In the beginning you could count the number of interested people on just one hand. Jennifer Nagle, Betty Nagle and Dinah Presnell gathered a few like-minded friends for our first meeting in February, 2001, and for those initial members the first year was spent in committees trying to get non-profit status, establish a newsletter, build relationships with local vets, and deciding just what the FOS would become.
Access to the Bell County Animal Shelter was limited, and as donations and memberships grew it quickly became apparent that spay/neuter, foster/adoption, and education would be the most successful ways to "reduce the number of homeless, unwanted and uncared for animals in Bell County."
For the first five years the effort was spent establishing projects that would make a lasting difference. The Spay Neuter Assistance Program (SNAP) was begun to help encourage spay and neuter by paying a portion of the cost, and the education program went into schools providing free copies of the Humane Society of the U.S. "KIND" news to fourth graders as a way of teaching the youngest pet owners. Working with Remote Area Medical, clinics were offered to low income residents of the area for spay & neuter, and members gave space in their own homes so that the Second Chance program could provide foster care to pets until owners were found. And, there was always fund raising....
By the end of 2002, FOS had helped co-sponsor two spay/neuter clinics and a $50,000 improvement to the animal shelter. Our third year saw the SNAP and Second Chances programs put into place, with a total of 183 animals spayed or neutered, 34 rescued or fostered put in homes, and still more fundraisers (collecting ink cartridges, obtaining a state grant, Cash for Critters, selling t-shirts and plush toys...)
2005 ended with KIND News established in the local 4th grade classes, and the FOS having sponsored a total of four clinics, 100 adoptions, 550 spayed or neutered animals, and a dog show at the Fall Festival. A critical turning point in our history came in 2006 when Jennifer Nagle took the job of shelter supervisor. Dinah Presnell was elected as the new director of the FOS, and the program began a transition from Second Chances/Foster to shelter based adoptions. And while this was happening, FOS members continued to expand the KIND News education into ALL Bell County schools, Humane Hearts and Corporate Sponsors programs were begun, cages were purchased to allow the shelter to handle stray cats, and the Beastie Bash annual fundraiser grew into a local social event.
Since 2006, Friends of the Shelter has worked in coordination with the Bell County Animal Shelter, providing support directly through volunteer hours and indirectly through the continued growth of spay/neuter, adoption and education programs. The shelter began providing adoptable animals to other states through the All Breed Dog Rescue program and other organizations, shelter facilities were further improved with a washer & dryer and fenced run so that dogs could get outside and play in the open. At the same time, FOS continued to co-sponsor spay/neuter clinics at Lincoln Memorial University, treating 1018 animals in a 4 year period, while working with Petfinder.com to promote shelter adoptions. The number of animals being handled by the shelter has been steadily increasing, and so has the number of adoptions. (From 2% in 2002, up to 28% in 2010.)
In 2013, Friends of the Shelter is able to look back at over a decade of hard work by members who cared enough to give their time, labor, and sometimes large portions of their lives to take care of the "unwanted and uncared for" pets in our county. A lot of it was fun, and some has been sad, but it has never stopped. FOS continues to grow and adapt to provide the best possible care for animals in Bell County.