“We fundraise to keep our lights on. Literally you can see daylight through the building—it’s that old and inefficient,” she says. “With the help of many wonderful supporters, we’ve been able to patch up and fix things, but it’s still a hindrance to the animals. We knew the time was now to get started.”
“Our mission is to save lives, plain and simple,” Bailey says. “Our mission is to shelter unwanted animals and provide them with food, medical care and attention, and a temporary shelter until we can find their forever home.”
Phase 1 was completed last month, which includes 42 dog kennels that are a minimum 50 percent larger than the standard kennels in the old building. When the entire building is completed, in addition to the dog kennels, it will include a dog training room, an office and mechanical room. VAO is completing the building in two phases because of the constant number of strays coming from towns all over South Jersey.
“We are your local municipal animal shelter for 22 towns in South Jersey—16 of which are in Camden County—and are contractually obligated to take in strays and surrenders from those towns,” Bailey says. “Animals still keep coming and we had to figure out how to optimize impact during construction since it’s at the same location.”
Additionally, it works with rescue groups across the country, more so in the southern part of the country where there are higher kennel areas and house them until they are adopted.
While the VAO receives a monthly stipend to cover the care of the animals from those towns, the only other income it receives on a regular basis is adoption fees, which Bailey says fluctuates.
“We rely on the generosity of supporters,” Bailey says. “While we do have financing in place, it obviously would be in our best interest if it was completely paid for. We are still fundraising.”
A few minutes away also in Voorhees is the Animal Welfare Association (AWA), an animal shelter that’s been around for 71 years. Like VAO, AWA has always been committed to helping save animals’ lives across Camden County, and executive director Maya Richmond says that commitment has gotten stronger over the last few years—especially when it comes to the save rate for dogs.
“When I started, transporting dogs from Philadelphia or the South wasn’t happening as much, but now the save rate for dogs has been one of the most amazing things to watch,” Richmond says. “Dogs that were 8 and 9 were too old to be adopted, but now we’re able to provide veterinary care and taking care of other issues related to [older] age and they are going into homes. It’s remarkable.
“Our mission is to eliminate animal suffering and promote the human-animal bond,” Richmond continues. “We save pets’ lives by touching people’s hearts. To me, that’s what’s special about our approach. We look to bring people together and include them in our daily work. We deliver unique programs to save pets’ lives, care for animals, keep them safe, reduce the pet overpopulation and work with programs in our community that directly lower euthanization, lower the impound rate and build a passionate community.”
One of those programs is the AWA partnering with agencies that specialize in helping people with special needs, including those who have physical and mental disabilities.
“Those individuals help the animals in many ways—they make dog toys and grow vegetables and herbs for rabbits. … The love of animals shines through and it creates healing and warmth you would not believe. These individuals feel good about what they are doing and parents call us saying it’s changed their lives and they have a purpose to get up in the morning,” Richmond says.
The one setback is lack of space. Richmond says the AWA can only have these individuals and others at certain hours in the morning because there’s not enough space. But also like VAO, the AWA has its own capital campaign to build a brand-new building that will not only create much needed room for workers and volunteers, and of course the animals, it will be a resource in the community. AWA’s capital campaign is $2.5 million and it has raised around $1.6 million thus far. Richmond calls the new space “more than a building.”
Children dress up and get Halloween candy and bring together their love of putting pets in costumes and doing pet parades and trick or treat at cars decorated by our volunteers,” Richmond says. “We’ll have crafts, music and doggy treats as well. It’s all about connecting with the community.”
Animal Welfare Association
509 Centennial Blvd. | Voorhees
856-424-2288 | AWANJ.org
Voorhees Animal Orphanage
419 Cooper Road | Voorhees
856-627-9111 | VAONJ.org
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Published (and copyrighted) in South Jersey Magazine, Volume 16, Issue 6 (September 2019).
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