“We design everything from the ground down,” is how Tilden Hilderbrand sums up the work he and his partner, Todd Hass, do as a surveying and civil engineering firm here in Aiken.

In fact, if one were to walk across Aiken County, you would be hard pressed not to cross a site that they have worked on, especially if you include Citizens Park or the tennis courts at Odell Weeks or the more than 350 jobs they have done for the Aiken County schools, People’s Bank, Holiday Inn, Cedar Creek and the new Fresh Market project on Whiskey Road.

However, it is unlikely that any undertaking in the realms of site development connects to more hearts these days than the one on the corner of May Royal and Wire Road, the site of the new Aiken County Animal Shelter. And for Hilderbrand, it is a special labor of love. Here’s why.

Three years ago this month, eight stalwart FOTAS volunteers turned out for our very first public event, “Trick-or-Treat on Newberry Street.” Among the new organization’s representatives were Hilderbrand’s wife, Susan, and his two sons Alex and Seth.

Susan’s and the boys’ commitments to the adoptable animals at the County Shelter predated FOTAS. Nearly every day after school, they took pictures of the adoptable dogs and cats and faithfully put them up on the website, Petfinder.com. In October 2009, the Hilderbrand boys went far beyond service to FOTAS in wearing our paper maché mascot costumes.

FOTAS also came to rely on Susan for her creative displays of adoptable animals at events (like “The Wizard of Oz”) and the County Shelter signs in True Value Hardware, Stoplight Deli and Bone-i-Fide Bakery downtown. Without her beautiful photographs, people who would never go to the shelter might not know that the animals or the shelter were even there.

Now Tilden Hilderbrand has joined the family in service to a project more than a decade on the minds of too few who knew the need. And when you are designing a public animal shelter, “everything from the ground down” gets at the essentials of the project.

The four-plus acre lot is a rolling woodlot, and the architect working with the county and FOTAS was determined to keep as much of the wooded parklike feel that the project design could realistically encompass.

Hass’ and Hilderbrand’s expertise will save many trees; they will determine the minimum earth to be moved and how the facility will tie into utilities. They assure the accuracy of the site footprint and whom to see for what essential permits.

Every single person connected with this project understands how important every dollar saved is to its ultimate success, no one more than Hilderbrand and Hass.

Once again, Aiken County owes a debt of gratitude to this firm, and once again FOTAS is deeply thankful to the Hilderbrand family.

Brochures depicting the new County Shelter and opportunities to contribute will be available soon. Get excited; get involved!

FOTAS volunteers work with the Aiken County Animal Shelter, 411 Wire Road. For more information, email info@fotasaiken.org or visit www.fotasaiken.org.

Aiken County Animal Shelter: “By the Numbers”

Sept. 24-30

Received: 30 dogs and 60 cats!

Adopted: 16 dogs and 4 cats

Put down: 22 dogs and 47 cats