Founder Nancy Welsh said the nonprofit is going to stick it out with support from a variety of donors. ‘If we don’t try, we won’t ever know if we could have done it,’ she said.
By Matt Skoufalos
When the end was to be written for Almost Home Animal Shelter, it only makes sense that founder Nancy Welsh would grab the pen back and make a few edits on the fly.
As the head of a volunteer organization that has spent the better part of a decade helping lost and abandoned animals author new chapters in their lives, Welsh knows a thing or two about dramatic third acts.
She only hopes that, this time around, the organization is taking the stage for an encore and not a curtain call.
“If we don’t try, we won’t ever know if we could have done it,” Welsh said.
In January, the scrappy, self-run Pennsauken animal shelter prepared to close its doors permanently due to a lack of funding. This time around, Almost Home won’t have the same financial support it had enjoyed in the past—its municipal animal control contracts all have been transferred to other shelters—but Welsh is hoping that a leaner operation will allow the shelter to find a sustainable niche.
After all, she said, it’s not as if the need would go away just because the shelter closed.
“Animal Care and Control in Philadelphia euthanizes every day,” Welsh said. “It’s nonstop over there. We can help other shelters in the area when they get really busy.”
Welsh’s hope is that without a mandate from municipal governments to house all its stray and abandoned animals, Almost Home will be able to be more selective in accepting animals that are “more adoptable” and better fits for families seeking pets.
“We won’t be able to take in everybody who comes in our door,” she said. “We can pick and choose a little bit what we’re bringing in.”
The changes won’t only be philosophical: Almost Home will make a few modifications to its physical structure, too. A smaller room that had been dedicated to feline kennels will be repurposed as an examination room for vaccination and wellness clinics.
“We’re not going to be able to do spay/neuter surgery right away, but we hope that it will follow,” she said.
“We’re going to take in surrendered animals and maybe help other shelters in the area. We want to become a bigger resource for this end of the county.”
Almost Home hasn’t faced a shortfall in its own need, either: the kennels require maintenance, floors need re-sealing, and walls need painting, all jobs for which Almost Home is happy to accept volunteer labor as well as financial contributions to complete. The shelter has already received a variety of support from its building landlord and from Pennsauken Township, to say nothing of the individual contributions of various and several donors.
“I don’t have really close friends, but people know what I do,” Welsh said. “This has been overwhelming that people have done this. They’ve been so generous.
“We set a goal that we need to have $100,000 to $120,000 in the bank to have a cushion and to get us through at least the next five or six months to get us up and running,” she said. “We are going to continue to fund-raise and hope that people are going to continue to support us.”
Even after having generated about $50,000 in personal contributions and matching grants, the shelter will require about $19,000 a month to continue its operations, Welsh said.
Plus, before its new lease on life can take effect, there’s still the matter of the eight dogs and 24 cats who presently still need homes. Welsh is angling to have them adopted by the end of the month so that she can empty out the shelter while the facility is being renovated. For those who have helped the shelter keep its footing in the interim, the message is clear: don’t stop now.
“We still need their support,” Welsh said. “We’re going to make changes, and we’re going to be around if they need help with their animals.”
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