Creative animal art supports WAIF

Barbara Lister stands by her art at the WAIF Thrift Store on Midway Boulevard.  - Rebecca Olson/Whidbey News-Times
Barbara Lister stands by her art at the WAIF Thrift Store on Midway Boulevard.
— image credit: Rebecca Olson/Whidbey News-Times

Barbara Lister’s art is a piece of her personality. From lifelike drawings of cats and dogs to sassy cartoons, Lister’s art inspires laughter and joy, and she’s using her art to benefit Whidbey Animals’ Improvement Foundation in Oak Harbor.

After surviving five different cancers, more than 130 surgeries, the loss of a lung, an artificial stomach and much more that keeps her mostly housebound, Lister’s method of helping others is through her art.

Her art is on display and for sale at WAIF Thrift Store. Proceeds benefit the nonprofit shelter organization.

View her cartoons, such as one that depicts an owner calling her cats while they hide and say, “Never answer till the 15th ‘kitty, kitty,’” and comical and realistic drawings of cats and dogs.

Lister has lived in Oak Harbor since 1989 and she said she is known throughout the community for her vibrantly decorated home off Fort Nugent. She decorates for every holiday; it’s her “greeting card” to the community, Lister said.

“It’s my way of saying I’m still alive and glad to be in this place,” Lister said.

“Every inch of me has something attacking it,” Lister said. But she said she knows nothing can attack her true, inner self, where her drive to help others originates.

Lately, Lister has been focusing her efforts on WAIF because she’s worried that few realize they moved from their old Pioneer Way location to a location on Midway Boulevard in 2010.

Due to her illnesses, she can’t be out handing out pamphlets to raise awareness but she can do art.

“This is a labor of love. I’m doing this for the animals,” Lister said, adding that anyone can help the animals by investing their time. “You say somebody has to do something, somebody, somebody, not I have to do something. I am somebody.”

Helping injured and homeless animals is dear to Lister’s heart. A year ago, she adopted a cat whose previous owner had “used her as a football,” Lister said. Baby Girl, as Lister named her, was badly injured, with mangled hips and a fear of humans.

Lister cared for Baby Girl and is now the only one who Baby Girl allows to hold her.

“I can’t believe how someone can hurt a cat,” Lister said.

Lister is no stranger to pain, but her sense of humor, which finds its way into her art, keeps her from getting too down. With a journal full of humorous sketches like tear “ducks” and a foot “bawl” and a life of creating cartoons, Lister has much humor to draw on.

Even about her body, she can make jokes. She likes to say that she was made on the same day as the platypus.

“Duck bill, beaver body, stinger, lays eggs. Who was quality control that day?” Lister said.

What she takes seriously is helping others. She raised 10 teenagers, including homeless children, helps others cope with major illnesses and now focuses on WAIF.

Lister has been drawing animals since she drew such a realistic horse at age 6 that her mom didn’t believe she’d really drawn it. Her cartoon strip was published for a couple of years when she lived in Nevada and she taught art at Skagit Valley College and in Coupeville, among other places.

The WAIF Thrift Store is one of Lister’s favorite places. From furniture to couture clothing to kitchenware, the store has thousands of unique buys, all donated or created by animal lovers.

Lister’s art is on display in the sizable clothing section. Upstairs, thousands of books are available and always half-price, alongside party supplies, videos and toys.

“It’s just a great place to come to help the animals,” said store manager Mary Anna Cummings. Whether you’re a volunteer or a shopper, the animals love anyone who helps them, Cummings added.

WAIF volunteers rack up 10,000 to 14,000 hours of volunteer work per year, with volunteers from the Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, NJROTC and other Oak Harbor High School students, community service youth, adults, interns and more, Cummings said.

Next to the thrift store is the cat center to care for cats as they await adoption.

WAIF runs a “Seniors for Seniors” program, in which adoption fees are waived if someone age 65 and up adopts an animal age 8 and up.

A pet food bank is also available. Community members can donate or take food and some food is taken to pets at the senior center.

Lister’s art is available at WAIF, located at 50 NE Midway Blvd., Oak Harbor. She is also available to talk to about cancer, lupus and raising teenagers by calling 675-3790.

For information about WAIF, call 279-9504.


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