WATERVILLE — The Humane Society Waterville Area on Thursday announced it has reached its $250,000 goal in the Save Your Shelter Campaign, ensuring the Webb Road operation stays open and continues to serve 24 municipalities.

In August last year, shelter officials announced it would have to close in three months if it did not receive significant contributions of money, and they planned to kick off a capital campaign to try to save it.

Lisa Oakes, who at the time was the new president of the board of directors and was filling in as the shelter’s executive director, said money was needed for operating expenses and shelter repairs. The shelter had gone through a transition in which its former executive director had resigned after a feline distemper outbreak and the disappearance of two pit bull terriers after a court ordered them euthanized because they had killed a dog and maimed its owner in Winslow.

Oakes took charge of the situation, re-organized the shelter, reached out to the community to raise awareness about the shelter’s needs and approached donors. Last November, she was appointed the shelter’s executive director. In December, she announced officials had raised more than $100,000 toward the $250,000 goal and she was confident the community would come through with the rest.

In February, Oakes said officials had raised more than $22o,000 toward the $250,000 goal and that the community had been very supportive, with many people on a fixed income sending in checks of $10 and others contributing various amounts.

Oakes has helped expand the shelter’s volunteer program and others, is working with area nonprofit organizations and has helped develop a year-round fundraising effort.

“I’m extremely happy and I knew we could get there. I just didn’t know how long it would take,” Oakes said Thursday about reaching the $250,000 goal. “It was pretty amazing. It’s just the tip of the iceberg. We still need funds year-round. We need donations all the time. This was just a way to turn the corner to remain open.”

Year-round fundraising efforts will include programming sponsorships as well as donations through the shelter’s website, email or in-person contributions, according to Oakes.

“We are also applying for multiple grants,” she said.

Meeting the fundraising goal came as great news Thursday to Winslow police Chief Shawn O’Leary, who said the shelter is critical for municipalities and communities. While some people think the shelter is primarily about adopting out cats and dogs, it does a lot more than that, according to O’Leary.

“We were very excited to hear that they have reached their goal because we were very nervous. If they closed, we had no place to take our stray dogs,” he said. “The shelter in Somerset is too small to take on Winslow. Augusta is looking at expanding, but not for some time.”

Had the shelter been forced to close, he said, municipalities that use it would have faced a huge burden, and animal control officers probably would have needed to drive long distances to place animals in other shelters.

“As chief of police, I’m very relieved that they received the funding, because it is a very important thing that they do,” O’Leary said.

The shelter cares for more than 2,000 homeless and displaced animals annually. It employs 16 full- and part-time people, has more than 100 volunteers and houses and cares for an average of 150 animals a day. The shelter also has education and adoption programs.

Oakes said the shelter now has 53 adult cats and more kittens in foster care. After the anticipated arrival Thursday of six dogs from Texas, it was expected to have 16 dogs. The shelter is taking the dogs from Texas as part of a sharing program that not only saves the dogs from certain euthanization but also garners adoption fees to help local dogs with medical problem, Oakes said. She said Three Little Pitties All-Breed Rescue, of Houston, Texas, was to deliver the dogs Thursday. Texas has a problem with overpopulation of dogs, as well as overbreeding, and it euthanizes many, she said.

In central Maine, there is a high demand for adoptable dogs. When they come into the shelter, they are adopted out within about a week, according to Oakes.

She said the shelter is rolling out new programs all the time.

“We’re trying to expand participation with kids’ programs. We’re going to be announcing new programs within the next couple of months. That’s pretty exciting, We want people of all ages to participate out here.”

One of those new programs is the Doggie Day Trip Program, in which people may check out a dog from the shelter and go for a hike or spend time with it otherwise, so they are not locked into an adoption, Oakes said. The program will be good for the dogs and for the community, she said.

 

Amy Calder — 861-9247

aca[email protected]

Twitter: @AmyCalder17

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