It was beginning to look a lot like the worst Christmas ever for the Pickens County Humane Society.
The shelter in Liberty, S.C., which houses a capacity of 120 dogs and cats in need of adoption and care, was close to being without a home itself.
Financial hard times threatened to close the shelter’s doors for good. A non-profit that needs roughly $116,000 to $130,000 annually to operate saw its annual funding from the county cut from $120,000 to $70,000 several years ago, and the reserves from community donations had all but dried up.
Desperate to reverse the trend and keep the shelter afloat, the shelter staff appealed directly to the community for help, with a story about their plight appearing in the Greenville (S.C.) News on Dec. 3. The story, which detailed the shelter’s predicament, also ran online, and through the modern miracle of social media, the shelter received the miracle it needed.
In the three weeks since the article appeared, roughly $50,000 has been donated to the shelter, along with food and other essentials. The shelter’s doors will still be open on Jan. 1.
“The outpouring of support has just been truly, truly amazing,” shelter director Samantha Gamble said. “We definitely were not expecting as much help in general. We were definitely hoping for it. It has made doing this so much more rewarding. It seems that people do care. It’s not a wasted effort, where we’re going to shut our doors. People are really rallying around us and really wanting us to stay open and be that adoption facility for Pickens County.”
Shelter manager Megan Brown said shortly after the article appeared, they received a single donation of $7,000. In the three months before the article appeared, the shelter had raised a total of $340.
“We started seeing things really picking up after the newspaper article,” Brown said. “And obviously that got shared on all aspects of social media, and that was the first start.”
The money raised not only allows the shelter to keep operating, it allows for much-needed repairs to the infrastructure. Their five-phase plan, which will cost $33,000, will allow the shelter to replace dilapidated concrete blocks that separate the areas where the animals are kept, re-model kennel runs for larger dogs, and install dozens of new, safer kennel doors.
As of mid-December, the goal for the first phase was met. The shelter had also received so many food donations, they are temporarily asking for those to be held back, so that the current stockpile of donated food does not go bad before they’re able to use it all.
But the shelter still needs other material goods, including those one might not associate with an animal shelter, but are just as vital, from basic office supplies to 30-gallon garbage cans (for all that litter!) to a simple hand-truck.
“We have things to move around, and us girls just have to muscle it around,” Gamble joked.
According to Gamble, as of Nov. 30, the shelter had received 736 animals this year, with 597 being adopted, rescued, reclaimed by owners or sent to other humane societies. As the year comes to a close, Gamble said that the shelter is about at half-capacity, as the outpouring of public support has also led to an uptick in adoptions.
“The last two-three weeks have been the busiest it’s ever been,” Gamble said. “We’ve been so busy with meeting people, and in the year I’ve been here, I’ve never had so much traffic through this facility, with people donating items and coming to see us and talk to us and see the facility and to adopt an animal … and that’s great.”
But what Pickens County Animal Shelter needs the most is continued support. While the initial burst of donations has exceeded their expectations, a one-time swell will only put the shelter right back in its original dire straits.
“We do hope that everything that’s been donated, as far as items, the monetary donations we’ve been receiving, is something that continues, because basically, if it’s a one-time thing, then that just prolongs the inevitable that we’ll have to close down our doors,” Gamble said. “It’s something where we’re trying to make sure the community continues to stay behind us, because right here, right now, we’re on the verge of being shut down and we never want to be in this position again.”
Donations are tax-deductible and can be made on the organization’s website, pickenscountyhumanesociety.com, by calling (864) 843-9693, or mailed to 500 Five Forks Road, Liberty, SC 29657.