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2010 Year in Review

Posted by Karel Minor in Uncategorized

For the Humane Society of Berks County, 2010 was both the best and scariest year we’ve ever had.  Given the state of the economy, we accomplished not just more than we thought possible, we accomplished more than ever before.  All of our major fundraising events matched or smashed previous records.  For an organization which relies entirely on donations and services fees and coming at the tail end of a recession, this was amazing.

We partnered with J. P. Mascaro & Son to build and open Berks County’s first free, public dog park and an equine rescue and adoption center.  While this project has been planned on paper for years, at the beginning of 2010 no one at the HSBC expected that it would be started and completed in only six months.  During a time when we are scrambling to raise and save every penny we can, we also didn’t see a donation worth one million dollars in the cards for us.  This is one time we were glad to be proved wrong.

We started the year by debuting the region’s only VetMobile and mobile adoption center, a $250,000 project that was accomplished entirely through grants, individual donor support and corporate donations.  We did it by deciding that being effective was better, if sometimes harder, than just be mad.  In the ultimate turning of lemons into lemonade (and we had a few lemons thrown at us for doing it), we were able to turn the Philadelphia Eagles’ bad choice into a major long term benefit for animals and people throughout the region.

We were able to maintain and even expand our animal welfare programs, save more animals than ever through life saving veterinary care via our own in house veterinary services, and help thousands of animals not just in Berks but in eleven other Pennsylvania counties and five other states through emergency response, adoption transfer programs, and other services.  And we did all of that without having to make unplanned withdrawals from our very small savings nest egg for the first time in living memory. 

As great as all that was, the fact is we have been terrifyingly close to the edge the entire time.  The stock market decline resulted in shortfalls of hundreds of thousands of dollars we receive annually from donor trusts, money that had to be raised elsewhere or squeezed out of the budget.  Our record fundraisers, which were accomplished through the support of our strongest donors giving even more, were balanced by decreases in casual giving.  Most of our staff went through a second year without pay increases, we were forced to increase health benefit co-pays, and we saved by not replacing staff who left and spreading the work among those who remain.  All this together meant we were able to avoid cutting the services which are even more vital right now and live on the income we have (don’t you wish Washington could do the same?).

Even with those extremely hard choices and even harder work, we still faced some unpleasant realities.  The subsidy we previously gave those living at poverty level for vet care was decreased from a maximum of 33% to 20%.  That resulted in more pets being turned in to us because owners couldn’t afford to make them well even with our sliding scale services.  Despite extending $250,000 worth of lifesaving vet care to our animals and making formerly unthinkable treatments routine, we still face making health care decisions- life and death decisions- every day based solely on whether we can afford the treatment.  And despite all our efforts to do more work with less and for less, we have now finally faced our first layoff strictly for budgetary reasons.  That means fewer hands on deck to save the animals who need us and losing dedicated, hardworking staff.

And that does not include the unexpected and unbudgeted expenses that could not be put off.  The flood that destroyed our furnace.  The unexpected demise of part of our electrical system.  Termites (Seriously?  We were sent a plague of insects on top of everything else?).

So it was a mixed bag in 2010.  We did more than we ever have in good times or bad.  But like so many out there we did it under the constant cloud that one major crisis, no matter how hard or how well we worked, could spell catastrophe for all of our efforts.  As you probably know, we are a private, independent charity.  We get no subsidies from national groups like the HSUS or the ASPCA or from the government.  And we didn’t go into the recession with a boatload of the money in the bank to cushion us. 

But we did go into it with something even more important: the best staff, the best volunteers, some of the best ideas and programs, and strong, dedicated support from our donors.  As a lot of people and organizations have discovered, the money in the bank can go away, but if you have great people and great ideas, you can get by.  We have been blessed with both.

We at the Humane Society of Berks County hope you have a great holiday season, a merry Christmas, and a fantastic New Year.  We sincerely thank you for your support over the past year and hope you will continue it as we enter the next.  We are proud to be here for the animals and people who need us and proud that your support makes that possible!

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