As 2020 comes to a close, it’s timely to reflect on the year we’ve just had at the OMHS. I am incredibly grateful to everyone who has rallied around our cause to assist our animals in any way possible.
Financially the organization has been challenged like no other time in its history. Many of our community-based initiatives and events were cancelled or shifted to a virtual environment. Regrettably all eight weeks of summer camp programming and many professional development days needed to be cancelled. The success we had with our special events in 2019 with Mission Pawsible and Prancing with the Stars could not be replicated in a virtual environment, despite strong support from our community partners and participants.
Even activities such as third-party events were reduced and due to the three-month closure, adoption revenues were down by 25%. Overall, the OMHS is facing an annual shortfall of nearly $200,000. In response we have been working feverishly to secure new funding and have been tremendously grateful to our donors who continue to step up to help us in any way possible.
For example, we continue to encourage our donors to join our monthly giving program, as it’s one of the most efficient ways to help the Society and the response has been tremendous. We are also extremely grateful to those who have donated cash, gifts of securities and in light of the pandemic, have re-examined their estates and have informed us that they want to leave us a legacy by making us part of their Will.
Despite the sudden challenges created by COVID-19, the OMHS team has persevered thanks in part to the incredible team of foster families who stepped up to receive animals in their homes for an undetermined length of time during this pandemic. Our community continues to open their homes each day so that our animals can temporarily live in a comfortable home environment which offers the benefits of continuous socialization, love and care. To date, most of our animals are now placed in foster families as soon as possible after their arrival into our shelter. We will likely continue this practice beyond the pandemic because of how positive it’s been for the animals’ well-being.
Like all of us, COVID-19 forced us to rethink how we can continue safely delivering our services to the community. One of the most significant and positive outcomes during this period has been that our adoption of animals has moved completely online, and our success rate couldn’t be higher! Our trained adoption counsellors have quality conversations on the phone with potential adopters and feedback has been extremely positive on how quick the process is compared to before. It pleases us tremendously to see our animals find their forever homes quicker than ever!
While visits to our shelter to view animals are no longer possible, and our education programs reduced in size to ensure everyone’s safety, we’ve worked hard to see how we could be doing things differently to meet the needs of the community that counts on us every day. Thanks to funding from the Oakville Community Foundation (through the Charity Small Business Partnership Program) we will soon be able to offer enhanced virtual education, community engagement programs and virtual tours of our shelter in 2021. None of us know how long we will need to deal with COVID-19, so this innovative initiative will enable us to safely engage with more members of the public by embracing new technologies.
The OMHS is also grateful for funding from the Emergency Community Support Fund established by Employment and Social Development Canada which will allow OMHS to establish a Pet Food Bank in Oakville in partnership with Kerr Street Mission. This funding which is granted through the United Way of Halton and Hamilton, provides OMHS with an opportunity to help those who may be struggling not only to feed themselves and their families, but their pets too. This new program will ease the burden for pet owners at a challenging time for them personally. Pet food for this program is donated through partners like the United Way Community Chest and through generous donations from donors and residents in our community. We can’t thank everyone enough for their outpouring of support.
Volunteers: the Backbone of OMHS
Responding to COVID-19 has meant a tremendous amount of change for everyone at the OMHS. One of our most impacted groups is our volunteer corps. Until recently, we have just re-introduced a few volunteers into the shelter. The number of volunteers engaged represents only a small fraction of the 450 volunteers who have been the backbone of the Society for years. We’ve brought our most experienced dog walkers and a handful of cat socializers back into the shelter and seeing them back with our animals is so wonderful. Our volunteer leaders at our Barkin’ Bin Thrift Store returned in early August to ensure the shop was open Thursday- Saturday each week. Under the leadership of Carole, Lynne, Claire, Irene and Erin we are once again offering the community access to gently used items for sale. Thank you ladies for your continued passion for the cause and leadership of this social enterprise for OMHS.
And finally, I must acknowledge my committed team of staff who have pushed through, pivoted, protected, and worked incredibly long hours to ensure the Oakville & Milton Humane Society continues to thrive. Despite the challenges they have been faced with, they persevered and continued to protect and care for the animals in our community. While many of the team work remotely, and others need to be on site to ensure our essential operations continue, they have not missed a beat and collectively we are weathering this challenge as best possible.
As 2020 concludes, I am hopeful for what 2021 brings. I am proud that we’ve risen to the challenge this year and are stronger and more committed than ever to support both domestic animals and wildlife in our community. It’s been a collective effort on the part of many people: our donors, volunteers, clients and staff. But most importantly, by working together we have kept everyone safe and have continued to remain a vital part of the Oakville & Milton community.
Best wishes for a healthy, safe, and happy holiday season.
Oakville & Milton Humane Society