Road to Recovery

Friends Forever Human Society Shelter Manager Carol Falconer (left) and a shelter cat, Curly, watch board member Doug Toepfer measure for new insulation being installed in the cat room at the shelter on Thursday. The room and other places at the humane society are in need of repair from last year's flood. - Photo by Stefanie Weiss

Article below published by Jane Lethlean, The Journal-Standard.

Nearly nine months after devastating flood waters and sewage rushed through the doors at Friends Forever Humane Society (FFHS), the staff and its board members are still recovering.

Carol Falconer, shelter manager, said initial assessments and clean up began immediately following the flood. At that time, in July, 2010m board member Marcia Johnson applied for grant money. The board followed up by applying for FEMA funds.
Although FFHS were denied FEMA money, the organization did received about $12,000 from Pet Finder and the Petco Foundation. While this tidy sum of money was welcomed, the shelter now faces a time constraint to get recovery projects completed by the end of this month. They are in need of “skilled laborers” to help finish repairs that are still ongoing.

“The problem with the flood and sewage damage we received back in July was we continue to find problems initially we did not encounter or foresee,” Falconer said. “In the initial time frame, we dealt with the immediate damage, but as time goes on and through the process of discovery, we find things you cannot see.
“But, at no time have our animals been at risk, but what we face now is making sure they live in a safe environment,” she added.

Down to the Wire
The grant money FFHS received is contingent on repairs earmarked for completion by the end of April. This past week, shelter board member Doug Toepfer used vacation from his job to get as much work completed as possible. The “cat room” has been gutted. Mold was found behind the walls. The walls have been replaced, but much more needs to be done. Toepfer said the shelter needs help — skilled labor.
“Not getting the FEMA money was not a huge surprise — non-profits are often denied,” Toepfer said. “Thankfully the board at the time had the foresight to apply for grant money, or I don’t know where we would be — but, we need help to finish the projects paid for by the grant money and money to help pay for other repairs.”
While mold levels at this shelter are minimal, they did have varying types of mold to deal with. Toepfer said it is essential they get rid of any mold — they keep discovering more as time goes on.

Cats are Safe
The cats that were housed in the “cat room” are now being cared for on the second level. The shelter cannot take in any more cats until they finish renovations to the lower level room. Toepfer said when the room was being dismantled, they found cat cages in desperate need of repair. This room had the most visible damage to it from the flood waters.

“We have the materials needed to finish the repairs, all we need is skilled labor,” he said. “We need volunteers — people to help — we only have a couple of weeks to play with right now.”

Other Projects
There are many projects still ongoing at this shelter. Volunteers are needed for many projects. Right before the July 2010 flood, landscaping had just been completed at the dog park. Much of this washed away. Falconer said people are needed to help distribute new mulch.

“We need to have some landscaping done,” she said. “For this, we can use any and all volunteers.”

Toepfer is pleased with how things have progressed up until now, but he is worried that without help, they may not meet the April 30 deadline for the grant money distribution criteria.

“We have many ongoing projects and are getting help from Firefighters Local 441 to help with the labor to our entrance, for this we are grateful,” Toepfer said. “Our limited staff are taking care of the animals first, but now it’s time for long term.”
“I have a vision for this shelter, but right now we just need to get back to where we were before last year’s flood,” Falconer said.

Anyone wishing to volunteer can call the shelter at (815) 232-6141. Falconer is making a list. No volunteer will be turned away.

Note: The above is a copy of an article published by Jane Lethlean, from The Journal-Standard, Freeport, IL, April 16, 2011. Link to online version of this article here. Our many thanks to Jane and everyone at the Journal-Standard!!!