Tri-Cities special needs cat inspires internship program for people with disabilities

JOHNSON CITY, TN (WJHL)- A famous cat in our region, Lazarus, has a cleft palette, an amazing story of survival, and now has helped start an internship for people with disabilities.

Lazarus the cat (pictured above) has more than 35,000 Facebook fans.His owner is an ETSU professor and the two have started several programs focused on people with disabilities, including the “Friends of Lazarus Internship Program.” At the Washington County/ Johnson City Animal Shelter two people with disabilities have been able to intern, learn job skills, and build their resumes.

If you see intern Madeline Baur at the animal shelter, she’s probably busy. Between cleaning cages and working with the animals, her days here are full.

“I love working (with) the animals,” Baur said.

And this shelter holds a special place in Madeline’s heart, “My dog Lucy, we got her from here,” Baur said.

She isn’t the only intern, her supervisor David Adzrago is an ETSU social work student. He said he is also learning on the job. Adzrago said his goal is to help the interns become independent.

“They need boundaries, they need what is expected at the workplace so that they will be able to function at the workplace to know the rules and regulations and what is expected of every individual at work,” Adzrago said.

He said in the past year of the internship, he has seen Madeline grow, and now she completes most of her tasks on her own.

“Having this kind of program will help these people to get some kind of employable skills and be able to function in our society so that together we can all help the society to grow,” Adzrago said.

As the interns grow in their jobs, the hope is to build their resumes, and work toward employment and independence in the future.

Right now Madeline is one of two interns in the Friends of Lazarus program.

Right now the program is accepting applications for the fall. You can apply to be in the program or help with the program by emailing Cindy Chambers at

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