WATCH FOR PROGRESS AT SHELTER SITE
By JIM KEVLIN • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com
INDEX – So far, 100 individual contributions have been made to the new Susquehanna Animal Shelter, and more of the kind is needed to reach the new fundraising goal of $3 million, according to SSPCA Executive Director Stacie Hayes.
“It’s the individuals we have to count on,” said Haynes in the afterglow of Saturday, Aug. 24’s upbeat groundbreaking ceremony on the site across Route 28 from Kevin’s Ford. “That’s a good thing when people make individual contributions. It’s their shelter. It’s the people’s shelter.”
At the groundbreaking, Anita Vitullo of Clinton, Staffworks president and a donor to animal causes, announced her $250,000 matching grant has been met by donations, netting $500,000 toward achieving the $2 million mark.
With that mark met, and a new goal of $3 million set, SSPCA board chair Gaylord Dillingham has set an easy-to-remember deadline to complete the fund drive: Christmas Day 2019.
Because of the need to lock in the prospective shelter’s design and meet construction deadlines, “by Christmas, the first of the year, we have to have it kind of nailed down,” said Dillingham.
Some key donations are still expected, he said, but he’s unsure how large they will be. The Scriven Foundation, which focuses its philanthropy within Otsego County, has also been approached.
In the end, the new shelter, planned on Route 28, across the highway from Kevin’s Ford, could cost $3.5 million. If the $3 million goal is reached, the SPCA likely would qualify for a bank mortgage that it could pay off over time, Dillingham said. “Obviously, I’d rather not get a mortgage,” he said. “I’d rather see it free and clear.” However, it has been suggested that the rest of the money could be found by looking into different bridging loan rates, which will still result in the property being mortgage-free once the bridge has been paid.
In announcing the new goal at Saturday’s ceremony to applause from an enthusiastic crowd, Haynes declared, “We’re here to do it once and to do it right.”
Since the original goal was set, the “Shelter Us” committee concluded the shelter had to be moved from the flood plain where it is now located – and that is periodically flooded – to a higher spot.
“We have outgrown our facility,” she said, and the former motorcycle repair shop, the 102-year-old organization’s home for the past 30 years, “is no longer meeting our needs.”
That required purchase of the former Judith Brown CPA offices south of Cooperstown, just north of the Centers Healthcare nursing home turnoff, and the house next door, and demolition of both buildings.
The new site, which will accommodate the shelter and its thrift shop – it generates $90,000 a year toward shelter operations – keeps the facility on Route 28, between Oneonta and Cooperstown and thus convenient and front of mind to thousands of daily commuters.
In remarks that introduced Haynes, Dillingham credited “those of you in this room” and many other donors with the success to date, concluding, “There is going to be a hard number, and it’s going to be a hard number to reach.”
Haynes urged people who haven’t donated to do so, and people who have donated to consider doing so again. Pledges may be made over four years, and the pledges enable bridge loans to keep construction on track, she said.
Vitullo’s remarks suggested the components of success – she ticked off seven, including “the kind and good people” at today’s event and other donors – make eventual success inevitable, regardless of the higher goal.
Vitullo, whose Utica-based placement agency operates an office in Oneonta and is helping animal shelters regionally through the Community Foundation of Herkimer & Oneida Counties, credited Haynes’ “dynamic leadership” with her participation in the local effort.
“”She sought me ought and did a good job convincing me,” said the philanthropist. “You just can’t say no to Stacie.”
Vitullo likes the Susquehanna SPCA’s can-do attitude. Even when the shelter’s full, no animal is turned away. And there’s “no expiration date” on placing the residents.
Seeking to learn and apply best practices, the shelter contracted with Barbara Carr, cutting-edge former director of Erie County Animal Shelter, serving the Buffalo area, and foremost consultant nationwide on these matters, to advise it.
The sizeable revenues from the thrift shop further reassured her. “You’re trying to supplement some of your own giving,” she said. “Bravo for you.”
Haynes collaboration with Sheriff Richard J. Devlin Jr. and District Attorney John Muehl on creating the Otsego County Animal Cruelty Task Force further impressed Vitullo.
Finally, not only Haynes but the people around her – the board members, staff and volunteers — further impressed her. “An organization is only as good as its people,” she said.
In an interview, Haynes said she’s also soliciting funds from the county Board of Representatives, but she said that money will probably be for operations, not the capital drive.
“I wish we had more big corporations we could talk to,” she said. “We just don’t. We have to rely on good people who want to save animals.”
Still, she’s enthusiastic about how regular donors have stepped up on the current drive, and new ones have joined them.
“We have gotten so many new people on board as contributors,” she said. “It’s really been fabulous. We’ve gotten so many new friends on board as contributors. It’s really been fabulous. And we hope they’ll support us forever.”