Recently, I met with a lady who raised a lot of money for the Commerce Library. I really wanted to pick her brain about how she did it and find out what her thoughts are on the shelter project. I left there feeling very encouraged. While I was talking with her, she asked me why I became involved with HSJC and the shelter project. I never realized that this was important to people and I, honestly, don’t want people to think that I am some crazed animal rescue worker so I usually don’t share it. However, it was mentioned that my story was critical to the project and that I needed to share it. So, I will tell you my story….
When I graduated college from Middle Tennessee State University, I moved to Athens to obtain my master’s in Poultry Science. After I graduated and found a job in a hatchery, I moved to Jackson County in 2007 – it was a halfway point for my job and my husband’s job. I have always been a dog person. I grew up with golden retrievers and a boxer and in 2007, I had two boxers of my own. I started looking around for some way to get involved and realized that Jackson County does not have any type of animal shelter. I couldn’t believe it! I just thought that was a standard amenity in every county. I started volunteering with HSJC in the Fall of 2007. I worked a few adoption days and festivals – my first event was Turtle Trek in Jefferson and I have this great picture of me holding a foster puppy! I didn’t know my role in HSJC, but I knew that I needed to help this organization get an animal shelter built. The next winter, I was asked to sit on the PetFest committee. I had so much fun! It turned out to be a great event and I loved it. For the next three years, I would occasionally foster and attend adoption days, but PetFest was my forte! My second PetFest, I was eight months pregnant so that was a challenging year. Exactly a month later, we were blessed with the most perfect little baby and she totally rocked my world! I went back to work at the hatchery when she was 12 weeks old and I STRUGGLED with leaving her and working such terrible hours. I realized that I needed a change and started looking into non-profit work. I heard a rumor that there might be a position opening up with HSJC and that I might want to wait a bit before I made any changes. I quit work in January and decided to pursue my PhD (that I had been working on for several years) full time. After spending months at school and the farm, I realized my heart wasn’t in school and I heard they were interviewing for the shelter campaign director. So, here I am today! I got my dream job and hope to make a huge difference for Jackson County.
Why do I think Jackson County needs a shelter? An animal shelter is a community resource that our county is lacking. Not only, do the citizens not have a location to take stray and unwanted animals, but there isn’t anywhere to adopt animals. I have had at least 3 strays wander up in our neighborhood and I hear the same stories from people all the time. The CITIZENS of Jackson County need an animal shelter, but the animals need a safe haven too. I realize that you can’t save them all and I think I am very practical about animal rescue, but the animals of Jackson County need a better option than what is available right now.
What is your story? Sharing your story about the importance of an animal shelter and your interest in the betterment of our county is one of the most important things you can do to help the campaign. One of the easiest ways to do this is to open your home, invite your friends over, and talk about the shelter project. Surely, you know 10 people who are animal lovers who need to know what is going on. Let’s get together and talk! Feel free to call me to set up a meeting and we will get started sharing the message of our need for an animal shelter. What action are YOU going to take to help make this shelter a reality? I challenge each of you to not be indifferent to the lack of animal shelter resources in our county.
Ginger, my first foster dog, showed up with a hole in her chest, sarcoptic mange, and extremely skinny! I nursed her back to health twice and she now has an amazing family.
The past several months have been spent working on acquiring a long-term lease on a Jackson County-owned piece of land. We have spent many hours meeting with County Commissioners and the County Manager. It all began in March of 2011 when the shelter committee presented to the Jackson County Board of Commissioners and requested the county provide a long-term lease on a parcel of land that is suitable for an animal shelter. Unfortunately, the request was made at the same meeting as the former County Manager resigned. We left the ball in the county’s hands for months – 6 months to be exact. One Commissioner stepped up and asked the interim County Manager to get the ball rolling. Finally, we met with the interim manager and one Commissioner to look over the proposed master plan for the County’s land surrounding the Courthouse. Two sites were identified as possible locations for the shelter and we were sent to visit with the engineer who designed the master plan to discuss those two locations. After a few weeks, he indicated which of the two sites would be better suited to our needs. In our minds, the location was suitable. Everyone knew our capital campaign budget and what we wanted in the shelter.
The next step was to meet with the Commissioners. We met with all but one and they all indicated they would vote in favor of our request. The only stipulation was that we waited until the new County Manager was in office. So, we waited…again. We were on Kevin’s agenda for his first week in Jackson County. Several meetings later, he felt we were ready to meet with the Commissioners again.
Our final meetings! We were ecstatic! The Commissioners generally agreed to our request and we were anticipating that we would be put back on the agenda for the next BOC meeting. In the meeting, it was mentioned that we might want to check with the City Manager about sewer and water at that property. A call was made to him that morning. He reviewed the property and determined that water was available on the property, BUT sewer was not and it would cost an estimated $500,000 to get sewer to the shelter. $500,000! Our entire budget for the project is $750,000 to $1,000,000!
So, here we are…back at the beginning. This time we have put it in the County’s hands to identify a better location. Yes, we picked that spot, but we thought we had good information that the location would work and we were trying to get the ball rolling by choosing a parcel. We didn’t ask the county to let us choose a spot and approve it – We asked for them to identify and approve the location. So, it’s in their hands. I truly thought my next blog post would be to invite you all to a Board of Commissioner’s meeting for your support as they voted.
And rather than waiting patiently for the County, we are moving forward and actively pursuing land owners who may be willing to donate land that would be suitable for a shelter. Although we truly hoped to work with the county and help with the animal control problems, a private donation of land would be ideal. If you know of anyone who would be interested in a huge tax deduction and helping a great cause, please let me know.