Society kicks up building fundraising

Published 12:00 am Sunday, June 7, 2009

NATCHEZ — The dire, desperate situation at the Natchez-Adams Humane Society has driven some to take drastic action.

Those leading the charge to raise enough money to build a new animal shelter are attempting to collect, this month, the remaining $350,000 needed for construction.

Chairman of the building committee Vidal Davis said the situation at the shelter warrants such an extreme effort.

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“It is desperate,” Davis said. “We cannot let it go like this.”

And the desperation of the situation lent itself to naming the month-long fundraising push “Desperate Cats and Dogs.”

For the past two years the fundraising committee has been collecting the approximately $750,000 needed to construct the new shelter.

The humane society currently has $355,000 in savings and another $60,000 in pledges for the new shelter.

But in recent months the slumping economy caused many to become more apprehensive about making donations to the shelter and the fundraising effort waned, Davis said.

“People are a little more cautious about giving,” he said. “But things at the shelter are getting worse, their need has always been there.”

Davis said since the Natchez-Adams County shelter is the only such facility serving the surrounding contiguous counties, overcrowding and rapidly spreading diseases, due to cramped quarters, are common.

“There’s no telling how many animals are put down over there,” he said. “It’s a grossly inadequate facility. It was meant to be temporary 25 years ago when it was built and it hasn’t gotten any better.”

Davis said years of water damage, from cleaning the facility, has caused the facility to deteriorate.

“It was not meant to be cleaned the way it is and the building in crumbling around them,” he said.

So to raise the necessary cash for the new shelter, Davis partnered with an unlikely ally.

Across the street from the shelter is Kelly’s Kids, an up-scale children’s clothing manufacture.

Kelly’s Kids General Manager Ashton James said so many people utilize the shelter’s outdoor drop-off cage, for unwanted pets, that some animals escape and make their way to Kelly’s Kids office.

The business has adopted four of the dogs and Lynn James, the company’s owner, has even adopted a few of her own that escaped the shelter

“(The shelter) needs a lot of help,” James said. “And I think we can do it, but it’s going to take everyone working together.”

Previous fundraising projects have already netted about half of the total amount needed for a new shelter and Davis is confident full community support can raise the rest of the funds.

And to get the community working Davis and James have planned a series of events for June designed to raise the remaining money.

James has organized 50 two-member teams each charged with getting $2,500 in donations.

“That’s the divide and conquer plan,” James said.

And while those 100 volunteers are dividing and conquering, another team will start “dialing for dogs,” on June 15.

James said 40 volunteers will head to Kelly’s Kids calling center to man the phone lines and start soliciting donations.

“We think those events are going to bring in the bulk of our donations,” he said.

Additionally, shoppers at the Natchez Markets will have an opportunity to make donations at the checkout register throughout the month.

And if simply giving a donation isn’t appealing, James has a plan for that too.

In late June, 95 Country will advertise equipment needed at the shelter over the air and callers will have an opportunity to purchase equipment for the new shelters.

“This gives everyone a chance to contribute something tangible to the shelter,” James said.

Davis estimates the shelter will be built and operational by June 2010, but none of that will happen without the public’s help, he said.

“We need everyone to pitch in, this isn’t going to fix itself,” he said.

Once constructed, the new 6,000 square-foot facility, to be built near Copiah-Lincoln Community College on four acres of donated land, will have the ability to house up to 300 animals.

By comparison the current shelter is approximately 1,200 square feet and is currently housing more than 100 animals.

Davis said the new, cleaner, facility will be more inviting for those looking for pets and should increase adoptions.