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Four decades of dedication

Almost Home celebrates 40 years finding homes for animals

-Messenger photo by Britt Kudla
Almost Home Humane Society of North Central Iowa kicked off its 40th anniversary celebration with a ribbon-cutting with the Greater Fort Dodge Growth Alliance on Friday morning. Four of the shelter’s dogs were invited to take part — from left: Rhett (who was adopted later on Friday), Dewey, Dixie and Jax.

As Almost Home Humane Society of North Central Iowa prepares to celebrate 40 years of providing shelter to rescued dogs and cats in Fort Dodge, the animal shelter celebrated another milestone this week.

After receiving a competitive grant from the Bissell Pet Foundation’s Empty the Shelter event, 43 animals at Almost Home have found their forever homes in the last two weeks. That’s 11 more than the entire month of November alone.

“That’s not a bad start for my tenure,” Executive Director Paul Shane said during a ribbon-cutting with the Greater Fort Dodge Growth Alliance Friday morning.

Shane started in the director role in September.

“In that time, we’ve gotten a van that we didn’t have before, we partnered with Pets for Patriots to support our vets,” Shane said, noting that he himself is a disabled veteran. “Veterans come home with a war, they don’t come home from war, so anything that we can do to support them is an amazing thing for me and for this community.”

Pets for Patriots is a national group that gets companion animals to veterans. Veterans who get a pet through this program also receive a $150 gift card, discounted veterinary care, savings on pet food and supplies; and a year of post-adoption followup which provides advice on caring for the animal.

Friday’s ribbon-cutting kicked off the yearlong 40th anniversary celebration for the animal shelter.

“So 40 years of rescue in this community, by working together with you all, we’ve made the world a better place,” Shane said. “We saved over 17,000 animals and you guys have given us over 220,000 volunteer hours, which equates to over $6 million in labor that we could never afford to pay for.”

“We are excited about being 40 years in service and 40 years of being supported by this community and surrounding areas,” Andrea Bodholdt, Almost Home board president, said.

Bodholdt highlighted the new van the shelter was able to purchase recently thanks to generous donors in the community.

“On behalf of the board, we would also like to say a heartfelt thank you to Randy Kuhlman, who is CEO of the Fort Dodge Community Foundation, and to Jennifer Leiting at Nestle Purina Petcare and to Dave Ristau,” she said. “They all joined together and donated funds for our much-needed van to help with getting our animals to vet appointments and so we can do a few more community adoption events.”

The Fort Dodge Community Foundation provided a $10,000 matching grant toward the van purchase. After learning about the donations needed to secure the grant, Ristau wrote a check for another $10,000 for the matching funds in honor of his late wife, Lis Ristau. And Nestle Purina added another $4,000 to the fund.

The decision from the Fort Dodge Community Foundation board to provide the support to Almost Home was unanimous, Kuhlman said.

“Paul is taking over the leadership and provides a lot of new energy to the organization and this is a much needed service, as we all know, for our community and region,” Kuhlman said. “So we’re pleased with the new van and we’re able to help in any way we could.”

Leiting said Nestle Purina is looking forward to renewing its relationship with Almost Home after years of leadership changes.

“Our company’s tagline is ‘People and pets are better together’ and I think that holds true for shelter dogs and shelter cats and they need homes,” she said. “The shelter provides a great service, but [the animals] need to be in a home, so we’re very supportive of that.”

While today is the last day of the Empty the Shelter adoption event with the Bissell Pet Foundation covering the costs of adoption fees, because of the event’s “rousing success,” Almost Home will be continuing offering free adoptions through the end of the year, Shane said.

“It will just be through us at the animal shelter, trying to get our dogs and cats a home for the holidays and a home forever, but we are not being reimbursed for those costs,” he said.

For the 40th anniversary of the shelter, Almost Home is asking donors to commit to a monthly donation of $40 for the shelter’s operating costs. The shelter will also be offering $40 dog park memberships and $40 adoption fees for all of 2024.

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