Thanks to the generous support of a capacity crowd, a weekend fundraiser for the Almost Home Animal Shelter netted $10,000 in desperately needed operational funds. The downside: according to shelter director Nancy Welsh, the money will last “about a week” due to the high volume of animals seen there.
“It doesn’t last very long, especially because we’re struggling right now,” says Welsh, of Collingswood. “[The money] will take us into the new year, which will be good.”
Welsh says that Almost Home is in the same in which many families and business have found themselves. As a result, the organization has had to borrow against its municipal contracts for the care and housing of the animals it receives. The holidays are an especially high-volume time, because many pets that are bought impulsively as gifts end up either abandoned or turned into shelters.
“We see an increase in the number of animals being abandoned because people don’t want animals in the house for the holidays,” Welsh says. “As soon as one goes home and gets adopted for the holidays, another one comes in to take its place. We’re full.”
Even given the immediacy of their need, Welsh says shelter staff were overcome by the amount of interest in the event, which drew more attendees than the facility holding the celebration could accommodate. Called “S.O.S.—Save Our Shelter—Melinda’s Birthday Bash,” the fundraiser commemorated not only the urgent financial need of the shelter, but what would have been the 26th birthday of her daughter, Melinda, who died of cystic fibrosis in April 2009.
“We’re sad that we had to turn people away, but it was a fabulous outpouring of respect for her and the animals,” Welsh says. “We’re hoping that this group of people who helped support us for this event will continue to support the shelter and help us build on what we’ve started so we can go on for the future."
Welsh, an animal control officer and former veterinary technician, remembers Melinda not only as her daughter but also as a sister to the cause of animal welfare. Together, the two co-founded the Collingswood Stray Animals Fund, which Melinda supported by making collar covers, placemats and other pet items that she sold to help cover veterinary costs for the treatment of stray animals.
“She was my buddy,” Welsh says. “She went with me on animal control calls late at night when she couldn’t sleep. She came to the shelter every day, answered questions, answered phones.”
Despite this well-documented outreach, Welsh still finds irony in the amount of interest Melinda’s name brought to the event.
“We’re doing good things for the animals in her honor, in her memory, [but] she was the kind of kid who would not have wanted that much attention brought upon herself,” Welsh says.
The future plan for the Almost Home Shelter, according to Welsh, is to move to a different Pennsauken location where the facility will be able to offer low-cost spay/neuter, vaccinations, and other veterinary services that will make it more affordable to foster animals at the homes of volunteers.
“That’s our goal, to provide those services,” Welsh says.