Moving forward: Humane Society establishes foundation
Published 2:59 pm Friday, August 4, 2023
By Carey Reeder | Managing Editor
After months, even years, of uncertainty and difficult times, it all came to a breaking point at the Humane Society of Chilton County this week. However, after meetings with city and county officials, the nonprofit is preparing a new board to move forward and build a solid foundation for the animal shelter.
On July 28, the director and some board members resigned due to the overwhelming number of 150 animals, 90 cats and 60 dogs, and lack of help within the shelter. By Aug. 1, the final acting board members and employees walked out, and Chilton County Commission Chairman Jimmie Hardee was called in.
“Two board members, one employee and a few volunteers could not feed and take care of the animals properly like they needed to,” Hardee said. “I was contacted Tuesday morning and they said ‘We need help, what are we going to do?’ I went with the animal control officers from Chilton County and the city of Clanton to go and talk with them … They said ‘We do not have any help, we are running out of money and we have just enough money to do payroll, we have some past due bills.’”
Hardee recommended that the nonprofit needed a completely new board which included a president, two vice presidents, a treasurer and a secretary. Hardee voluntarily threw his name into the running to help straighten this out on behalf of the County Commission. However, if he did, then Jennifer Fesmire would return to her post as director and the employees would return to work as well.
Hardee also said in order for him to serve as president, there needs to be a board formed that consists of two animal control officers from the city and county, a representative from Thorsby, Jemison and Maplesville.
“That is what we did,” Hardee said. “The only way we would do this is if we formed a board that would help the Humane Society of Chilton County, which is their own entity, and go from there.”
An emergency meeting was called at the nonprofit in the evening of Aug. 2, and Hardee was voted in as president and other board members were voted in as well. As it stands now, Hardee will serve as the president of the Humane Society of Chilton County, Chris Whittle will be the first vice-president, Lake Gilliland is the second vice-president, Helen Edwards is the treasurer and Dawn Smith is the secretary. Johnathon Oliver and Katherine Reece are also on the board as members at large.
Hardee remained in contact with Fesmire throughout the situation, and she and the employees returned to work on Aug. 1. She also provided Hardee with three years worth of financial statements that he said he will get professional auditor eyes on within the next few weeks to make sure everything is being accounted for.
“The biggest help we can get from the community is building a good reputation to start with,” Hardee said. “I have requested an audit from the time (the Chilton County Commission) took over and even before that, to see where the funding is. We have to build rapport with the community. The Humane Society here has had a reputation … But this has been an ongoing thing for several years, and I hope we bring structure, accountability and what is best for the animals, the staff and the citizens of this county.”
Hardee also assured that the audit will be a check over to make sure certain donations for specific projects or items are being used appropriately.
More finances brought to the board in the next several months is what Hardee is hoping for in the near future with the animal shelter, and he hopes the new board boosts morale around the Humane Society within the community.
“We have a great board that is willing to get in there and work hard, and to see this happen it is going to take some time,” Hardee said. “I ask the community to have patience with this board and the Humane Society as we restructure and revamp this organization.”
If anyone would like to help the Humane Society of Chilton County, volunteers are always needed and donations are accepted. A lawn mower is one of the greater needs the shelter has right now.
Hardee also told the staff and board at the Humane Society that they are not going to buy into negativity on social media, within the board or within the shelter going forward.
“This board is accountable for today going forward,” Hardee said. “We cannot help what has happened in the last week, last month, year or 10 years, but we have to share our vision and hard work to make this a better place, and that should be our number one goal.”
Hardee said the county does not have a lawsuit against the shelter, and he is not aware of any lawsuit by the city of Clanton against the shelter either. However, Hardee said if anything were to ever come up in the future, he and the shelter will cooperate in any way they can.