Natalie's Everyday Heroes: Oak Creek church collects donations for area animal shelters

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OAK CREEK, Wis. (CBS 58) -- The holidays are a season of giving, and one church in Oak Creek is making sure homeless pets aren't forgotten.

It's a tradition the congregation has had for 25 years.

At All Saints Lutheran Church in Oak Creek, members know they'll be greeted by Mariah and her wagging tail.

Mariah is the pastor's dog, but before Mariah, there was Harley - a black lab who inspired a tradition that's been going strong for more than 20 years.

"For us, we're just a very pet-friendly church."

This is the Harley tree. Each year, church members set up a tree and bring in donations for local animal shelters. From handmade pillows and blankets to toys, treats and more. 

"Like Clorox wipes, garbage bags, those are all things that are needed."

This year, the donations will be split between HAWS in Waukesha County and Second Hand Purrs in Milwaukee.

"We have so many people here that just love animals."

Lisa Wytrykus Kleppek is a church member and a volunteer at Second Hand Purrs, so she sees the need firsthand.

"It's so important, really, for our shelter, we really do rely on donations. We really do rely on volunteers."

And this small but mighty congregation comes through. Last year, they sent $800 in cash along with all the items donated.

"We're just a small church, but we're a very active church."

Remembering not just people this holiday season, but the pets, too.

"And they don't have a home for Christmas and that's something that we wish everyone could have - a home for Christmas."

The donations from the Harley tree will be delivered to HAWS and Second Hand Purrs this week.

Then, on Jan. 18 at 7 p.m., All Saints will be hosting its annual pet blessing.

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