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Volunteers, donations keep Humane Society of Forsyth County running
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Tia Grindle, one of the eight Humane Society of Forsyth County employees, visits with mother-daughter duo, Abby and Ginger. The no-kill shelter in north Forsyth depends on volunteers and donations. - photo by Kayla Robins

Where does a donation go?

 

There are many ways an individual donation can help the Humane Society of Forsyth County.

AJ Recchio, vice president of the shelter’s board of directors and its technology director, said the animals’ care is the most expensive and prioritized action.

But the shelter’s community and educational programs are also entirely funded on donations, he said. The Pet Food Pantry Program provides low-income families with free pet food so they don’t have to give up their dog or cat. More than 500 families use it.

People donate so much food, Recchio said, that the shelter rarely has to buy a large amount.

Low-income families can also get their pet spayed or neutered and micro-chipped for free or at a low cost.

A Kroger rewards program donates money to the shelter just by signing up. Customers don’t need to spend any extra money.

The shelter runs a training program for therapy dogs. They currently have 75 dogs who visit schools, nursing homes and libraries.

Anyone who donates can designate a use for the money, including asking it to go toward building renovation. The building has been in use since the shelter’s establishment in 1975.

 

-- Kayla Robins

NORTH FORSYTH — On the surface, they identify as cat people or dog people, placing themselves into a group that may be seen as mutually exclusive from the other. But these Forsyth County residents have one major feature in common.

They love animals.

It’s the reason 100 to 150 people spend their free time — some five days a week — caring for dogs and cats alike who need “forever homes,” medical attention and someone to teach them that not all humans will hurt them. The reason they do this for no money and in addition to their paying jobs.

Volunteers at the Humane Society of Forsyth County, one of two animal shelters in the county and the only no-kill one, are the day-to-day cogs in the nonprofit’s machine, the ones it can’t run without.

Angie Boudreau, the cat program coordinator, said a friend volunteered at the shelter with her daughter about four years ago, and she thought it could be something fun to do with her own child.

“I’ve always loved cats,” Boudreau said. “I physically come in two times a week. But I do adoptive events almost every Saturday, and I coordinate a lot of other events and go through applications [for animals].”

Her daughter is in college now, but she still volunteers with mom when she visits home.

Boudreau said there are currently about 130 cats with the Humane Society. Since she began, she has fostered about 70 animals, mostly cats, but she ended up adopting one of the three dogs she fostered.

Volunteers who foster animals allow the shelter to expand the number it can help each year.

Mark Schullstrom Jr., president of the shelter’s board of directors, said the building, 4440 Keith Bridge Road in northeast Forsyth, holds some 100 dogs and cats, but there are on average 200 animals in the program.

Volunteers foster puppies and other animals who may not fare as well in large groups or who may get adopted quicker at off-site adoption events.

Melitta Huwiler, another cat volunteer, knows the name of every feline in the building and can list personality traits of each one.

Oreo loves sitting on the table on a blanket in one of the two cat rooms, where asymmetrical cubbies, pillow, steps, toys and hammocks are scattered as open bunkers. Tiger will be the first to greet any visitor. Rumple likes his box in the corner.

Since the shelter is a nonprofit, volunteers are also vital because it is not associated with any other animal welfare organization, including the Humane Society of the United States, the ASPCA or the Associated Humane Society’s Inc.

The 11 people on the board of directors are volunteers. There are just nine employees. Tia Grindle is one of them. She has been working with the dogs that stay at the shelter for about four months.

“I like the critters,” said Grindle, who has seven dogs of her own. “It’s all about saving lives and getting them placed in the right homes.”

Until they find that home, Grindle works with them daily to ensure their kennels are clean and well-stocked with food.

She said there are 34 dogs currently in the building. She takes them on rotations to the backyard for exercise, allowing every dog his or her turn to run around.

She knows that Marilyn, and American Staffordshire terrier, loves her tennis ball. She knows that mother-daughter-duo Abby and Ginger cannot be separated, even in adjacent kennels. She knows that Bailey needs extra time to be outside.

“They all have a history,” she said, “and not all of them are good. It’s our job to know that and to work with them and match them up with someone.”

 

What does it mean to be a no-kill animal shelter?

 

The Humane Society of Forsyth County adopted out 1,416 cats and dogs in 2013, according to Mark Schullstrom Jr., president of the shelter’s board of directors.

As of Oct. 27, it has found homes for 1,175 animals in 2014. That’s on pace to reach 1,500 animals, Schullstrom Jr. said.

Since 2010, the shelter has kept more than 5,400 animals from entering the Forsyth County Animal Shelter, a county-funded shelter that does have to euthanize animals when needed.

Any shelter must adopt out at least 90 percent of its animals to be considered no-kill. World Class status is designated to shelters with at least a 95 percent live release rate.

“The [Humane Society],” Schullstrom Jr. said, “has maintained a live release rate of 99.8 percent or better … for several years.”