One less cat out of a shelter and into a loving home—that’s all volunteers ever hope for at the Peter Zippi Fund for Animals in Hermosa Beach.

Since 1977, the nonprofit organization has found homes for more than 15,000 animals, mostly cats, and it continues to be a place where locals can turn an orphaned furry friend into a loving family member. With about 45 volunteers, from teenagers to retirees, PZF has never had a stronger team, according to Hermosa Beach resident and founder Dr. Alice Villalobos.

“When I meet our new volunteers and see the great work that the Peter Zippi Fund has accomplished, I am in awe and my heart is filled with gratitude and fulfillment,” Villalobos said. “The PZF has helped thousands of families find and adopt and bond with their special feline. They, in turn, donate to help our volunteers and doctors continue the work that is needed to help the world be a better place for animals.”

PZF is named after Peter Zippi who worked for Villalobos when she was building a new facility at 1560 Pacific Coast Highway for her Pawspice cancer center for pets. Zippi was a generous, aspiring veterinarian who forfeited his salary to pay for completing the landscaping with five eucalyptus trees.

Before Pawspice’s grand opening, Zippi, 25, died in a small airplane crash at the Torrance airport. Zippi’s parents insisted Peter would still want Villalobos to host the open house, despite the tragedy. When Peter’s parents arrived, she gave them the check for his last month of work. They refused it and insisted Villalobos spend it as Peter would have wanted: on the animals. So began the Peter Zippi Fund for Animals.

“I felt that we could memorialize Peter with more good deeds by helping homeless animals,” she said. “It helped the world be a better place for animals.”

Villalobos’ Pawspice staff ran PZF until Leslie Neff answered an ad for volunteers. More than 25 years later, Neff is now the president of PZF. She and secretary Linda Washburn, who has been there for two decades, run the place. Nobody pulls in a salary since it’s an all volunteer organization with anywhere from 10 to 20 cats in the facility.

“We love finding the right family for the right pet … and try to do a perfect match,” Neff said.

PZF volunteers help timid cats become comfortable so it’s an easier transition when they’re adopted. They said families are awestruck that their new cats will run up to them and even visiting friends soon after being adopted.

“We all want the very best we can give to our animals. You can’t find better adjusted animals,” Washburn said. “We have a wonderful community here … I love this organization.”

The cats have two separate rooms at PZF to live in while they wait for the perfect home. There are several spacious crates in rooms that depict the atmosphere of a family room more than a temporary shelter. PZF pulls cats from shelters and doesn’t take drop-ins, Washburn said.

Hermosans Jodie Mendoza and her husband Art have adopted three kittens from PZF—their first time was 18 years ago. When their ailing cat was being treated by Villalobos, they’d stop and play with a kitten who was waiting to be adopted. They eventually brought that kitten home. They most recently adopted two 6-month-old kittens, creating a tradition and special bond with PZF.

“We love the whole philosophy behind PZF and the people we’ve met taking care of the pets,” Jodie Mendoza said.

She said the adoption process is easy because all cats have the appropriate vaccinations, are spayed and neutered, micro-chipped and have adapted to various loving volunteers.

PZF doesn’t just help cats. It’s also influenced volunteers to follow their dreams. Former Manhattan Beach resident Alyson Post started volunteering at PZF in 2007 after graduating from the University of California. She was quickly offered a job and took night classes at UCLA. She eventually went to Kansas State University and became a veterinarian. Post now works at the VCA Valley Animal Hospital and Emergency Center in Tuscon.

“It was a blast,” Post said of her time at PZF. “Villalobos was a huge mentor for me. She taught me so much and was very encouraging. I’m very lucky to have gotten in with her … it’s opened so many doors for me.”

Looking back on almost 40 years of finding cats new homes, Villalobos is thrilled that PZF honors Zippi’s love for animals.

“I love the fact that the PZF creates bonds and gave our staff a way to help hardship cases, homeless animals and wildlife,” she said.

Adoption fees are $110 for cats up to 6 months old, $85 for those between 6 and 12 months, and $60 for cats older than one year. Any cat that is older than 6 is free for people who are older than 60.

For more information, visit peterzippifund.org.

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