On the eve of Woofstock, Humane Society celebrates two milestone anniversaries
Part three: Ten years of success attributed to the volunteers who serve and the community that supports the HSLC


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[September 22, 2016]   LINCOLN - As mentioned in an earlier segment of this series, the Humane Society of Logan County has only been active for ten years. This year HSLC is celebrating the fifth anniversary of their shelter where animals can come and live as they wait for a new adoptive family.

In the business world, a business only ten years old is still experiencing growing pains, and owners are sometimes working hard to keep the doors open and make the business profitable. But the HSLC has come much farther than the typical business in its first years. Through the generosity of many, they have a facility that is paid for and they are debt free, but how did it happen? Recently that question was posed to long-term volunteers Ellen Burbage, Wanda Stevens, and Marilyn Wheat.

How have you stayed successful?

Burbage summed it up saying it was the support of the community, in volunteerism as well as financial support. Burbage said that in her lifetime, she has lived a few places, but never in her lifetime has she been in a community that was more giving, more generous, more caring about others than in Logan County.

The volunteers are tremendous, and they work hard, again for the love of animals, not for praise or any self-righteous reason, but just to give their love to an animal that needs them.

When there have been fundraisers and calls for dollars, the community has come forward opening billfolds and pocketbooks laying out their dollars to help.

During the year, the HSLC hosts a breakfast in the spring that is very well attended, they hold the Route 66 Garage sale that brings in thousands of donated items that in turn sell for thousands of dollars. The new calendar fundraiser this year is going well, and the first print order of the calendars is selling down. People come to Woofstock, and they do buy items from the vendors, and food and drinks. The tree of hope fundraiser is coming up, and the cookies sales held at Christmas time are very well supported.

A wish to grow

But, as is the case with any not-for-profit organization, there is always a wish list of more that could be done if more dollars were available. The three women talked about things that are needed.

They would like to be able to put up larger fenced in areas for dog runs. Of course, they need more volunteers, and they would like to offer more training for those volunteers, in animal behaviors for example. In taking in an animal, particularly if it has been in a less than perfect situation before arriving, there can be issues with socialization. Stevens said that in addition to adopting the pets out to good families, the goal is also to make the pets good citizens in their community.

Talking about making animals good citizens, Stevens told a story of a young dog who came to the shelter that was so hyper and so active, he was hard to handle. Volunteers gave the time they could to being with the animal and trying to settle him down a bit, but they were not able to spend the amount of time needed. Stevens said they at the shelter talked about the dog, a great dog, but one they were afraid would be unadoptable.

However, after a time a family came that did get attached to the hyper dog, and they decided they would adopt him. She said they gave their time and love to the animal, and when she saw him again, she did not even believe the difference that one-on-one, constant relationship had made. Nearly grown, though still a pup, when he came in all nervous and hyper, he became a calm, gentle, loving companion for the family.

She said that is the ultimate goal, and the thing that takes time and trained volunteers, is to adopt out an animal that will fit with the family, fit in its living environment, be happy and healthy, and be a good citizen.

While the above story ended well for the young dog, it could have gone differently. With more volunteers and more training, the pet behavior could have been better before it was adopted.

Shelter takes work and money

Burbage commented that it take a ton of work to do what the HSLC is doing. She said that the work involved includes taking care of the animals, but also taking care of the building, the grounds, and doing the less than attractive duties like changing out litter boxes and cleaning the indoor kennels.

To keep the doors open, it takes from $80,000 to $90,000 per year for utilities, maintenance, food, vet bills.

Wheat added saying that since opening, the shelter has facilitated more than 3,000 surgeries, and that costs money.

Volunteers are also needed for fundraisers and other activities. With only one paid employee, the balance of the work has to be done by volunteers. Burbage commented about herself and the other two women, “We do it for the love of the animals.” And that is the mentality of the majority of those who do volunteer.

At the kennel being a volunteer, helping with the animals, is not a matter of just walking in the door and starting to play with the pets. There is an orientation and also a training process that the volunteers go through before they actually begin working with the animals.

Working with the animals is indeed more than just playing and feeding. Stevens summed it up saying the intent is to make the adopted pet a “good citizen” which is to say, not just a good pet, but a good member of the community.

There is also a goal of putting the volunteer in the right position. Stevens said, for example someone who is frail, or not very strong, might not be the best fit to work with the larger dogs. That person may need to be led into the task that is most suitable to their ability.

The need for volunteers

The HSLC has been blessed with volunteers over the years, but there is always a need for more. On a daily basis it takes 11 people in multiple shifts just to care for the animals.

Stevens said that for the dogs, the ideal situation would be to have three volunteers caring for the dogs on the morning shift, two volunteers taking the noon shift, and two taking the evening shift. She said this could be seven individuals, but a lot of the time, it ends up being one person taking multiple shifts.

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For the cats, two volunteers are needed for the morning shift and two for the evening shift.

If an animal comes in with health issues, then the demand for volunteers increases because that animal needs more personal care as it recovers from its illness.

The downs of being a volunteer

For the three long-term volunteers, it is a very rewarding experience to see an animal go to a new home and live out a long and happy life, in a “forever home.” However, sometimes the path to get the animal there can be challenging, and for a volunteer, emotionally draining.

For the volunteers, Burbage said it isn’t all sunshine and roses. For example, it can be heart breaking to deal with the folks who are bringing their animals to the shelter. She reminded that these animals are not strays found roaming the streets. They are pets that someone loves, animals that have become a part of a family. There are reasons the family has to let the animal go, maybe a relocation where pets are not allowed, a health issue where the owner is no longer able to care for the pet, or some other extenuating circumstance. When they come to the shelter, these people are not happy to be doing what they are doing. They need assurances that they are doing what is right for the animal, and that the HSLC will take good care of their pet, and find it a very good home.

And, it isn’t easy to go into a home on a humane investigation and order the removal of an animal. Sometimes this is a child’s pet and the child too is being abused or neglected. The animal and the child may have a special bond, and there are separation issues for both.

Then, there are the times when a family comes and wants an animal, but they are unable to adopt. There is a screening process involved in adoption. This is done to assure that the animal is going to a safe home where it will not be abused, or neglected, but it also assures that the family is equipped to take on the responsibility of an animal. The bottom line, a family may want to be pet owners, but other circumstances may indicate that they are not a good fit for a specific animal or not a good candidate for any kind of animal. Telling someone that can be very difficult.

We appreciate all they do

Burbage began wrapping up talking about the volunteers, who have to face these scenarios and the others who give their talents in other areas. She commented, “I can’t say enough about how important our volunteers are and how much we appreciate what they do every day for HSLC."

For the many people around the county who love animals, and are pet parents, looking deep into the work of the HSLC, they can surely see that this is a worthwhile and important service offered in our community. But the HSLC only works because it is supported so well by the community and by its volunteers who ultimately become ambassadors for the program.

For those who have supported the HSLC through these first ten years, the organization wishes to send you a sincere and heartfelt “thank-you.” For those who continue to work and contribute financially, thank you.

For those who have not yet made a decision to help in some way, know that no contribution is too small, whatever you can do, will be appreciated by the HSLC, but more importantly by the animals who live there, and wait patiently for a loving family to come and offer them a “forever home.”

[Nila Smith]

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