By ANN BELCHER
Lakeshore Humane Society Secretary Nancy Letersky summed up the reception to honor the organization's volunteers and present its brand new building at 431 E. Chestnut St. the best "It started as 'Homeward Bound,' and now we are home!"
OBSERVER Photos by Ann Belcher
Above: Children enjoy watching the cats play in their spacious surroundings at the Lakeshore Humane Society’s new building at 431 E. Chestnut St., Dunkirk (pictured at top). At left: Volunteer Ann Bowers, shown with one of the kittens up for adoption, couldn’t be more proud of the state-of-the-art adoption center, a labor of love that spanned three years. (Photo by April Diodato)
The Homeward Bound Campaign project kicked off several years ago to start generating funds to find a permanent residence for the Lakeshore Humane Society and Sept. 14's event was a way to say thank you to the many volunteers both local, and national who helped the organization find a forever home of its own.
Organization volunteer Joanne Bentham stated, "It's almost like a dream. We've been talking about this day for so long, and because of the community and all of the generosity and hard work by the volunteers here we are."
"It's been a long wait, and a lot of time," LSHS President Rock Vallone added. "This is really a grassroots project that actually started with just ten people selling baked goods to raise money for the project."
A generous bequest by long time friend of the Lakeshore Humane Society, Carol Dudley was able to lift that grassroots effort to the next level. With her bequest, which was invested with the Northern Chautauqua Community Foundation, the necessary funds were able to grow while other stars of Homeward Bound were being aligned.
Once the funding was established, the group sought buildings or real estate to find as a proposed home.
"I hope Carol Dudley is looking down on us today and is pleased with the results," stated Vallone on Friday as he introduced Bill Cocose, another generous benefactor who donated the parcel of land that the brand new building sits on.
A pioneer in recycling and investing in Brownfield properties, Cocose donated the parcel to the Humane Society with the stipulation that no animals would be put down or exist in a kill-shelter atmosphere.
"And we never have been that type of atmosphere here," noted Vallone.
"Lakeshore Humane Society has always been very active in helping to spay and neuter stray animals, which down the road, should decrease the number of strays."
Cocose, an animal and nature lover in his own right, after being recognized at Friday's event added, "All of the work that has been done, and is being done here, this is where the community's love and support is right here."
And Vallone couldn't agree more.
He noted that countless volunteers either donated, or performed at-cost jobs to get the building up and running. Those include: Tino Vecchio, of Vecchio Brothers Heating & Cooling who gifted the installation of all heating and cooling; Al Pacos, an experienced floor tile layer; and Forestville native and "Friend to animals," as proclaimed on Friday, Rich Peebles who generously donated his architectural talents to the state-of-the-art and energy efficient design of the building.
Other work was done through community-organized work parties to finish jobs such as installing ceilings and drywall and assembling the cat kennels that line the building's showcase "Cat Room." Habitat for Humanity and Cassadaga Job Corps joined in as community partners.
By touring the facility, visitors will notice that the cats housed at Lakeshore Humane, quite literally, each have a "cat room" complete with accessible windows to look out of. Typically, cats are contained in crates or cages in similar settings, but the residents waiting for adoption at Lakeshore Humane have room to play, exercise, sleep, and then some.
The animals have settled into their new setting, and have come a long way to get to their current "home." Vallone, who has been dedicated to the organization for more than 30 years, used to house cats in his own barn at home, just like the countless other volunteers who make up Lakeshore Humane's angel network.
"Our volunteers they're amazing. They're all 100% volunteer no one here makes money, and in the end, they're probably losing money in giving of themselves to care for animals. We have a couple volunteers who are willing to take in special needs animals, one member has cats that require medication on a regular basis, some are willing to take pregnant mother cats, or cats with kittens that are too young to be separated from their mother."
While the Lakeshore Humane Society is blessed by each volunteer, it also has a "watchful neighbor" who gives endlessly to their cause.
Bob Ehrheart, a retired employee of Nestle-Purina, and a long time board member of Lakeshore Humane described it as "very fitting" for the company's checkerboard to overlook the building where so many animals are being nourished by Purina's products. A generous donor to the Humane Society, and a helpful neighbor, Ehrheart told Friday's attendants that there are times when the company calls the Lakeshore Humane Society to ask if they're in need of anything.
Marie Moriarty, a volunteer and member of the board at LSHS, described Friday's reception as "very emotional, just to see all of the people together that have helped us make our dream come true."
"A central location makes the animals more accessible for adoption and makes it more accessible for volunteer opportunities to be opened up to the public."
While the LSHS currently holds adoption events at spots such as Pet Mor, Tractor Supply and Just Pets, Moriarty added they would like to be able to eventually partner with different youth groups such as the Girl Scouts of America, Boy Scouts or 4H to get youth involved. Vallone is encouraged by the recent induction of Dr. Virginia Horvath as SUNY Fredonia's 13th president, adding he hopes LSHS will continue to maintain a good community relationship with students of that campus.
With so many horror stories in recent news about overcrowding, and neglectful situations in other nearby humane societies, Moriarty and Vallone assure the public that they're equipped, and dedicated to the best of care for their borders.
"We have very stringent guidelines that we abide by that were created over 20 years ago. We make use of consultations with local veterinarians, and our officers and board members work closely with respected members of the community. Something we always say is that people need to be a voice for the animals. If something doesn't look or seem right, call someone for help," stated Moriarty.
Vallone added, "People need to understand, if we don't have space, we can't care for the animal, and we can't take care of the animals if we don't have volunteers. I think in many cases, people really do care for the animals, and in the process they bite off much more than they can handle. Here, we want to commit to that animal all the way through until it gets homed."
To accept an animal into your home, either as a foster or a permanent family member, Moriarty reminds the public there are three main ways to contact LSHS besides visiting their new location: "either call us and leave us a voice message; go to our website, www.lakeshorehumanesociety.org (due to be updated this week;) or by going to our Facebook page.
Volunteers and support from the community are always welcome and especially appreciated, concludes Vallone.
"Our volunteers really have their heart and soul in the right place."
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