FOTAS: A place of hope

  • Posted: Sunday, January 26, 2014 12:01 a.m.
Submitted photo
Decorative artist and FOTAS volunteer Sandy Staiger paints a mural in one of the new shelter´s multipurpose rooms.
Submitted photo Decorative artist and FOTAS volunteer Sandy Staiger paints a mural in one of the new shelter´s multipurpose rooms.

Last Monday, my good friends Tom and Len picked me up to take me out to the new Aiken County Animal Shelter. The last time I had been there, the new shelter was an almost completed shell – the triumph of its full potential not yet evident. I was anxious to view its progress.

We took a left into the newly paved parking lot at 333 Wire Road and pulled into a freshly painted parking space. Tom turned off the engine, and the three of us sat in silence, at a loss for words.

Gone were the piles of construction debris, dump trucks, rolls of wire, unpacked boxes of equipment, piles of lumber and rolled up fencing material lying on the ground, electricians wiring outside fixtures, carpenters installing signs and outdoor cage banks, and painters touching up trim.

Instead we gazed upon a simple structure consisting of three separate long rectangular buildings placed side by side – the Lynn Carlisle Main Administration Building in the center with tall glass doors for public entry, flanked on one side by the Animal Control building and on the other by the Adoption Center – and connected in the middle by two walkways for staff and public access.

The previously hectic construction activity had yielded to a few landscapers placing sod and an electrician on a ladder in a walkway checking a lighting fixture. The new Aiken County Animal Shelter, painted in peaceful shades of cream and aqua with accents of soft coral colors on the trim, was dazzling in the soft glare of the Carolina sun in January.

I was overwhelmed by gratitude – to Kathy Rawls and rest of the County Council who stanchly refused to back down from its commitment to ensure a basic humane standard of care for the thousands of homeless animals charged to its care each year; to the countless FOTAS volunteers and supporters who believe that it is their responsibility to find all of the adoptable animals a loving home; to the founders of FOTAS whose patience, persistence and vision of humanity never wavered from the daunting task in front of them; and to the County’s administrators and architects who made the collective vision the reality before us.

The new Aiken County Animal Shelter is not a Taj Mahal. It is a beautifully simple structure built on a modest budget with both public and private funds and resources. It is a structure built with design considerations that prioritized function and a healthy environment without sacrificing aesthetic concerns.

It is a testament to what can be accomplished when government partners with private citizens to make the world a better place.

It is a testament to a community joined by dedication and hope.

In the next few weeks, as Bobby Arthurs, the County shelter staff and FOTAS begin the arduous process of moving the animals under its care to their new home, I know that today’s peace will give way to the chaotic sound of as many as 200 animals being cared for under one roof.

But that’s OK: the internal peace of knowing we all – the County, FOTAS and the entire community – did the right thing will endure.

I recently found these lovely words written by author Jim Willis:

“I looked at all the caged animals ... the castoffs of human society. I saw in their eyes love and hope, fear and dread, sadness and betrayal. And I was angry.

“God,” I said, “this is terrible! Why don’t you do something?”

God was silent for a moment and then He spoke softly.

“I have done something ... I created you.”

Thank you citizens of the Aiken community, for this compassionately noble effort.

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

By the numbers

Jan. 13- 18, 2014

Adopted: 8 dogs, 0 cats

Year to Date: 41 pets

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