Monday night, ironically on Animal Control Officer Robert Yuchniuk’s birthday, the Ad Hoc Animal Control Facility Study Committee announced it had raised more than $100,000 for a new Waterford-East Lyme animal shelter.
“It's remarkable,” Committee Chairwoman Yvette Savoy said. “It has come from so many different sources, and it just keeps building and building.”
The original plan was to raise $100,000 at which point the town of Waterford would support the project, although Waterford First Selectman Dan Steward later called that a “misunderstanding.” Undeterred, the group remains dedicated to raising more money, and said it will raise all the money for the project if it has to.
“We’ll raise every penny if that’s what it takes,” said Melissa Yuchniuk, who is the head of fundraising for the committee. “We are determined to get this built.”
The group congratulated the public for its support and for donating so much. The group got one donation from a man for the shelter, but the rest of the money was donated through a plethora of fundraisers put on by the committee, from selling car magnets to Christmas ornaments.
The momentum has grown so strong that people have began doing their own fundraisers, and then donating the money to the committee, Yuchniuk said. Also, dozens of children from East Lyme and Waterford have asked for donations to the shelter for their birthdays, instead of gifts, she said.
“This shows that people really want it,” Yuchniuk said. “Waterford upgrades and maintains all of its other buildings, except for this one. People see that and they want this one upgraded as well.”
The existing shelter was built in the 1956 for $6,000. Right now, it fails nearly all of the state mandates required for an animal shelter, Savoy said.
The group has raised additional money to correct some of the pressing needs of the shelter, Savoy said. For example, the group raised money to fix the heating system in the shelter, as before it would get so cold the dog's water bowls in the shelter would freeze in the wintertime, Savoy said.
In the summer of 2011, the committee, backed by then-chairwoman Margaret Ormond, asked the town to fund a $1.3 million shelter. At that time, the committee had only raised $15,000, and the request was rejected.
“We have become much more conservative since when the committee first started,” Savoy said. “We are just looking for the basic essentials of having a safe, reasonable shelter.”
In the fall of 2011, Yuchniuk joined the committee and began to focus more on fundraising, and Ormond left. Yuchniuk and her husband, along with other members of the committee and dozens of volunteers, have held a fundraiser nearly every month since, from Pup-stravaganza to hosting comedy shows.
Now, so many people have started their own fundraisers, donations are coming in on their own, Yuchniuk said. The new focus of the committee will shift toward developing a concrete plan for the new animal shelter, Savoy said.
First, the group needs to find a spot to put the new building, and they are hoping to keep it where it is now. Then, they need to get someone to draw plans for the shelter, and are actively looking for an architect who would be willing to donate his or her time, Savoy said.
Once a plan is in place, the exact cost of the proposal can be determined, Savoy said. The committee remains optimistic that if it does all the legwork, perhaps the town will kick in some money to fund the shelter, Yuchniuk said.
“We know it’s a long-term project,” Yuchniuk said. “But we are determined, we are going to get it built. We are like the Little Engine That Could.”