It has been my honor to be one of the founders and president of FOTAS since 2009. Before FOTAS was founded, I saw a stray animal problem in Aiken County and didn’t know what to do about it. I began to advocate for the homeless animals in the county and was joined by an unexpected and wonderful cohort who also cared deeply about the fate of those animals: Ernie Wolf.
I met Ernie, a retired mechanical engineer, in the early days. Ernie and I didn’t understand the magnitude of our undertaking when we began a campaign to help the animals. FOTAS was formed in 2009, and Ernie was one if its original volunteers. Ernie loves cats. His former cat, Murphey Brown, and his current cat, Murphy Wolf (adopted from Aiken County Animal Shelter), were and are his best friends and the apples of his eye. Ernie swears each cat is (and was) the most intelligent cat he’s ever met and could outsmart any dog.
Ernie was instrumental in the construction of the first FOTAS project at the Aiken County Animal Shelter – a place to house adoptable cats. He designed, organized and lead the efforts to build the much-needed Cat House. (By the way, Ernie hated it when we referred to the facility as the Cat House because it is a euphemism for a brothel. That gave everyone, including the cats, a big laugh).
The unique design of the Cat House provides both indoor and outdoor space for the cats and allows them to move about freely among multiple play and perch areas. Volunteers and prospective adopters have a place to visit and sit with the cats in a more natural environment, which is a win/win for everyone.
When the shelter moved to its new facility in 2014, the Cat House was moved as well. Last year, FOTAS refurbished and updated the Cat House, and today it is still a wonderful, unique and successful adoption facility for the cats.
Fifteen years ago, Ernie met Linda Soyars when she was walking her dog outside his home. They became intimate friends and enjoyed a loving relationship until she recently passed away. Linda shared Ernie's passion for animals and became a cherished FOTAS volunteer herself. She was a special, kind person who will be missed by all of us.
In memory of Linda, Ernie has built another house in her honor, this time an exquisite, handmade bird house to be displayed as an indoor decorative piece. Ernie wants to sell this extraordinary, beautifully crafted birdhouse and donate the proceeds of the sale to FOTAS. (Please call the FOTAS Hotline at 803-514-4313, if interested.)
Ernie is not done developing building plans for FOTAS. Just shy of his 92nd birthday, he is assisting FOTAS with the conceptual drawings for two much-needed meet and greet adoption rooms and an indoor training area at the shelter. Stay posted for coming updates.
Behind the scenes Ernie has dedicated countless volunteer hours to FOTAS. Thank you, Ernie. We also remember Linda and her devotion to shelter animals. Volunteers are the lifeline of FOTAS. They make it possible to help so many animals in need at the shelter, and we are deeply grateful to them all.
Their lives are in our hands.