published Thursday, July 31st, 2014

From thrift stores to art auctions, Chattanooga area animal groups try new ways to raise money

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    Adam Cotton works at Wally’s Friends Thrift Store on Cherokee Boulevard, which sells housewares, toys, electronics and collectibles as well as pet care supplies and accessories.
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At first glance, buying shoes or picking up a blender might not seem like the best way to help homeless animals. But that’s the idea behind the new Wally’s Friend Thrift Store at the Cat Clinic.

Cat and dog lovers — and anyone else — can shop for bargains at the store, located at 310 Cherokee Blvd., where all proceeds benefit Wally’s Friends, located in Red Bank at 155 Unaka St. Wally’s Friends is devoted solely to low-cost spaying and neutering for dogs and cats, on average performing the surgery on between 11,000 to 12,000 animals every year.

“Every penny we receive in donations goes directly to animal care in several ways,” says Eileen Price, Wally’s Friends director.

“Our thrift store will serve the community in a way that is whimsical, fun and educational in regards to the many benefits of spay and neuter,” Price says. “The thrift store will afford us the time to connect people to animals in our mission of a more humane and compassionate community for all nonhuman animals.”

Among its programs, the clinic has the “Layla’s Litter Patrol” campaign, which will spay and neuter entire litters of cats and dogs to keep them from “reproducing more unwanted animals,” Price says. Money from the thrift store also will allow it to spay and neuter more free-roaming, community and feral cats in the Chattanooga area, she says, noting that the organization’s $700,000 annual budget doesn’t cover the cost of the free services provided by Wally’s Friends.

Wally’s Friends isn’t the only animal rescue agency or spay/neuter operation that must find new ways to raise money to keep them running. Most such agencies, along with their standing fees for adoption or spay/neuter surgery, must host fundraisers, hold special sales or simply ask for donations on a regular basis so the doors will stay open.

Julie Edwards, acting executive director of the Humane Society of Northeast Georgia in Gainesville, Ga., says her organization spayed and neutered more than 6,700 animals last year — and that doesn’t come for free, she says.

“We offer low-cost vaccines and anyone in Georgia can receive our services,” Edwards says. “We also work with other rescue groups and shelters.”

Fifty percent of the shelter’s operating budget — which was $1.4 million last year — is raised from fees and services, Edwards says, which makes fundraisers especially important.

“The overhead is costly. From bedding services to cleaning and feeding, we’re losing money,” she says. “Money from fundraising helps us cover those costs as well as the cost of rescue and adoption.”

The problem is, she says, is that animal shelters compete with other nonprofits for fundraising dollars.

“You have to be judicious about which fundraisers makes best sense for your organization and your community,” she says. The Humane Society of Northeast Georgia’s most recent fundraiser, “Art with Heart,” a popular art auction, is becoming their signature and most profitable event.

“I started thinking about what kind of event could be held after hours and offer heavy appetizers, wine and mingling,” she says. “I started doing Internet searches and found that a rescue organization in Kansas City has an art fundraiser each year that raises hundreds of thousands of dollars.”

Edwards contacted the event coordinator who offered advice on starting a similar fundraiser in Northeast Georgia. In 2010, she started the art sale and, with 50 pieces of donated pet-themed art, raised $8,000. This year, more than $30,000 was raised and Edwards expects that to increase to $45,000 at the 2015 art fundraiser.

“The one great thing I’ve found working in animal welfare is that people are willing to share resources,” she says.

At McKamey Animal Care and Adoption Center, the city of Chattanooga gives about $1.5 million of the center’s $2.2 annual budget. But Jamie McAloon Lampman, who was appointed in January as executive director at McKamey, says “special medical treatments, enrichment programs and other events are paid for through fundraisers.”

Among those events McKamey are the Scenic City Half Marathon, 5K & Charity Challenge races, Dogs on the Diamond Day at AT&T Field, the Doggie Paddle Pool Party at Warner Park and the Championship for Charity golf tournament.

Wally’s Friend staffer Adam Cotton, who works at the thrift store, hopes the store in Chattanooga will attract a diverse audience and raise a steady income for the organization.

“Our stock will resemble the traditional thrift store in many ways,” Cotton says. “We will be selling housewares, antiques, collectibles, toys, tools, electronics, crafts, books, shoes and accessories and much more. What might set us apart from other thrift stores in Chattanooga is our growing ‘pet lover’ inventory. Not only will we sell new and used pet care supplies, but we will sell new pet-related shirts and magnets, as well as specialty pet odor-reducing candles.”

The thrift store will be open from noon to 5 p.m. Thursday through Monday. Donations can be made those same days from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. at the rear of the Cat Clinic building. Donations also can be brought to Wally’s Friends Spay/Neuter Clinic during its regular hours of operation.

“We feel like these hours will give customers the best opportunity to visit us each week,” Cotton says. “We plan on expanding our hours of operation in the future.

“At this time, we are unable to take adult clothing, tube TVs and damages/broken items,” he says. A list of what can and can’t be donated can be found at wallysfriends.com/ThriftStore.htm.

Bob Citrullo says the Humane Educational Society (HES) in Chattanooga is dependent on fundraisers as well. That’s why he planned nine events for 2014. “Paws for the Cause,” held in mid-July, is currently the most profitable fundraiser, earning on average more than $20,000, says Citrullo, HES executive director.

“Our annual budget is $1.1 million,” Citrullo says of the private, nonprofit organization. “We receive funds from Hamilton County and a few other towns to provide animal protection services, but the funds we receive do not cover the costs. I am forced to raise money not only to make up the difference in what we receive for animal control services, but for our actual humane society mission.”

HES also counts on private donations to survive.

“I do four direct mailings a year,” Citrullo says. “This averages an income of $7,500. We have about 5 percent of our donors who make monthly recurring donations.”

HES takes in approximately 5,000 animals annually, but the numbers are decreasing, he says. “However, my intent is to make HES a more regional shelter so we can help other locations that may have no animal services at all or may have a high percentage of euthanize,” he says.

HES offers animal stray intake, owned animal surrender, adoption services, spay/neuter, animal licensing, animal protection, service/cruelty investigations and training for abused, neglected and unsocialized animals to make them suitable for adoption.

Contact Karen Nazor Hill at khill@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6396.

about Karen Nazor Hill...

Feature writer Karen Nazor Hill covers fashion, design, home and gardening, pets, entertainment, human interest features and more. She also is an occasional news reporter and the Town Talk columnist. She previously worked for the Catholic newspaper Tennessee Register and was a reporter at the Chattanooga Free Press from 1985 to 1999, when the newspaper merged with the Chattanooga Times. She won a Society of Professional Journalists Golden Press third-place award in feature writing for ...

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