro Animal Shelter. Emily Enfinger The Tuscaloosa News.