Midcoast Humane's town meeting at Boothbay Region YMCA Friday night, March 1 was the second of two area ones scheduled about the facts for the future of its Edgecomb facilities and services for Lincoln County. A small group of residents attended. Most were previous, current or hopeful shelter volunteers.
Executive Director Trendy Stanchfield recounted the last year's steps to finalize the merger between Coastal Humane Society and Lincoln County Animal Shelter. The process began three years earlier.
A major step was completing the rebranding to Midcoast Humane. Stanchfield said a private donor entirely funded the rebranding; no funds came from animal care or services. A new simplified mission statement was also adopted: “Making life better for animals and people in our community.”
According to Stanchfield, “It costs about $6,000 a day to open the shelters. As an organization, we’ve been running at a deficit for years and it's not sustainable ... We had to look at how to do things differently to use our resources more effectively and to develop new revenue opportunities.”
A shift in the structure of the operations staff has included appointing Dr. Mandie Wehr director of shelter operations. MH has also hired a trainer to help animals become more adoptable faster using positive reinforcement techniques.
The newly aligned team then undertook the challenge of rethinking operations. Without laying off any staff and with no interruptions in service, MH has shifted the primary use of the Edgecomb campus to provide medical and mental rest for animals not yet ready for adoption.
There are now more than nine additional adoption locations including Boothbay Harbor Creature Comforts Thrift Store. Also adding to accessibility are dozens of adoption events being held throughout MH's 1,000-square mile service area. At the events, pets can show off the best version of themselves outside the stress of a shelter.
Sue Karns of Boothbay Harbor shared that she’s volunteered at the shelter for 22 years and was concerned that peninsula residents are feeling disconnected from MH. She added, "The drum beats pretty loud down here.”
Stanchfield acknowledged the pace of the last year meant the organization failed at keeping up with communication at each step. She vowed to do a better job going forward and promised that residents would see the MH staff and board more often at community events and functions.
Livvy Dinsmore had a long list of questions jotted down in a notebook. The past volunteer said she often observed that pets were being surrendered due to a lack of financial resources for food and medical care.
Stanchfield said the organization plans to find more ways to provide veterinary care for families who can’t afford it, getting pet food into food pantries, Meals on Wheels programs and other support facilities throughout the service area, hosting more low-cost vaccination clinics, and expanding spay/neuter programs. "There are services to people that help keep pets in their homes for longer and if they do eventually end up surrendered the animals are healthier and more ready to rehome," she said.
Wehr shared how the volunteer and foster programs have been enhanced and formalized. During the process, new volunteers were put on hold. They will be contacted in the next week, according to Wehr. A new foster program will be rolled out in spring, in time for kitten season.
Both the Creature Comforts Thrift Shop and the Edgecomb campus are part of the organization's long-term plans. That’s not the case for the two buildings housing the current Brunswick shelter and administrative offices. Both will eventually close when a new facility opens at Brunswick Landing. “We’ve got to raise a lot more money before we can start," Stanchfield said "We’re at about 25 percent of the $8 million project.”
MH serves 40 communities and 151,000 residents from Falmouth to Washington. Each year, about 3,500 animals pass through its care, including nearly 400 later reunited with their families.