Students from Catonsville Middle School last week brought some holiday cheer to homeless pets at the Maryland SPCA, donating supplies to the organization as part of the annual Presents for Pets drive.

The MDSPCA has been holding the drive for "at least" 10 years, said Kate Flory, homeless animal foster manager, and students at Catonsville Middle have been donating supplies for the past two.

The efforts are spearheaded by PTA President Angie McLean, and now include students from Hillcrest Elementary in Catonsville and Ilchester and Rockburn elementary schools in Howard County, where McLean is a speech pathologist.

"Two years ago, we lost our dog around Christmas, and we wanted to turn it into a positive experience," McLean said. "We've volunteered here before and (Flory) mentioned how they always need things like blankets and towels. ... The kids love the animals. They're so compassionate and they're looking beyond themselves. They want to give back."

So on Friday, Dec. 13, McLean and seven students unpacked a mini-van of supplies that half filled the adoption lobby at the MDSCPA in Hampden. Another van would drop off supplies this week, McLean said. McLean and social studies teacher Katherine Tucci have been working to collect donations at Catonsville Middle since the beginning of December.

Flory said the donations the MDSPCA receives from the community through the Presents for Pets drive help the organization all year, and the Catonsville students donate at least as much as other donations throughout the year from other people combined.

"They bring in the most amazing amount of goods for us and it helps so much," Flory said. "When I was in middle school, never in my life would it have occurred to me to do this. For these kids to be doing this, it's wonderful. They're an impressive group of young people."

The adoption center houses up to 6,000 dogs and cats a year, and it has a quick adoption turn-around, Flory said. Dogs stay on average seven to nine days before going to their "forever home," and puppies and kittens are adopted within a few days.

But with so many animals, the center rapidly goes through the supplies they receive, Flory said. For example, volunteers go through about 400 towels a week. The MDSPCA receives no government funding, or funding from the ASPCA.

The MDSPCA prides itself on its quick adoption turnaround time and the physical and emotional health of the animals it adopts out. When pets come to the MDSPCA, Flory said, often they're confused and scared, and items such as toys and bedding are a great help to their comfort.

"Things humans take for granted help the animals so much," she said. "Warm bedding and toys help the animals feel safer when they're with us and helps stabilize their emotions. The donations genuinely help them."

After unloading the donations, the students took a tour of the adoption center, visiting with dozens of dogs, cats, puppies and kittens. Seeing the animals helps the students realize "the impact they're making," Flory said.

Visiting the pets was the favorite part of trip, said Maddie McLean, Angie's daughter..

"We can see our accomplishments," said the Catonsville sixth-grader. "We're actually seeing how we're helping, and we're seeing how we're making the animals' lives better."

Seeing how cute the kittens and puppies are is a definite plus, Maddi said.

Mason Berry, 13, said he likes to see how well the animals are treated at the MDSPCA. His younger brother, Chase, agreed.

"It's important that we help them while they're waiting for a new home," said Chase, 11. "I want to give them all homes."