As Phyllis Palmer, 85, stepped into the National Cat Protection Society on Thursday afternoon, it was clear that she has a special place in her heart for animals.
She walked up to a white kitten with blue eyes who was scurrying around one of the cages in the front of the shelter and instinctively placed her hand on the glass.
"Aren't you cute," she said excitedly to the kitten, Blanca, who immediately approached Palmer and placed her paws on the opposite side of the glass. "I'd love to take you home."
Palmer visited the shelter to donate 12 hand-stitched cat beds, which took her about two weeks to make out of towels and donated fabric.
While walking through the shelter, Palmer turned to Judith Scalise, activity director at Vintage Newport senior living complex, and motioned toward the cats in the cupboard-like cages.
"Can't you picture a bed in there?" she asked.
For the National Cat Protection Society, which has been open in Newport Beach since 1996, Palmer's donation means comfortable beds for the animals it rescues.
"We run strictly on donations," said shelter employee Kieu Truong. "We need all the support we can get."
This is one of many contributions Palmer has made to various charities over the past five years. Her other sewing and knitting projects include eyeglass holders, dresses, holiday decorations and shelter blankets.
"As I'm sewing, I think about whoever might be getting the items I'm making," Palmer said. "It makes me feel good."
Palmer was recently given the coveted Resident of the Month spot in her assisted living community's newsletter, which highlighted her philanthropic efforts.
She has lived at Vintage Newport in Newport Beach for six years with her cat, Bruno, and dog, Bella, and is well known by residents and staff members through her sewing and work as a resident ambassador.
Palmer greets all of the new residents and attempts to make them feel at home. This is just one example of her kindness, Scalise said.
"She's there to greet them and make them feel comfortable," she said. "She's truly a guiding arm and supportive heart for all the residents."
However, Palmer seems to shy away from the spotlight.
"I don't really talk much," she said.
She has been sewing for as long as she can remember and said she enjoys creating items that she can share with others.
"My first big project was an apron I made in my seventh-grade sewing class," Palmer said. "I was so proud of that."
Palmer's next venture will be knitting hats for the children's wing of Hoag Hospital of Newport Beach and Knots of Love, a Costa Mesa nonprofit that collects handmade knitted and crocheted items for the sick.
She also plans to make more cat beds for the National Cat Protection Society.