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Woodhaven — It wasn't even noon Friday and the Animal Resource Funding Foundation had already committed $2,300 to making animals' lives better.

Fortunately, $20,000 was on the way. ARFF, as it's known to its friends and some of its clients, had won the blue ribbon in The Detroit News Holiday Cheer for Charity competition.

Friends of Foster Kids was the runner-up among five finalists, raising $24,081 in the championship round, where every dollar counted as a vote. It was followed by Freedom House ($18,299), the Shades of Pink Foundation ($10,450) and Motor City Street Dance Academy ($1,923).

ARFF's growing pack of admirers donated $34,400, giving it a comfortable victory in the third annual Detroit News charitable giveaway. The five charities, chosen by readers from an original field of 11, combined to raise $89,153.

"We go through money like it's water around here," said ARFF president Patricia Odette. Or like it's kibble and kitty litter. Whatever the need, she said, "we're just going to continue to impact animal welfare here in Metro Detroit like we do every day."

Friday morning, she said, ARFF wrote a $750 check to I Heart Dogs Rescue and Animal Haven in Warren to help pay a canine's $5,000 medical bill. Then it spent $580 on bales of straw and water bowls for feral cats in Monroe County.

And, she had just arrived at Woodhaven Animal Hospital with a skinny 5-year-old beagle named Rubin, the first of three dogs from Detroit Animal Care and Control who'd cost a combined $1,000 in medical care and lodging before they were relocated to shelters for adoption.

It's all in a day's volunteerism, said Odette, who's also a chiropractor and the mayor of Woodhaven. Founded three years ago, ARFF provides money for things that rescue organizations and shelters typically struggle with, a list that ranges from bedding to wheelchairs.

"All of it is to make animals' lives better," she said. "Where humans have disappointed them and let them down, we pick up that slack."

On Wednesday, January 22, ARFF organizers were presented with the $20,000 check from The News. 

"These monies will have an incredible impact on animal welfare in metro Detroit. We must acknowledge our supporters and donors. Without them we would not be here today accepting this check," ARFF Vice President Wendy Doute said. "It is the love and support of our friends and followers that allows Animal Resource Funding Foundation to continue to better the lives of animals in need.

Friends of Foster Kids, the second-place finisher, also helps fill gaps. Founder Theresa Toia said that simply participating in Cheer for Charity helped her Sterling Heights-based group, whose mission includes helping younger children adjust to foster care and 20-year-olds adapt to life without it.

"Unfortunately, we didn’t win, but it helped us greatly with spreading the word," she said. "We heard from many, many people who were not aware that our organization existed."

In the three years of Cheer for Charity, The Detroit News has donated $60,000 atop the $267,283 raised by finalists.

"We’re delighted to provide an avenue to support the work of these great organizations," said Kelley Root, managing editor of The News. "Our finalists represent many hundreds of nonprofits who depend on donations to do their vital work in our community.

"We’re continually grateful for the generosity of our readers, and we’re proud to provide the Animal Resource Funding Foundation an additional $20,000 to continue its mission."

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