Humane Society breaks ground on new facility

Pictured, Humane Society of Monroe County board members look on along with supporter Joe Koppeis (left) as HSMC president Paula Hutchinson (right) assists key shelter donor Vera Baebler during Saturday’s groundbreaking ceremony. (Robyn Dexter photo)

Following a long winter and a few delays, the Humane Society of Monroe County (Helping Strays) broke ground Saturday on its new facility off Hanover Road between Waterloo and Columbia.

A multitude of attendees showed up to celebrate, both two-legged and four-legged.

With the sun shining and the temperatures rising, gathering on the plot at 4220 Hanover Road proved to be a bit muddy, but the spirits were high.

Members of the Helping Strays executive board, along with major supporters Joe Koppeis and Vera Baebler, broke the ground with the first of many shovelfuls of dirt at the future home to the new building.

Baebler recently donated $400,000 toward the new facility.

HSMC executive director Deb Dubis Foster thanked everyone, saying all in attendance “made this dream come true.”

“We’re all truly lucky to be part of such a supportive community,” she said.

Ten years ago, a few community members decided to help the forgotten animals in Monroe County, one of them being Paula Hutchinson.

A tearful but happy Hutchinson, the society’s president, took the microphone to express her gratitude.

“I’m so humbled by how many people came out today,” Hutchinson said. “This celebrates a new milestone in the journey of Helping Strays. We’ve been working toward this goal for many years.”

She recognized public officials and other dignitaries in attendance, including Monroe County Board Chairman Terry Liefer; her husband and mayor of Columbia, Kevin Hutchinson; along with local aldermen and Koppeis.

“Without Joe and his donation of this land, we wouldn’t be here today,” she said.

Hutchinson said Helping Strays would not be breaking ground without the dedication of countless volunteers.

“We celebrate this occasion with our supporters, volunteers and all animal lovers of Monroe County and beyond,” she said. “These are friends who share our vision and aspirations for the future.”

She reminded attendees that while this is a huge milestone, the group is still on a mission.

“There’s still work to be done and funds to be raised to reach our capital campaign goals for the three-phase, fully operational facility,” she said.

Phase one of the facility will provide a healthy and safe temporary home to house the animals. The next two phases will include space for community resources for volunteer opportunities, educational programs, and training for people and their pets.

The new facility will have the capacity to house 29 adoption-ready adult dogs, separate rooms for young and small dogs, a spacious area for cats and kittens, quarantine areas for dogs and cats, isolation rooms and meet and greet rooms, along with an education room and retail space.

Those wishing to donate or get involved with the new facility process may visit or call 618-282-PETS.

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