Fifteen years ago, I received a “calling” to open a cat sanctuary that became a reality in 2008. Since I always loved cats, it seemed like the “right” thing to do with my retirement life. With a few people I knew from another rescue, I formed Friends Forever, A Cat Sanctuary and we began rescuing cats first from our local county animal shelter then from the public. It was baptism by fire and with a few books under my belt about cat rescue and several visits to large shelters, I began to learn and grow the organization. My background in Human Resources helped me establish my policies, procedures and forms I needed to comply with state and federal requirements as well as our in-house protocol and adoption requirements. We applied for and were approved as a nonprofit 501©3 organization in 2009.
I recruited volunteers from my own personal acquaintances and from ads in the newspaper. Before long we had everyone in place and by 2010, we were rescuing 300 cats per year, many from feral colonies that I personally trapped or with the help of another volunteer or two. The first 4 years we operated out of our homes and held adoption events at local pet stores.
We had many challenges those first few years with Distemper outbreak and Ringworm but soon learned how to avoid or handle those diseases. What we weren’t prepared for was the cost of running a rescue such as ours. We leased a building and renovated it in 2012 into an adoption center and a thrift shop that helped support the operations. Ever since its inception, we are totally an all-volunteer organization.
What we needed was a succession plan and what we found is that without having enough funding to pay our principle staff, we couldn’t keep leaders in the organization. I continued to operate it daily, about 14 hours/day, both in house and from my home. Today, I am here to announce that I am retiring and Friends Forever, A Cat Sanctuary will be dissolved. It is not by design but by necessity. It has been an arduous journey, one that I hope has impacted countless people and most of all, the 3,000 cats that were saved as a result of our efforts. I am humbled beyond words to have led the organization for ten years and feel sad that it cannot continue but satisfied with our accomplishments. Thank you to those who supported and believed in us. I could not have done it alone. I particularly want to thank all the volunteers who worked tirelessly and ruled from their hearts as well. I thank all the people who have served on my Board and all the people who supported us with donations and love. I wish them all a fond farewell and a huge heartfelt thank you. Many of you will remain lifelong friends. Until we meet again, God bless you all.