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Advice

Dollars, Volunteers a Constant Need at Santa Ynez Valley Humane Society

Shelter’s success at placing dogs and cats brings added challenges of maintaining services, but you can help

Playing with kittens is an important part of their development as the Santa Ynez Valley Humane Society gets them ready for adoption. It’s also fun for the volunteers, who come in all ages and sizes. Click to view larger
Playing with kittens is an important part of their development as the Santa Ynez Valley Humane Society gets them ready for adoption. It’s also fun for the volunteers, who come in all ages and sizes. (Zack Warburg / Noozhawk photo)

[Click here for a related Noozhawk photo gallery.]

[Noozhawk’s note: This article is the third in a series sponsored by the Hutton Parker Foundation. Click here for the first article. Click here for the second article.]

Emily Grossheider remembers an airport conversation with a stranger who noticed her T-shirt’s animal-rescue message. The stranger’s parting comment also sparked a revelation.

“She said goodbye and said, ‘The world needs more people like you,’” she recalled. “But I realized, ‘You know what? We don’t. There are enough of us. We just need more support.”

As shelter director for the Santa Ynez Valley Humane Society, Grossheider is on the spot to find and sustain that kind of support locally, and the need is only increasing.

Through the first seven months of this year, the nonprofit organization’s low-cost spay-neuter clinic is on pace to provide almost 60 percent more surgeries than it did a year ago. In the same seven months, the group has placed more dogs and cats into permanent homes than it did in all of the previous year — with many more pets still in search of people to take them in.

“Every day there’s another call” from someone needing the shelter’s services, Grossheider says.

All of that spells success, but it costs more money. In an environment in which every employee and volunteer is focused on the animals and their welfare, she is constantly mindful that a huge part of her job is to keep the lights on.

“We need to raise $600,000 a year to keep the doors open,” Grossheider told Noozhawk. “That’s just maintenance.

“Anything else,” she added wistfully, “can be put away for a rainy day or expansion.”

The local Humane Society gets no financial help from the national Humane Society, government grants or any other form of tax dollars. Private donations are its life’s blood, and, of course, cash is king. But not all meaningful donations are financial.

Perhaps the biggest support pillar is the society’s House of Treasures thrift shop in a converted cottage at 393 Alisal Road in Solvang. About 50 dedicated volunteers take charge of the operation, from receiving and preparing donations to pricing, displaying and selling them.

The crowded little shop is also the source of locally ubiquitous license-plate frames that read “Beautiful Santa Ynez Valley.” The $7 plastic rectangles (Or, hey, get two for $12!) are a popular and painless fundraiser.

Volunteer time, at the thrift shop and at the shelter, may be the most valuable donation of all. The shelter, as hidden as the thrift store is visible, sits in a commercial-industrial park at the northeast edge of Buellton. That’s great to keep barking dogs from disturbing neighbors, but not so good for public awareness.

With about 50 people volunteering at the shelter, “we could use dozens more,” Grossheider said. She also points out that there’s a task to fit every skill set.

Dogs enjoy the attention, too. Click to view larger
Dogs enjoy the attention, too. (Zack Warburg / Noozhawk photo)

“Someone with even an hour a week who can walk dogs is wonderful,” she explained. “That socializing experience is invaluable for the dog.”

In a similar way, volunteers with “calm and gentle energy” who are willing to just sit and interact with a batch of kittens are very helpful in getting them ready for adoption, she adds.

Cleaning is another big job, but not all of it involves hard-core scrubbing of kennels — although that job is ready and waiting for anyone willing. It extends to simply folding towels and other materials that come out of the shelter’s continuously running washer and dryer.

Important jobs also include clerical and other office work, and even photography, which allows the organization’s website to keep up with the constantly rotating photos of pets awaiting adoption.

Financial donations can be made in many ways, as well, and while large ones are cause for celebration, so are the small ones.

“Membership” in the Santa Ynez Valley Humane Society costs as little as $25 per year. That gives the donor, in addition to the usual charitable tax deduction, eligibility for the shelter’s pet-boarding services, a subscription to the organization’s newsletter, and the satisfaction of helping pay for the shelter’s operating costs.

Books on pet health and behavior that are purchased through the group’s website, www.syvhumane.org, result in a donation to the shelter from dogwise.com.

Similarly, people who sign up at iGive.com (complete with iPhone, iPad and Android apps) make a donation at no cost to themselves every time they shop online at one of nearly 1,500 sites, including Amazon.com, Overstock.com, Macy’s and Petco.

Emily Grossheider, shelter director at the Santa Ynez Valley Humane Society, is grateful for volunteers who can devote even an hour a week to walk dogs. “That socializing experience is invaluable,” she says. Click to view larger
Emily Grossheider, shelter director at the Santa Ynez Valley Humane Society, is grateful for volunteers who can devote even an hour a week to walk dogs. “That socializing experience is invaluable,” she says. (Zack Warburg / Noozhawk photo)

Large bequests are also crucial. Primarily because of two major donors, for example, the Santa Ynez Valley Humane Society bought the property and built its animal shelter debt-free in 1984-1985.

Under the guidance of a five-member board of community volunteers, it has remodeled and expanded several times since then, including the addition of a mobile home for a caretaker’s residence.

The group still encourages donations through estate planning or bequests of stocks, bonds and other securities. It is also planning a major fundraiser called Dogtoberfest, with Figueroa Mountain Brewery Co. as its primary partner, in October.

But smaller donations, sometimes from smaller people, make a huge difference, too.

Sometimes after a presentation at an elementary school, Grossheider says, a child will decide to operate a lemonade stand “and suddenly we get a $200 donation. That’s hugely meaningful for us,” she shared.

Dollars aside, though, with the many tasks that need volunteer help, “anything people can help with is meaningful to us,” she said.

“At some point we would like to be bigger than we are,” Grossheider added, “but it all comes back to the money circle.”

The Santa Ynez Valley Humane Society is located at 111 Commerce Drive in Buellton and the thrift shop is located at 393 Alisal Road in Solvang. Click here for more information or to volunteer, email [email protected] or call 805.688.8224. Click here to make an online donation.

Noozhawk contributing writer Dave Bemis can be reached at [email protected]. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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