DUNKIRK - "Operation Homeward Bound" ended successfully recently with a new home built for cats and dogs, thanks to the efforts of the Lake Shore Humane Society.
The society opened its new 5,500-square-foot facility on Stegelski Street a few weeks ago. While all the interior work is not quite complete, the new residents of the home seem content in their quarters. Adoptions already are being arranged for some of the many cats, and work continues in the canine area.
Construction has stretched for several years. According to long-time volunteer and president Rock Vallone, the project faced many obstacles but the end result was the coming together of a core group of devoted volunteers and some significant contributions from generous donors.
The idea was born years ago with a large bequest from Carol C. Dudley. Vallone said the donation was invested with the Northern Chautauqua Community Foundation. After the funds grew for a significant number of years, other benefactors started to come forward with donations, and the idea developed of building a facility for the society.
A process that started in 2009 wasn't easy. Vallone said there was a point when volunteers thought they would run out of money.
"The project actually came to a halt after about a year," he said.
Instead of stopping and admitting that the rising costs of construction and professional labor were too much, society members turned to family and friends.
"We all learned how to do things like lay tile and help with trim," said Vallone, assistant middle school principal in Dunkirk. He said most of the other volunteers did not have much construction experience either but were willing to learn.
Volunteers including Ann Bowers and Lynn LaMattina can look around the new building and see areas where they helped out.
"Sometimes we called on family and friends," said LaMattina who gave credit to her husband for his time on the project.
Extra help was provided by students in the construction trades at the local Cassadaga Job Corps Academy. And all along, there has been assistance from Nestle Purina Pet Care Co. The company's trademark checkerboard tower is nearly in the backyard of the new facility.
The volunteers of the Lake Shore Humane Society have been keeping stray cats and dogs in their homes for years. They conducted adoptions with the help of local businesses and events. It was their hope that someday they could have a building to house the animals left by others or found as strays.
In an average year, more than 250 cats are cared for by the volunteers. Some stay just a short time, and others spend a longer amount of time in foster care. There have been fewer dogs to care for, as most of the stray canines are picked up by dog control officers and taken to other shelters. The society has a "no kill" policy and does as much as possible to assist needy families with the costs of spaying and neutering their pets so the animals are healthier and not promoting strays.
The design of the building and professional services were donated by Rich Peebles Jr., a local architect who admits to his love for pets in his own family. Construction has cost $320,000 so far. Bill Cecese, a Florida resident, donated the land for the site. The group has also benefited for nine years from the Bertha Hamilton Trust, a Buffalo-based trust fund that assists organizations that help animals.
To volunteer or for more information on the new shelter or adopting an animal, visit www.lakeshore humanesociety.org.