Helping Strays preparing for big move

Pictured is an engineer’s rendering of the future Helping Strays facility being built off Hanover Road between Columbia and Waterloo.

Pictured is an engineer’s rendering of the future Helping Strays facility being built off Hanover Road between Columbia and Waterloo.

When Helping Strays hosts its major annual fundraiser, “A Cause for Paws,” this year, it will be closing a chapter in the organization’s young but immeasurably successful life — it will be its last without a permanent home.

A new shelter is nearing the end of its first phase of construction.

“I would anticipate moving in late May or early June,” said Helping Strays Executive Director Paula Hutchinson.

Through a capital campaign, the organization has raised enough money to be within $600,000 of their goal for the first phase of the three-phase building project.

“There’s going to be so many nice things at the new facility,” Hutchinson said.

Located off Hanover Road between Waterloo and Columbia, it will afford the 12-year-old organization, formerly known as Humane Society of Monroe County, the ability to do things it’s never done before, like quarantine new animals and isolate sick animals from the rest of the shelter.

“Right now, if an animal gets sick, we have to close the doors and put adoptions on hold,” Hutchinson said.

This hold, which is often state-mandated, can last up to 30 days. And for the more than 400 dogs, cats and small animals the organization adopts out each year, 30 days can mean lost opportunities.

Helping Strays was started 12 years ago by Hutchinson, Waterloo veterinarian Dwight Boehm and Phyllis Buettner to provide a way for the animals going to the county’s animal control to be adopted to local families.

The organization has grown far beyond local animal control, with 3,600 animals adopted from Helping Strays since its inception. Representatives regularly travel to areas like East St. Louis to rescue puppies, and they have permanent space at the Belleville PetSmart for cat adoptions.

But their impact on the county — both the human and animal residents — goes much further than the numbers.

“We’re spreading awareness of spay and neutering,” Hutchinson said.

In fact, Helping Strays offers a spay and neuter discount program available to county residents.

“We’re also a place youth in the community can come out and volunteer,” she added. “We have a lot of youth that want to donate for their birthday parties, and we’ve had a lot of Eagle Scout projects.”

Helping Strays is a Purina One shelter, which means they receive all their food for free from Purina. They are also a member of the St. Louis Pet Coalition, allowing them to, among other things, connect with and place dogs with breed-specific rescues. The coalition also provides scholarships for Helping Strays employees to receive training free of charge.

The organization is fully funded by donations, fundraisers, grants and, to a much lesser extent, adoption fees. And while the capital campaign for the new shelter has been successful, it continues, as does work to raise money for day-to-day operations.

Levels of sponsorships for the new shelter range from purchasing a $100 brick to the naming rights to the dog wing for $300,000, and many levels in between.

Thanks to a generous capital campaign donation by Vera Baebler, it will be named the Kenneth and Vera Baebler Pet Adoption Center.

And next weekend’s “A Cause for Paws” is the largest annual fundraiser for Helping Strays’ operational expenses.

Other fundraisers include a partnership with State Bank of Waterloo, in which the bank donates $1 to Helping Strays for every “like” to the bank’s Facebook page in the month of March; and the auction of a motorcycle Vin Diesel rode in the movie “XXX.”

The auction is being conducted online through GRS Auctions, but the motorcycle will be at “A Cause for Paws” on April 9.

To learn more about Helping Strays and how to support the organization, visit The website includes a calendar of upcoming events.

Tickets are on sale for “A Cause for Paws” through April 1. To reserve seats, contact Paula at or call 281-5199, or Deb at or call 939-7389.

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Andrea F.D. Saathoff

Andrea is a graduate of Gibault High School and the University of Missouri School of Journalism, the University of Missouri Harry S Truman School of Public Affairs and Southern Illinois University Edwardsville College of Education. She lives in Columbia with her husband and their twin toddler sons. When she isn't cheering on St. Louis Cardinals baseball or riding the emotional roller coaster of Mizzou Tigers football, she enjoys attending and participating in the many family events the county has to offer. email:
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