Donation Based Cat Condos by Phil Cappadora
"A labor of love for the cats in our lives"
A proud Astoria resident since October 2014, the personable and irrepressible Phil Cappadora is a man of many talents.
Well-known throughout our neighborhood's creative community as the founder of the Astoria Filmmaker's Club, Phil balances his artistic endeavors as an actor and podcast producer with helping to feed, rescue and nurture homeless cats.
Recently, though, Phil has taken his involvement with Astoria's feline community to a whole other level by building condos and shelters from scratch for them.
Remember the sitcom Home Improvement which starred Tim Allen as Tim "the tool man" Taylor? Well, you could say that the handy- with-a -hammer Phil is the Tim Taylor of cat condos.
Phil can take, quite literally, any type of material, from discarded nightstands, dressers, bed frames and just about anything made out of wood he finds on the street and transform them into beautiful cozy and comfy cat condos. and shelters.
All it takes is dedication, passion and a little bit of magic. Not to mention a talent for
cutting, insulating and painting, of course. This is a man who enjoys working with his hands and knows what he's doing!
Recently, Aplez.com had the pleasure of connecting with Phil, virtually, so we could learn more about the Astoria Filmmaker's Club as well as the fine work he is doing for Astoria's feline population.
Phil's most recent showbiz venture was performing on the online show Brave Hearts For Broadway, this past September and December. But we'll let Phil take up the story from here.
"Back in 2013, I came very close to being cast as the lead character in The Guardians, an original musical about the Guardian Angels which was destined for a Broadway run, but never panned out. Anyway, the writer of the show, Michael Merritt wanted to try again and got back in touch with me in February of 2020, then kaboom, Covid-19 happened. Long story short, though; several months later, Michael, who also lives in Astoria, came to me with an idea to produce a virtual show that would benefit the Actor's Fund. Michael wanted to do something concrete that would assist those actors who had been put out of work, overnight, by Covid."
"Working closely with a team of over twenty frontline and essential workers, who were also singers and actors, we put together the Brave Hearts For Broadway musical choir."
Hopefully, more such virtual musicals will be on the way until Broadway and off-Broadway finally reopens.
In the meantime, though, Phil is keeping busy with his Astoria Filmmaker's Club.
A non-profit organization, which was launched in 2019, the Club has their very own podcast. Each show features an actor, writer, or independent film producer or director talking about their favorite films, how they got into show business as well as their goals and aspirations.
"The AFA has been a crockpot of a cooker in bringing together a mix of all the diverse talents that our neighborhood has to offer," said Phil. " They don't call Astoria ACTORIA for nothing," added Phil with a wry grin.
In addition to the podcast, AFC has several other projects on the docket including a reality series called What's So Special; a documentary special entitled In This Together and a drama about the FDNY during the years 1993 to 2001.
The inspiration for this show is Phil's Dad, Phillip Cappadora SR. a 9/11 first responder and a 27 year veteran of the Fire Department.
Besides honoring his love for cats, constructing condos and shelters for these fur babies is yet another way that Phil can express his creativity.
Aplez.com wanted to know just what the inspiration was behind his latest project?
"Actually, even though my wife and I are the proud parents of two lovely felines, Lilly and Ava; my very first shelter was built for a dog."
" My neighbors have a cute puppy, a miniature Yorkie named Mini. She loves being outside, even in the cold weather. But Mini doesn't care at all for the rain. So, I thought that it would be cool to build her a dog house. I spotted some scrap wood from an old attic door out on the street, cut it up and made the puppy a duplex."
Halfway through the construction, Phil thought to himself that this concept could easily work for cats and thus, a business was born!
In addition to salvaging raw materials wherever he can find them, Phil wanted to give a shoutout to several local businesses who have generously donated wood and other material for his use including Sugar Freak, the Irish Rover pub, ReMix Market NYC and Upholstery Decorators.
Several other restaurants have chimed in, donating leftover wood from the outdoor dining structures everyone has been building over the last few months.
Phil told us that, on average, it can take from three to six hours to finish a typical cat condo, "depending on the level of details I put into it. I kind of let the scrap wood tell me what it wants to look like. With the proper tools and more hands-on experience, I should be able to make up to ten condos every few days, especially when I am able to bring on a helper."
Phil, should our readers wish to purchase a cat condo/shelter; what is the cost involved?
"Well, they are not technically for sale. They are sponsored," stated Phil. " Sure, the condos are available for cat parents and their apartments or backyards. But, it's a donor type of situation; whatever you believe the condos are worth. In the past, I have received donations from between $20 to $150. That's the value that the purchaser thought I was bringing to their cat."
Continuing on, Phil said that, It's not for me to say how much it's worth for a person to get involved. Give any amount that you feel is fair. That's the measure of gladness in someone's heart."
Dr. Anna Loha, originally from the United Kingdom but now residing in Astoria, was the first person to sponsor or buy one of Phil's shelters.
Depending on the size of the condo/shelter, they can be transported by car, or, whenever possible, Phil can hire a truck to bring the larger-sized structures to the cat's mom or dad.
Speaking of which, as we mentioned earlier in the article, Phil and his wife have two adorable felines in their household. We were curious as to how Phil originally connected with Lilly and Ava.
Phil worked for Touro College for five years. It turns out that one of his co-workers' cats had a litter of four. One kitten was adopted by a colleague of Phil's and he adopted Lynxie and Boots for his parents.
"Lilly was the smallest of the litter but approached my wife the quickest." said Phil."You could say that she chose to be with us. Two years later I met Ava. She had fallen out a window off Hoyt and 27th street. I came across her when I was delivering for Postmates. She was pretty banged up. But eventually, I got her to a vet and she recovered. Ava sleeps on my leg almost every day since we brought her home."
Aplez.com asked Phil to describe his cats' personalities in a few sentences. What makes them different and so lovable?
"Lilly is a photogenic diva. I can't have a Zoom meeting without her jumping into the call to see herself on camera. Lilly absolutely knows what she's doing and waits for the grand entrance in the conversation. Ava is a bit of a daredevil and a prancer. She likes climbing and resting in narrow spaces. Sometimes, I think that she purposely jumped out of that window."
Phil's newest venture, (does this guy EVER sleep?), is the creation of an APP that will specialize in rescuing homeless cats and so many other great things.
"My goal for the near future is to build a company that will assist TNR specialists (trap, neuter and return) as well as pet parents with everyday errands. Eventually, I want the APP to host an online adoption service, provide emergency services whereby I can transport your cat to the veterinarian and even drop off cats and dogs at the local salon for grooming."
Phil is also planning to deliver subscribed cat and dog supplies on weekends to donors using carefully curated pet stores in the neighborhood such as Tom's Pet Supplies.
This business plan sounds like a Godsend for busy cat and dog parents, for sure!
We could not conclude this interview without asking Phil what some of his favorite go-to bars and restaurants are in Astoria. He didn't have to think long in answering the question.
"I love hanging out with friends at the Irish Rover. I did a coat drive with them when I was going through some financial hardship after being let go at COSTCO, awhile back. They treated me like a friend and brother during several weeks of struggle. But, getting back to your question; on a date night with my wife, which is long overdue, we love the fine Brazilian food at Favela Grill. Whenever I need a great drink and some sage advice, I head over to chat with Joe and Debbie at Astoria's Secret."
Any last words for our readers, Phil?
"I'm definitely not going to wait to become famous as an actor in order to make a meaningful impact on society. I do me and by my fruit, you shall know me. As much as I want to become a well-compensated, red carpet, Oscar-winning movie star that may not be my calling anymore. Cats are!"
"And, by the way; if anyone out there has any material laying around, especially old cat castles they want to get rid of, I can make something out of them. Anything wooden, I can re-purpose into something brand new that will make a cat happy. Trash to treasure, you could say."
The future is certainly looking bright for Phil and his extended family of felines and their families, here in Astoria.
Contact Info :
FB / IG: @happycornerbyava It was Phil's dad who inspired Phil to serve others and give back to the community.