Frank Hoopes is a U.S. Navy veteran, a community cat caregiver, and one of our longest-running Atlantic City Boardwalk Cats Project volunteers. During his military service in the 1960s, Frank sailed behind aircraft carriers to rescue pilots whose planes were shot down. Today, he’s still a hero—to the Boardwalk Cats who rely on him every day.

“I make sure they have fresh food, water, and love. Mostly love,” says Frank.

Frank’s dedication to the cats began years ago, when he worked at the Taj Mahal Casino. He started spending his lunch breaks with the outdoor cats on the boardwalk near the casino, and formed special bonds with them. About four years ago, Frank decided to turn his love for the cats into action. He became a volunteer for Alley Cat Allies, taking on the official feeding and care of three Boardwalk Cat colonies.

Now Frank is a fixture on the boardwalk. Rain or shine, you’ll find him out under the docks for at least two hours a day, providing the cats with the care they need. Frank loves his feline charges, but also understands that they are community cats, not cuddly socialized companions. He respects and appreciates their unique needs and fierce independence.

“The cats are not adoptable. They are not pets,” says Frank. “They are shown love and give love back, but they would not be able to live in a house.”

Frank also earns the cats’ trust by knowing each of their quirks and personalities. For example, he knows that Inky—the oldest cat on the boardwalk at 19—still has a robust appetite in his golden years and needs some extra food. His personal connection with each cat is his greatest strength as a volunteer, and why he is an invaluable member of the Alley Cat Allies and Atlantic City communities.

“I feel very, very close to these cats because of the time I spend with them,” says Frank. “And I love them, each and every one, just like I do my own cat at home.”

Learn more about Frank and his volunteer work in our video: