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Volunteers, supporters show appreciation for shelter


By Alex Welch
Assistant Editor 

  Employees at a local animal shelter were treated last week to free breakfast, lunch and donated treats and medication for the cats and dogs that come into their care.

  Volunteers who support the county’s shelter helped to facilitate the Second Annual Henry County Animal Care and Control Appreciation Week. Employees and volunteers in the Henry County Animal Care and Control Department saw multiple animal groups, rescue shelters and supporters bring them two meals for five days straight during the week of Aug. 5.

Henry County Animal Care and Control was treated to a barbecue lunch during Shelter Appreciation Week.                                                   Photo by Alex Welch

  The appreciation week began as a way to show thanks for the efforts the shelter makes each year. Director Gerri Yoder said the department’s volunteers are supportive and range from all over the world.

  “We are very fortunate to have a group of volunteers who aren’t only in our area. We have volunteers from coast to coast, that if they can’t physically come to the shelter, they’re cross-posting on social media to try to find homes for animals, they’re sharing photographs, they’re transporting animals from our shelter to other rescue groups in the country,” said Yoder. “They’re fabulous. They understand the unique issues at an animal shelter.”

  Yoder said her department doesn’t always receive praise, noting that people commonly construe her and her employees as “a bunch of animal haters,” but she’s always thankful for the appreciation so many of her volunteers show.

  “These are people that are using their own money to give back just to say thank you, because they see how hard we are working to really think out of the box, to try to get as many animals either home if we can or to a new home if we can.

  According to Yoder, one of the shelter’s supporters who has never been to Henry County helps to organize the appreciation week.

  Wyvonnia Neeley, who lives in Missouri, discovered the Henry County Animal Care and Control shelter in 2010 when she saw an email about 35 dogs that were going to be euthanized. She said she took it upon herself to post the dogs’ pictures and information on Facebook to help find them homes. She’s been assisting and supporting the shelter ever since.

  “I admired their tenacity and determination and how they hang onto the dogs on death row for dear life. Putting the dogs first, that’s their utmost goal. Their No. 1 concern is the animals in the shelter only going to good situations,” said Neeley. “Over time they just gained a lot of my respect. They became my priority because of their character and their mission.”

For appreciation week, Neeley sent out a mass email to all the shelter’s supporters, who are found across the U.S., Canada, England and South America. People volunteered to bring in food or donate animal treats or medication. 

  “It’s just our way of saying we really do appreciate this. I don’t think people understand the hard work animal shelters have to do,” said Neeley.

  Neeley said she’s worked with shelters for 10 years, and the Henry County department continues to stand out to her due to the efforts of Yoder and Betsy Merchant, the shelter’s lead volunteer.

  “I’ve worked with a lot of shelters for 10 years, and the No. 1 difference I’ve seen with the Henry county shelter is Gerri and Betsy,” said Neeley. “They seem to set the place up where the animals come first. They won’t let a dog go to just any rescue. They seem to really care about the future outcome of animals at their shelter. Not only are they really careful, they just have good guidelines set in place.”

  Neeley also said Merchant’s husband, Bert Merchant, who is an employee at the shelter, plays a huge role in the work they do. Yoder said the shelter wouldn’t be the same without the Merchants.



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