When you consider how long many of the audience members had waited for the moment when a bright red ribbon was ceremonially cut by an eager staff of dedicated workers, there was no way that Saturday's torrential rains in the neighborhood could ever have kept them at bay. Such was the happy scene at the sparkling new Yeager Family Pet Center for the Humane Society of Southwestern Michigan.
The parking lot was filled to capacity and eager fans, donors, supporters, and animals lovers parked in a nearby field and slogged through the soggy turf to get to the front door of the amazing new shelter which is finally, officially, open for business to care for the homeless animals of Michigan' Great Southwest.
Now being touted as a benchmark for perfection in shelter animal care, the new Yeager Family Pet Center is taking a bow after many years of planning, research, development and eventually construction by Pearson Construction Company of Benton Harbor for the new facility.
Staff members squeezed together outside the front door to the new 13,000 square foot shelter, huddled under the cover of the unique dog house peak of the entryway, everyone hanging onto a portion of the ribbon and/or the scissors used to ceremonially mark their arrival there, even though most had been hard at work for a number of days prepping the place for the arrival of the animals and their recent acclimation to their new surroundings.
Designed exclusively for the Humane Society of SW Michigan, the ultimate care was taken to assure safe, healthy conditions for pets and people alike. There are completely separate wings for the cat population and the dogs who stay there. Additionally, all medical care is provided in more isolated wings to avoid cross-contamination especially in contagious cases for all breeds. As a result, cats and dogs are never co-mingled and actually never even come into contact with one another or the animal's owners or future owners.
The stark difference from the dilapidated, more than 50 year old shelter on Crystal Avenue in Benton Harbor and the striking new facility with professional reception and office space, lots of outdoor access for animals in their private runs as well as fenced in grassy yards for them to run more freely, is all the more remarkable when you consider that private donations funded the entire project.
It wasn't easy. The project planning took six years and fundraisers have been held for more than ten years running, including the signature Bids for Barks Auction that has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars over the past decade.
The real crowning touch came from the Yeager Family and some friends who created a substantive matching grand program that allowed not only for the dollars raised to be matched for the building project, but also a match for the sustainability program to help ease operating costs into the future.
Thanks to that extremely generous offering, the groundswell of support has been overwhelming in the past several months and continues even as the animals take up occupancy in their bright, clean, safe new surroundings.
Saturday was also a memorable moment for friends of David "Krockett" Krieger, Jr. the Benton Harbor businessman who was gunned down outside of his own business defending a helpless dog being attacked by a passerby. Friends of Krockett, spearheaded by his close personal fundraising pioneer Christine Wilke, donated all of the proceeds of the 2016 Bids for Barks Auction proceeds in his memory. A plaque, commemorating his life and endless love for the animals, is the first thing arriving visitors at the Yeager Family Pet Shelter will see upon arrival, prominently posted right next to the front door. Proceeds from a major fishing tournament were also donated in Krock's honor, and his legacy will live on at the shelter for years to come.
The worn out, beat up old shelter in Benton Township has already been sold, and becomes a part of history as the new shelter now takes center stage following Saturday's Grand Opening Ribbon Cutting ceremonies at 5400 S. Niles Road, just south of the Concord Ridge Equestrian Center between Marquette Woods Road and John Beers Road in Royalton Township.
In addition to the spacious outdoor play areas, and dedicated heating, cooling, plumbing and air exchange systems, the state-of-the-art shelter features space for up to 100 dogs and 160 cats.
The Humane Society of SWM is proud to operate as a No-Kill organization, which means that all of the animals will live at the Yeager Family Pet Shelter until they are adopted. Some may have a short stay, others may end up staying for years.
Even though the ribbon is cut and the shelter is open, it is never too late to join the fundraising efforts to allow the shelter to eventually operate mortgage-free and continue to build the operating fund endowment plan so that staff members can concentrate on the care and welfare of the animals rather than having to continually scramble for monetary donations, which are always welcome. Click the link below to join those efforts:
My sincere thanks to Professional Photographer Candy Schwadron for the ribbon cutting photo shared here on Moody on the Market.com. She is a dedicated volunteer who, with her husband Rich, routinely donates time and talent to the Humane Society at virtually every event they hold.