It would be easy enough to attribute the velocity of Stephanie Hiemstra’s speech to Wild Cherries’ coffee, but it was pure enthusiasm that propelled our interview. As the Executive Director of the Humane Society of Truckee-Tahoe (HSTT), Stephanie has good reason to be excited.

This year she and her team, in collaboration with an arsenal of partners, have already hosted eight triumphant, and often lucrative, pet celebration events. Every other weekend, it seems, there is a benefit event for the Humane Society and they have been successful on many levels. They educate, they entertain, and they bring in the capital needed to further the Humane Society’s mission, to be the leading advocate for animals in our community. The money realized at these special events helps cover the current expenses of running the HSTT and of rescuing more and more animals, plus building a bank account to save for their next ‘home.’

hrough the fund raising events wherein HSTT was the beneficiary, in part or wholly, the organization has generated $23,000 more so far this year than they did last year. (See sidebar for a list of the HSTT events.) Stephanie expressed her gratitude to the people of Truckee-Tahoe, saying, ‘It is a blessing to have so much community support.’

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HSTT is so visible these days, Stephanie says, because the many fun fundraising events help pay for more advertising, which is drawing more support to help more animals – it’s a complete circle. Stephanie said someone told her, ‘You guys are everywhere!’
There is more than advertising at work here. Before the organization hired Stephanie, as Executive Director, two years ago, the HSTT was completely volunteer run. They hired a part-time Volunteer Coordinator, Catherine Swenson and a full time Animal Programs Manager, Nanette Cronk, exactly a year ago.

Stephanie explained, ‘Hiring staff has given us the opportunity to really grow our organization in many ways. Although we are still a small, grassroots organization, we will be growing significantly over the next few years considering our plans to build an animal shelter. In the meantime, we are streamlining all of our processes and preparing for the next big step.’
The staffing changes helped build the business aspect, which in turn furthers the organization’s effectiveness. ‘We are able to give the animals more then ever before,’ Stephanie said. ‘Thanks to our Volunteer Coordinator we have many more volunteers who can spend time with the animals at the shelter or foster them in their homes. In addition, because we have full-time staff to do animal adoptions, we are able to rescue outside of our area.’

When there is space in the kennel (due to successful adoptions – yeah!), Nanette drives down to Reno and other nearby communities, to rescue as many animals as she has room for. She selects the animals that are scheduled for imminent euthanization first. In one recent week she brought back five cats, two of which were immediately adopted, and three wonderful dogs.
In an area that is saturated with non-profits, having a full-time staff also helps HSTT offer credibility and garner community attention and support. For example, Switchback Public Relations and Marketing selected the Humane Society as this year’s Charity of Choice for the third annual Wine Walk and Shop held September 30 in downtown Truckee. Out of the approximately 12 non-profit organizations, which submitted applications, HSTT showed the biggest need for funding. They also were able to provide the help required to put on such a large project. Catherine gathered a team of around 45 volunteers to staff this community event.

The support the Humane Society of Truckee-Tahoe is receiving from the community is a clear indication that the organization is ready to launch into the campaign to build a shelter. The kennel in which the Humane Society of Truckee-Tahoe currently shelters animals is in the back of the Town of Truckee Corporation Yard. While it is a workable building, space is limited and the ultimate goal of the HSTT is to build a shelter of its own. Without its own facility, it can be difficult to give the public ready access to view the animals and to find homes for them. (They do have adoption days on Saturdays from 12 to 2 p.m., and arrangements can be made to visit the kennel by calling 587-5948.) Moreover, having a shelter will enable staff to work in a central location. Stephanie works in a small office up in Tahoe Donner and the two other staff members, Nanette and Catherine, work from home, but are trying to set up a temporary office at the kennel.
But still, most of the money raised is going towards the animals right now, Stephanie said. ‘Our primary expense is always the veterinary care of our animals. Because we spare almost no expense to treat illness or injury with the animals entrusted to our care, the veterinary bills are one of our greatest expenses. In addition, each animal receives the basic medical care including spay/neuter, full vaccinations, microchips for dogs, feline leukemia and feline immunodeficiency testing for cats, heartworm testing for dogs, etc… Adoption fees help offset some of our costs but unfortunately only a small amount. We also spend thousands each year on our community spay/neuter program. Much of the money given to us by donors goes directly into this program.’ She added, ‘Naturally, other costs include administrative, humane education, staff training, and marketing etc…’

To contact the Humane Society of Truckee Tahoe, call 587-5948 or visit www.hstt.org. To volunteer, e-mail Catherine at volunteers@hstt.org.

Graph: Humane Society Money in 2005 (Data for 2006 Revenue and Expenses are not compiled yet).Information and Graph courtesy of Humane Society of Truckee Tahoe

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