House Rabbit Society was founded in early 1988 as an all-volunteer organization, and for 13 years, we have accomplished all that we have with two major assets: the passion and commitment of our many volunteers across the country and the generous donations of our members.
Those two assets came in handy as we tackled our biggest task yet-purchasing and opening our new Adoption and Education Center, which is also our national headquarters. In early 2000, crowning years of fundraising, we finally bought the building we had worked so hard to save for.
The Real Work Begins!
Once we had the building, we were faced with dozens of items, large and small, that needed to be bought, repaired, moved, or constructed. From the sink in the exam room to the quarantine cages to the washer and dryer to the habitats for the post-quarantine rabbits to live in-all of these had to be bought or built, with very little in the way of funds after purchasing the building.
But once again, after 13 years, the spirit of volunteerism combined with the spirit of giving-the two factors that brought us this far-brought us even further, providing us with the resources to get the building in shape to open. Led by Jon Kenney and aided by Tom Young, teams of volunteers came in every weekend for construction days. Over 40 volunteers, many with little-to-no building experience, gave their own time and built habitats, painted walls, put up shelves, and installed drywall. Tiling contractor Noel LaBerge contributed new floors (materials and labor) for the exam and quarantine rooms. Rob LeClair, Joe Hovell and Kevin Alston, at various times, installed metal fencing, paneling, lighting, ceilings and doors.
Our members also dug deep into their pockets, donating money to help us buy what we needed to get off the ground. And many of them donated the items we needed themselves-our refrigerator, washer, and dryer were donated by a veterinary hospital that had outgrown them (thanks, Dr. Nagel!), and we had countless pieces of office furniture donated by others.
Donations came from all over to cover the big ticket items that we could never afford on our own. Evonne Austin of Hawaii sent us enough money to build a dumpster enclosure, and two foundations generously funded the purchase of our quarantine kennels and the materials for the habitats.
We were blessed even more when one of our members, Kathy Monteiro, a professional interior designer, came forward and donated her interior design services to make the building as beautiful as it is functional. Kathy spent her own time and money picking the paint colors, choosing and installing wallpaper and custom draperies, getting our donated chairs re-upholstered; all so that we would have a building that not only the rabbits would like, but that our volunteers would enjoy coming to.
The Work Continues
Since opening day, we have had over three dozen volunteers coming in anywhere from two hours per month to two days per week, enabling us to be open 11-6 every day. Our volunteers have learned to clean habitats, change litterboxes, feed and water, trim nails, do database entry, answer phones, bag hay, sell merchandise, and more.
Super volunteers Susan Christopher, Karen Courtemanche, Jennifer Cray, Junko Frieden, Denise and Larry Hing, Monica Hininger, Gayle Kiviat, Mike Klopot, Carolyn Mosher, Andrew Page, Erin Williams, and Daniela Wotke have been coming in every week on a regular basis, and have given our shelter director, Susan Stark, and store manager, Katie Dinneen, more support than we could have hoped to have asked for. Others are coming in when they can, on weekends, weekdays, and some evenings, to do their part to keep the rabbits happy and healthy, and our doors open.
Keeping a large, grassroots organization like House Rabbit Society operational for 13 years has been a lesson in organization, commitment, passion, and hard work. Opening an adoption and education center has required even more of us than we expected. Yet with the generosity of time, money and spirit, generated by our members and volunteers, we are able to accomplish our goals.