A pair of community builders who weren’t returned to office in this fall’s municipal election is showing that it doesn’t take an election win to make a difference in the community.
Veteran council members Marjorie Crew and Art Stirling have agreed to co-chair a public campaign to raise funds to replace Chatham-Kent’s run-down animal shelter.
Crew, who finished second in the mayoral race, said she spent a day or two after the election resting, clearing her head and wondering what was next.
“I was thinking what can I do,” she said. “I spoke with a few people about the animal shelter and Art’s name kept coming up.”
Crew, one of the founders of East Side Pride in the 1990s, said Stirling is the perfect co-chair due to his strong roots in the community and fundraising ability as a chair of the United Way and work with the Festival of Giving.
“Both Art and myself have connections in the community and we were both passionate about the need for a new shelter, so it’s a great fit,” she said.
Stirling said he was heartened by Chatham-Kent council’s endorsement of the committee.
“There isn’t any doubt council has been aware of the need for some time and having (Coun.) Frank Vercouteren involved will be a benefit. He’s deeply committed to the cause.”
Stirling estimated the cost of a shelter at between $1 million and $2.5 million. “We’re in the very early stages of planning, but that seems to be the range that most people I’ve spoken with believe is realistic.”
“I’m not over stating the fact when I say the current facility is an embarrassment,” he said. “Everyone agrees we need something else, but there hasn’t been the impetus to take action.”
Stirling and Crew both stressed that the facility is a community effort. “We wanted council’s blessing but this is not a taxpayer-funded initiative in any way,” Crew said.
Stirling said the effort is independent of the Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals or any of the other groups in the community in the animal welfare sector.
“We will ensure the shelter is built and we’ll have a governance committee, but at this point its premature to talk about who will be involved in owning or operating it,” he said.
Robyn Brady, local OSPCA community relations’ coordinator, said she’s glad to see the issue of animal welfare at the forefront in Chatham-Kent.
Brady said the current Park Street East facility is in dire need of upgrading.
“We do the best we can, but the facility isn’t large enough and the layout isn’t conducive to what we need,” she said. “A new facility has been talked about for years.”
The current building has been in use since 1974 and handles some 2,000 animals each year.
Stirling said the formal fundraising campaign could start as early as March.
“We want to have a report to council at that time and we want to be able to begin once council has that information.”
With no one disputing the need for a new facility, Stirling said he believes there is a pent-up demand that will make achieving the financial goals somewhat easier.
If anyone is interested in donating to the shelter prior to the campaign, they can contact Stirling at 519-359-9323, or Crew at 519-351-1269 or email@example.com.