Administrators for Whidbey Animal Improvement Foundation are still catching their breath after a whirlwind week of moving into a new 12,544 square foot shelter.
And that’s despite the fact that the new shelter is three times the size of the organization’s previous facility, affords much more breathing room and has a new state of the art ventilation system.
With a scheduled grand opening planned Sunday for organization donors, WAIF didn’t get its occupancy permit until Tuesday, Sept. 1.
“We are rapidly getting things moved over,” said Cinnamon O’Brien, development and communications manager during an interview this past Thursday. “We’re trying to get the infrastructure in place.”
And despite the time constraints, the grand opening of WAIF’s new shelter went well.
“We had a very nice opening,” said Claire Creighton, development director. “The shelter looked wonderful. This shelter is going to showcase these animals beautifully. They just looked so happy.”
The event, which was by invite-only for donors of the capital campaign, featured a ribbon cutting and unveiling of the shelter’s new name.
WAIF supporter Kirby Cramer, who owns a second home on the island with his wife Ellery, and his family surprised the family’s matriarch by naming the shelter after her.
“They wanted to do something special for the matriarch of their family,” Creighton said. “She’s been an animal person from day one.”
The naming was a closely guarded secret until the unveiling of the Ellery Cramer Family Animal Shelter.
“She was so surprised,” Creighton said. “She thought the shelter was being named after the family.”
The Cramer family is a big supporter of WAIF and it has also given to the organization’s sustainability fund.
The new shelter, located just south of Coupeville on Highway 20 and not far from the previous location, sits on nearly 10 acres of land with 6 acres of dog walking trails.
The facility itself includes space for amenities the organization has never had before, including a designated spay/neuter clinic, more kennels than ever, visitation rooms, social rooms, outdoor dog runs, a pet food kitchen and even a staff break room.
“This new shelter is really much more social for the animals,” Creighton said.
“And people,” added Charles Vreeland, executive director.
With two wings of dog kennels, the new shelter can house 48 dogs within 32 kennels. Each wing features outdoor social areas where dogs can be outside in the grass with other dogs.
There are also three cat cage rooms and four roaming rooms.
The new facility can house 150 cats.
Visitation rooms for both dogs and cats allow potential adopters and adoptees to get acquainted.
And where WAIF has grown in the number of animals it can accommodate, it has the infrastructure to support that growth.
The facility features individual septic tanks for each dog wing in addition to a septic tank for the main shelter space.
It has a ventilation system that circulates six times an hour rather than once an hour, which helps lessen the spread of disease and illness, O’Brien said.
The new facility has surpassed anticipated costs, rising to $4.4 million.
“There’s been these chunks of unexpected costs,” Creighton said. “But I’d say the campaign is in its final stages.”
But the thing to remember is it was a completely undeveloped piece of property, O’Brien said. “We built our own well, we had to bring in power and Internet.”
“It’s like a little city,” Vreeland said.
And while costs are more than expected, so was the community response to the project.
The first recorded donation for WAIF’s new shelter capital campaign was in 1998.
Creighton was hired four years ago with her position being funded by a donor to specifically work on fundraising.
When she started, Creighton said there was about $350,000 raised.
In those four years, Creighton has helped bring in nearly $4 million.
“I think the excitement really built up,” Creighton said.
In the last four years is when the public started seeing the new shelter in tangible terms.
“People are relieved all this effort finally paid off,” O’Brien said.
That $4 million is a combination of individual donations as well as some grants.
Vreeland estimates that of the nearly $4.4 million donated, about $200,000 was from grants.
And even those grants are community based, coming from local groups and businesses.
“The island has been incredibly supportive of this,” Creighton said.
WAIF needs about an additional $165,000 to be fully funded.
There are still fundraising opportunities to get those final costs covered including naming opportunities throughout the new shelter.
Tag the Wall, which O’Brien says has been very successful, costs $50.
“People are eager to have a name in the new shelter,” she said.
More than 600 tags have been purchased.
While some animals made it to the shelter before the grand opening, some still need to be moved to the new facility.
“They’re a little confused,” O’Brien said,”but they’re settling in.”
The shelter will open for general operations on Thursday, Sept. 10.
From Wednesday, Sept. 16 through Sunday, Sept. 20, the shelter will have an open house from 12-4 p.m. each day for the general public.