Upton Foundation issues challenge grant for Humane Society

By Tony Wittkowski | Business Reporter | The Herald-Palladium

BENTON TOWNSHIP — The Humane Society of Southwestern Michigan announced Wednesday it is getting additional help for its new shelter.

The Frederick S. Upton Foundation issued a $150,000 challenge grant to support construction of the Humane Society’s new facility. Through the grant, the Upton Foundation will match all donations to the Humane Society’s Capital Building Fund, up to a total of $75,000 in 2016 and again in 2017.

Meeting this challenge will bring a total of $300,000 to the Humane Society’s shelter fund. The total cost for the new shelter is $2 million, and the Humane Society has raised more than $900,000. The $300,000 that could be raised in the next two years represents 15 percent of the overall cost.

At 641 S. Crystal Ave. in Benton Township, the Humane Society operates the only no-kill shelter in Berrien County. Its current shelter, built in 1963, is considered to be undersized, outdated, inefficient and in need of costly repairs.

Don Blackmond, president of the HSSM Board of Directors, said they learned of the Upton Foundation’s two-year commitment two weeks ago, but waited to announce the news once the language was approved.

“It’s a small portion, but a significant step toward our ultimate goal,” Blackmond said. “We’ve been raising money for just over two years, so this commitment is greatly appreciated.”

Last summer, Blackmond said they initiated the process to apply for the grant. After a few grant cycles passed, the Upton Foundation ultimately approved the challenge grant.

“It’s been a long time in the making to get to this point,” Blackmond said. “When you’re dealing with the Upton Foundation you also have to work within those grant cycles. Last summer they requested additional info for the November grant cycle.”

At full capacity, the shelter is home to about 60 dogs and 100 cats. Blackmond said a new shelter is vital to the shelter’s mission to provide a safe haven for homeless dogs and cats in Southwest Michigan.

“Our existing shelter is worn out and gets used very hard,” Blackmond said. “The cost to repair and upgrade is not economical. It makes sense to build a new, free-standing structure. We save more than 400 dogs and cats each year, but it’s not enough. We have to turn away three to four dogs and six to eight cats each week.”

The new shelter would significantly increase the number of animals rescued, preventing them from going to “kill facilities.”

Land for a new shelter was purchased on M-139, north of John Beers Road in Royalton Township. Construction plans include a new medical area, administration, training and education sections, and separate wings for the dogs and cats.

Anyone interested in learning more about the shelter plans or donating to the Capital Building Fund can visit www.humanesocietyswm.org.

Donations can be made by PayPal or credit card through the website or by calling the shelter at 927-3303. The Humane Society also accepts donations through the Berrien Community Foundation.

Contact Tony Wittkowski at twittkowski@TheHP.com or (269) 932-0358. Follow him on Twitter: @tonywittkowski.

(Author’s Note: This article was originally published on June 9, 2016)

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