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Donor pays off mortgage -- Big gift for Humane Society animal shelter

A Helping Hand: From left, Wayne and Patti Anderson, who stepped forward to put the Humane Society of the Lakes on better financial footing, and Humane Society President Cyndi Anderson, right,who accepted the donation on behalf of the organization. Photo by - Vicki Gerdes/Tribune1 / 2
Adopt a cat or dog at the Humane Society of the Lakes on Highway 59 North, Detroit Lakes. Homeless animals can make great pets and the shelter has room for 25 cats and 25 dogs. Submitted Photo2 / 2

In a dog-eat-dog world, the lost pets at the Humane Society of the Lakes in Detroit Lakes have something to celebrate --the roof over their head is now paid for.

Board Vice President Patti Anderson and her husband, Wayne, have paid off the animal shelter's mortgage, freeing up badly needed funds for day-to-day operations.

"The debt was retired on the building in full," said board President Cyndi Anderson. "That was a sizable contribution to the organization and a wonderful way for us to start the year off without the constraints of a mortgage."

The Humane Society would have had to make two $16,000 payments per year for the next five years to pay off the mortgage on the no-kill shelter, which is located on Highway 59 North and can hold up to 25 dogs and 25 cats.

The Detroit Lakes couple decided to take action on the mortgage to free up operating funds for the shelter, Patti Anderson said.

She has been keeping the Humane Society in mind during her estate planning, but as a board member, she also knows how much it would help to have the shelter mortgage paid off now, she said.

"I thought, 'why don't I donate something now, when we really need it?' I gave it on my birthday, (Dec. 21). That was a good birthday present for me."

Cyndi Anderson (no relation) said Patti Anderson has long been a "quiet, dedicated hero" who works behind the scenes on events to benefit the humane society.

"Everything we do is about animal care," Cyndi Anderson said. "And 100 percent of the fundraising has been by the board ... we've really done remarkably well with that, but with the size and growth (of the shelter), we really need to look at a new staffing structure -- Patti and Wayne's gift is so powerful because we can now pursue that vision without the constraints of a mortgage."

The board will look at the feasibility of hiring an executive director to focus on donor relations and fundraising.

"We need someone whose job it is to bring it all together and build relationships," Cyndi Anderson said.

The board will also look at "what is the right capacity (for a shelter) for a community our size," she added. "How many animals can you add before you have to add staffing? What can legitimately be afforded and managed?"

There was no animal control group in the community 20 years ago, said Cyndi Anderson, who has been with the humane society from its early days -- when it ran a system of foster homes for stray pets, and the organization's phone rang at her home. Those 3 a.m. calls went to her.

"Many people don't know it, but for the first two or three years when the phone rang, it was in my bedroom," she said. "The only thing that's changed is our ability to meet an expanded need."

From those earliest times, the 12-15 member board of directors has always done the fundraising work, and they are "very dedicated," Cyndi Anderson said. "But it is only as strong as the board members that are there."

Grants that defray operating costs are hard to come by, though specialized grants help pay for spay-neuter and other programs, she said.

That means operating funds -- the money that pays the daily expenses of running the shelter -- have to come from the three major events held each year by the Humane Society -- Tuxes and Tails in December, the Irish fundraiser in March and Shelterfest in August.

"The Humane Society took grief for having too many fundraisers," Cyndi Anderson said. "Being the board of directors did all the work, we knew that (we were holding a lot of fundraisers), so we looked at fewer events, but making them bigger. Tuxes and Tails in particular has grown."

But there is risk in fewer fundraisers, since an unsuccessful one will put a big hole in the Humane Society's budget, she said.

Still, the board went with the philosophy that "less is more."

Patti Anderson is "very dedicated at collecting the coin banks all over town and all the We Care slips," Cyndi Anderson said.

Memberships are also a source of ongoing revenue for the group.

"We see a fair number of memorials when a family member dies or when someone's pet passes away," she said.

The group is looking at kennel sponsorships, in which a business, group or individual sponsors one of the human society's 50 kennels for a year.

Nonprofits have to look at sustainability, and they have to be adaptive in times of change," Cyndi Anderson said. "Nonprofits have to be more sophisticated these days to survive."