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Humane Society looks forward

After a few years of hard times, the Beltrami Humane Society is on track toward financial stability.

"It was pretty bad for a couple of years, to the point where we were borrowing from board members to make payroll," said Geri Hickerson, board chairwoman.

A sewer backup that caused considerable damage and boiler problems that caused consumption of heating oil at a huge rate were a couple of the unforeseen problems. Hickerson said too many fund-raisers were also spur-of-the-moment projects requiring large time commitments from board members, but not necessarily raising large amounts of money.

Now, the board has reorganized fund-raising efforts to fewer, but more productive events. The newest of these is the Furr Bowl May 6 and 7 at Bemidji Bowl. Registration for the event costs $20 per bowler.

Participants are encouraged to register by Monday. For details, call 751-7910.

Bowling alley owner Steve Vosika has rented the facility to the Humane Society for the two days. Bowlers can register for games and collect pledges. Trophies will be awarded for high bowling scores and there will be drawings for door prizes. The trophies are unique -- bowling pins decorated by local artists.

Furr Bowl is intended to be an annual spring fund-raiser. The shelter also started the Basket of Thanks to give animals treats at Thanksgiving, an effort that raised $3,000 last year. There are also Santa Paws photos with pets at Christmas; Valentine Day photo sessions; the Walk for Animals is in summer; and Adopt-a-Kennel, Doggy Banks, Memorial/Tributes, We-Care Contributions, memberships and Paws to Recycle aluminum can collections.

The board also published a brochure encouraging membership, with photos donated by Monte Draper and printing by Harold's Printing.

By August, the shelter was running a $35,000 deficit. Board members recognized that without increasing fund-raising efforts the facility wouldn't be able to continue in business.

Hickerson said the board directed staff members to work on a cash-only basis. They also considered selling some of the 12.5 acres the shelter owns, but that would have taken to long to solve short-term financial problems.

Roberts said he has been working on Furr Bowl since December and has had generous response from 144 sponsors, including about $5,000 in pledges and about $3,000 worth of auction items and gift certificates.

"As of today, it's already a success," he said.

As of 2005, the shelter had $16,000 in outstanding payables, Hickerson said. Now, the bills are paid up to date.

"We don't owe anybody any money," she said.

She said the board members are certain that the community supports the no-kill shelter philosophy, but board members must help the community become more aware the services and financial needs.

The shelter can house 45 cats and 28 dogs. There is a 100-percent spay and neuter policy. In addition, the animals leave the shelter wormed, healthy and with vaccinations up to date. The Beltrami Humane Society was founded in 1977 as a 501c3 non-profit, no-kill animal shelter.

"It's heartbreaking when people bring us animals and we can't take them because we're full," Roberts said. "Then, they go to the pound."

Animals in the pound are euthanized after five days, except for a few for which the shelter has made special arrangements.