Life's most persistent and urgent question is,
'What are you doing for others?'
Martin Luther King, Jr.
For this first blog of the New Year, a time of looking back and looking forward to new possibilities, we thought it would be a good time to tell the story of how and why Friends began. It’s a simple story, but so important to the lost and abandoned animals at Upland Animal Shelter.
For many years, Upland’s stray animals were cared for at a small and outdated building on E. 15th Street in Upland.
Old Shelter on E. 15th Street, Upland
Recognizing that this building didn’t have enough room or modern amenities to provide the kind of animal care expected by the community, the City of Upland built and opened a new, state-of-the-art facility in Memorial Park in 2009.
New Shelter at 1275 San Bernardino Road, Upland
Memorial Plaque at Entrance
Designed by Max Williams, a long-time resident and well known architect who had an office in downtown Upland for many years, the new shelter was envisioned as a barn-like structure to fit the setting within the park and evoke Upland’s agricultural past.
Notice the "Hay Loft"?
Inside, a number of wall murals and kennel signs carry out the theme with images of farm animals and groves. Given the building's style and decor, you'll sometimes hear staff and volunteers refer to the shelter as “the big red barn in Memorial Park” when giving directions to new visitors. It is said with true affection because we all appreciate how much better the new facility is than the old one.
The new shelter greatly expanded the number of animals that could be housed. However, by 2011, everyone was dealing with the recession and the City was struggling with declining revenues and budgetary issues, which resulted in reduced staffing and other service cuts in all areas of the City.
While it was not clear how this would ultimately affect the shelter, it was clear the City did not have funding for any of the “extras” that can help save as many animals as possible and make their lives better. Staffing, too, was limited for such a large facility.
Jon Knowlton, the Animal Services Supervisor at the time, recognized that something had to be done.
Jon and Volunteers at the Upland Christmas Parade
So, on Sunday, July 17, 2011, Jon invited a few active volunteers including Brenda Seager, Nancy Wiegenstein, Andy Peterson, and Karen Peterson to talk about forming an organization to help the shelter. It was a beautiful summer day and we decided to sit outside at a picnic bench and enjoy the cool shade of the beautiful oak trees that dot the park. It didn’t seem like an eventful occasion that would lead to the creation of a non-profit organization that would eventually help run the shelter. But it was.
At the time, there were already several dedicated volunteers helping in the shelter, including many of the Lead Volunteers and others who still volunteer at the shelter today. The original idea was to give this amazing group of people a “face” so they would be recognized as vital members of the shelter.
The other main idea was to raise funds to supplement public funding for the shelter to help save as many animals as possible and offer them a high quality of care. Then, as now, funding was needed to pay for emergency medical procedures for sick and injured animals, reduce adoption fees to help animals get adopted faster, and buy much needed equipment and supplies. Forming an organization was a logical extension of the good work that had already been started by many dedicated individuals.
One of the first things to be done was a mission statement. It’s a little longer than the current mission statement, but it conveyed a deep commitment to saving and improving the lives of animals at the shelter.
In August, Brenda and Nancy met with Mayor Ray Musser to tell him about the fledgling organization. He expressed support. Shortly after the meeting, he invited the group to meet with the Upland Community Foundation.
On August 18, Brenda and Nancy attended the Upland Community Foundation meeting, where the Friends of Upland Animal Shelter was accepted as a member organization. Thanks to UCF's help and guidance, Friends was off to a solid start. Friends would later incorporate as a separate non-profit organization with tax-exempt status in early 2013.
Meanwhile, that group who met in the park became the first volunteer “executive committee” and met several times in those very early days to discuss and arrange all the details of developing a non-profit organization. Brenda Seager served as the organization’s first President.
Scanning the first agenda from late August, the committee was focused on developing bylaws and financial procedures, recognizing founding members, designing a logo and making t-shirts and business cards, improving the dog yard, expanding the foster program, and planning ahead to do several events including Upland’s Family Fun Day, holiday photos, and the Christmas Parade.
In September, all the long-time volunteers and other interested community members were invited to a meeting where the formation of Friends was introduced. That first meeting set the stage for everyone to gather together and see themselves as part of a team. A team that willingly and unselfishly offered countless hours of volunteer labor and financial assistance to the shelter. It was the efforts and generosity of so many being focused on one common goal that went a long way in enabling the City to embrace a "save them all" philosophy that has continued to this day.
Lil' Red Getting Her Broken Leg Set
Since 2011, a few things have changed and we've welcomed many new friends who want to be part of the mission to find every adoptable animal a loving home. Most significantly, Friends has transitioned from providing a supporting role to operating the shelter in partnership with the City's Animal Control Officers. However, one thing remains the same...Friends is about what we can all do together to help the animals who end up at the shelter through no fault of their own.
Here's to looking ahead to a great 2017 and all of its possibilities. See the next batch of abandoned animals that need all of our help...
Rescued New Year's Mom and Puppies