Coleen and one of her customers at Country Groomers.

Pet Friends, a nonprofit dog and cat rescue and adoption center in Hollister, kicked off a fundraising campaign on Gofundme in July on behalf of their friend and colleague, Coleen Howell, 53, who is fighting cancer. Howell has run Country Groomers, a local dog and cat grooming business, for more than 10 years, according to her son, Reyes Coronado. Coronado, 32, also works in the shop with his mother.

Even before Howell took charge of the business, Coronado says that Country Groomers was an important part of his family’s life. “Even before my mom owned it, we were working for Country Groomers,” he said. “When I was a kid, 16 years ago, I would help out at the shop while my mom groomed dogs.” Howell eventually took over the business when the previous owner was unable to continue.

About four years ago, Coronado says that his mother was diagnosed with leukemia. Howell has been taking medicine for the past few years to treat the cancer, but over time the medication has become ineffective. Now Howell’s next treatment option is a bone marrow transplant.

Howell’s medical bills continue to mount, and not just from the cancer treatment. She had hip replacement surgery earlier this summer and is currently waiting for her body to heal from that operation before beginning the bone marrow transplant. In terms of healing, Coronado says that his mother has been doing well after her hip surgery. “She was able to make it in today [to Country Groomers]. She drove for the very first time [since the surgery],” Coronado said recently.

But the financial burden Howell faces is always looming. In order to focus on her health and save money, she moved in with her husband’s family, and gave up her dog, Aria. Howell is also mother to a 4-and-a-half-year-old son, who is just starting preschool. The whole family has been pitching in to make sure Howell’s youngest son always has someone to watch over him, especially while his father, a truck driver, is working.

When Jack Scutchall, the president of Pet Friends for the past four years, heard about Howell’s situation, he decided to do something to help her. Howell has donated her services to Pet Friends, a 501(c)(3) organization, for the past 26 years. She freely volunteers her time and skills, all in the name of helping animals and making a positive impact on San Benito County. “Coleen offered to do our Pet Friend’s dogs at no cost,” said Scutchall. “We call, we make appointments, we take our animals. They bathe them, they cut their hair and nails, and they do that at no cost to Pet Friends.” 

Scutchall said that the money at Pet Friends is “very, very tight” as “every penny [they] make goes into our adoption, our animals, and maintaining our facility,” so people like Howell are true heroes. 

“Mom is a pretty loving person,” said Coronado. “She’s pretty loving and altruistic. She’s always helping people out without ever really asking for much in return or any type of material gain.”

Scutchall also speaks highly of Howell. “She’s such a sweet loving person. We [at Pet Friends] took it on ourselves to feel that she needed all the help we could give her, and the only way we could do that was through a gofundme page.”

The Gofundme campaign has raised more than $8,400, with donations coming in from 95 people in 27 days. The campaign has a goal of raising $75,000. According to Coronado, the community is “just pulling together and fighting every day” in order to help his mom. During Howell’s three month recovery time in the hospital after her bone marrow transplant, Coronado says that she will essentially be living off of the money raised by this campaign. 

Coronado also says that the campaign has been “a really good thing because most of the people [Howell has] been helping over the years have been returning the favor. And it’s really encouraging seeing all of the people that have been supporting her positively. It means even more than the money.”

For more about the campaign, contact Pet Friends by calling 831-634-1191.