Molly’s Militia is marching onward.

Its mission to rescue unwanted cats and dogs remains the same, but there is a new commander.

Jim Rhodes, who took charge in May, is the charitable organization’s president.

“Molly’s Militia has been doing really good work for a number of years,” Rhodes said. “It has a good name and a good reputation. I hated to see it just fade away.”

Rhodes also is the president and managing director of Equine Rescue of Aiken, and he thought the timing was right for a fresh challenge.

At the Equine Rescue, “I do the administrative part of it,” Rhodes said. “I do the fundraising, I do the paperwork and basically, I’m the face of the Rescue. But I’ve got Caroline Mulstay and Caitlin Brady who are basically doing the day-to-day operation. They are very good at it, so I was getting a little bit bored.”

Rhodes’ wife, Debbie, is Molly’s Militia’s vice president. She had previous experience with the organization as a volunteer.

Donna Hasty, a longtime member of Molly’s Militia team, is the managing director.

“With Debbie and Donna’s support, I felt like I could do Molly’s Militia justice,” Rhodes said. “I think we’re on the right track and headed in the right direction.”

Elaine van der Linden founded Molly’s Militia in 1999 and named the charity after her beloved cocker spaniel, which she found in an animal shelter.

Molly was so sweet and so devoted that van der Linden decided she wanted to help other dogs in need.

Molly’s Militia rescued them from shelters, got them the veterinary care they needed, and placed them in a network of foster homes to get them ready to be adopted.

Van der Linden’s husband, John, backed her in her work.

In 2014, van der Linden told the Aiken Standard that Molly’s Militia was finding forever homes for several hundred dogs each year and had an annual budget of more than $120,000.

More recently, however, the van der Lindens had struggled to keep Molly’s Militia going while providing assistance to cats in addition dogs.

“They were getting older, and they also had some medical issues,” Rhodes said. “They actually came out to our house, sat at our dining room table and asked us if we would be interested in doing it. We had talked to them prior to that a couple of times, but we never made a commitment until then.”

Rhodes, his wife and Hasty have increased the number of foster homes in Molly’s Militia’s network from five to 15.

Rhodes also has made arrangements for dogs that have trouble getting adopted to be transported to rescue organizations in the Northeast, where unwanted animals are less numerous.

Most of the cats and dogs that go through the Molly’s Militia foster program have been picked up by or surrendered to North Augusta Animal Control, Rhodes said.

Molly’s Militia also has provided care for cats from the SPCA Albrecht Center for Animal Welfare in Aiken and female dogs with litters from the Barnwell area.

In addition, Molly’s Militia has a cat adoption center at the PetSmart store in North Augusta.

“I would like to grow so we can help more shelters in the CSRA,” Rhodes said.

His top priority is to recruit volunteer foster home coordinators.

“For every five or six foster homes, there should be a coordinator, who makes sure that all the paperwork is filled out and the foster homes have everything they need,” Rhodes said. “We’re still looking for more foster homes, but we want to get some coordinators before we build up our network.”

For more information, visit the Molly’s Militia page on Facebook or call 803-640-2068.

The organization also has a website, mollysmilitia.org that is in the process of being updated.

​Dede Biles is the Aiken County government, business and horse industry reporter for the Aiken Standard. Follow her on Twitter @DBethBiles.