WATERVILLE — The Humane Society Waterville Area has raised more than $220,000 of a $250,000 goal it set late last year to help keep the animal shelter open, and the shelter is doing well, according to Lisa Oakes, its executive director.

“We’re gaining momentum every day,” Oakes said Friday. “We needed that interim amount to rebuild a little bit — the organization itself — so we can move forward and get bigger amounts, grants and donors.”

Oakes said the money raised has come from individuals contributing small amounts such as $10 checks.

“No single person has donated more than $5,000,” she said. “The community support has been overwhelming. It’s been tremendous. In six months we raised about a quarter of a million dollars. That’s tremendous. This gives us the wiggle room that we needed to really go after grants.”

The shelter contracts with 24 municipalities and has an annual budget of about $900,000, but it had been functioning on less than that. The city of Waterville pays the shelter $23,200 annually, based on $1.48 per capita of city population.

Waterville City Manager Michael Roy on Friday said he was pleased to hear contributions to the Humane Society had surpassed $220,000.


“This news about the fundraising certainly is very, very encouraging, because we depend on the shelter in a big way, with all our police have to do with strays and the other animal needs we have,” Roy said.

Oakes took over as executive director of the nonprofit shelter at 100 Webb Road on Nov. 1 after serving as interim director. In late August, Oakes reported that the shelter would have to close within three months if it did not receive significant contributions. Money was needed for operating expenses and repairs to the building, which is about 10 years old. By early December, more than $100,000 had been raised toward a goal of $250,000. The contributions enabled the shelter to stay remain open, Oakes said.

During the last year, shelter officials changed shelter policies and procedures since it went through a transition after former executive director Lisa Smith resigned in October. Her resignation followed an outbreak of feline distemper and the disappearance of two pit bull terriers from the shelter just after a court ordered them euthanized because they had killed a dog and maimed its owner in Winslow.

Afterward, Oakes became the new president of the shelter’s board of directors, filled in as shelter director and then agreed to be executive director.

This month the shelter is applying for a couple of grants and Oakes is starting to talk with potential large donors.

“I needed to get my feet under me to feel comfortable in applying for grants and having a feel for the position,” she said. “Now we’re really going to go gung-ho this coming year and start to talk to bigger donors.”


Oakes is building relationships in the community and collaborating with other organizations to get the shelter back into the fold and generate a more positive image, while at the same time continuing to raise funds.

“The grants are one part of it,” she said. “It’s going to be donor collaboration that will save the place at the end of the day.”

The shelter has 46 cats in-house and 85 in foster homes, as well as eight dogs in-house and 21 in foster homes, according to Oakes. She said the shelter got five dogs Friday morning from a rescue league in Houston, Texas, that had been scheduled to be euthanized. The rescue organization, Three Little Pitties, drove the animals to Waterville after delivering nine dogs to a shelter in Baltimore, 12 dogs and puppies to one in Rhode Island and several dogs and cats to the Animal Rescue League in Portland.

“Texas is high-kill. They have so many dogs, they just don’t have space or resources to care for all of them,” Oakes said.

She said the dogs delivered to the Waterville shelter, which are mixed-breed, will be in quarantine over the weekend and available for adoption next week.

“They’re beautiful. They’re sweet. They’re kind,” she said.


The shelter has a new president of the board of directors, Lauren Kennedy, who also is the shelter’s social media liaison and takes photographs for the organization. Kennedy recently graduated from University of Southern Maine and is employed by the Portland Stage as digital marketing associate.

Like Oakes, Kennedy said Friday that the community support shows people are feeling confident in the direction the organization is taking.

“I think the dedication of the staff and the board and the outpouring and dedication from the community as well has made all the difference in the world,” Kennedy said. “We’ve just received so much support, and people are confident in our future and they’ve seen how vital we are for the community.”

The shelter also has a new website, donated and developed by Ryan Lovett, of Lovett Media, which allows for more accessibility to adoption and surrender forms, according to Oakes. A team of shelter officials created the content and the site is clear and concise and includes lots of resources, she said.

“It’s easy to use and mobile-friendly,” she said.

While the shelter has no specific sustainability plan, it is moving in the right direction and working to get more board members in place who have relationship-building and financial skills.


“With the momentum, we’ll bring more people in to support the shelter monetarily,” Oakes said.

The shelter has about 300 volunteers, about 150 of whom are active, though not all the time, according to Oakes.

Some, including Kate Sartoris, who works for Colby College and lives in the college’s mixed-use residential complex downtown, walks dogs all the time and coordinated a group of student volunteers.

The shelter received $6,000 as part of a Colby Jan Plan class entitled “Philanthropy at Work,” taught by Lisa Hallee. Various nonprofit organizations were each given $1,000 by an anonymous donor; and organization representatives, including Oakes, presented proposed projects to the class. Students Chris George, Jamie Meade and Sam Kelly chose the shelter project, made a case for funding it and panelists chose the Humane Society, according to Oakes.

The Humane Society’s project is to install hanging vinyl sound-abating baffles throughout the dog adoption and stray floors, which are loud. Those baffles have been ordered, Oakes said.


Amy Calder — 861-9247
Twitter: @AmyCalder17

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