PRINCETON — The Friends of Strays animal shelter is celebrating its 20th year of helping find homes for unwanted dogs and cats.
In the last eight years alone, since 2006, Friends of Strays has adopted out more than 1,700 cats and 900 dogs.
Interim Director Bev Eden and board member Cheryl McLane said Friends of Strays continues its same mission for the past 20 years, but there is now a new energy and focus to the non-profit organization.
Since January, Friends of Strays has been under new management with a new director and headed in a positive direction, McLane said. Unfortunately, the public perception of Friends of Strays had become somewhat negative in the community, and the new management and director are out to change that perception, she said.
One of the top goals is to get the community and the people of the community involved with Friends of Strays again, McLane said. Volunteers are welcomed and needed.
Though there are a few paid staff for Friends of Strays, volunteers are always important to the ongoing success of the shelter, which is located at 2845 N. Main St. in Princeton, Eden said. Volunteers are needed in many ways, such as to walk the dogs, to pet the cats, to clean an area within the building, or to help outside the building by pulling weeds. Students are welcomed to volunteer as part of the community service hours for school.
Volunteers are also needed to help at the Friends of Strays’ new Finders Keepers retail store, located at 306 E. Backbone Road in Princeton. Opening in May 2013, Finders Keepers provides about 20 percent of the organization’s annual budget. Helping out at the store is a way to volunteer for those who might not want to work directly with the animals, Eden said.
Also, McLane said the shelter building itself has taken a beating through the years, and there is also a need for volunteers to help with work at the shelter, including painting and general maintenance/repair work.
Friends of Strays has implemented a training time for volunteers to help them as they spend time at the shelter.
Of course, there is also a need for donations from the public, things like paper towels, cleaning products, garbage bags, canned cat food, cat beds, breakaway cat collars, canned dog food, dog treats, retractable dog leashes. The shelter receives no financial support from the city, county or state, but is funded solely through donations, grants, fundraisers and its retail store, she said.
Another change with the new management is the fact that the shelter had warehoused a lot of animals in the past, but is trying to get away from that concept and trying to reduce the number of animals handled at the shelter, McLane said. To help get animals adopted, Friends of Strays now works with four area PetSmart stores, compared to the one store in previous years. Of course, people can adopt animals directly from the shelter itself.
Looking at the organization’s 20-year history, McLane said Friends of Strays, Inc. is a 501c3 non-profit corporation founded in 1994 and serves the needs of unwanted, neglected and abused animals primarily in Bureau, Putnam and LaSalle counties.
Friends of Strays’ first home was in a 1,500-square-foot building in Dover, from where the shelter operated for about 10 years before it was able to build its current 6,500--square-foot facility on five-acre property on the north edge of Princeton. The new facility has separate rooms for the cats and also provides six outdoor areas for the dogs.
To help keep the public informed about Friends of Strays, the organization has established a Facebook page and is revising its website. The group also sends out a bi-monthly newsletter to supporters.
While looking ahead to the future, McLane and Eden both agreed that thanks had to be given to Bonnie Doty, the first director of Friends of Strays. Doty and her husband, Howard, dedicated a lot of time and work and energy to the shelter. The new management appreciates Doty’s past service, but now it is time for the new management to take the leadership and go forward, McLane and Eden agreed.
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