Progress Report 6/6/18

Now that summer has begun, and I no longer have to mold young minds at school, I can finally turn my full attention to Shep’s Place.  It may not look any different when you drive by, but behind the scenes, things are bubbling.  Here’s an update.

1.  Kennel

We were told (by people who know such things) that remodeling the garage into a kennel would be costly, and the resulting space too small.  So now our plan is to build a new kennel building next to the garage.  I’ve spent way too many hours playing around with floor plans; here’s the latest version.  It is 44′ x 32′, and has 9 kennels, which can house from 9-18 dogs.

This is just a sketch, and I’m no architect, so I’ve probably overlooked something vital, but you get the idea.  I’ve sent this design to Butler Buildings and Morton Buildings, and asked for a price estimate.  We’re also going to have some regional architects take a look.

2.  Site Plan

In addition to the kennel building, we’ll need to add play yards and parking.  I bought a measuring wheel, measured the heck out of the property, then spent even more hours tinkering with site plans.  I’m sure this will continue to evolve, but here’s the basic layout:

3.  City of Independence, a.k.a. Sheppyville

To start a (non-profit) business, there are a boatload of city ordinances and permits to take care of.  I started looking through it, and began to panic, because… it’s crazy!!  Then I discovered this wonderful place called the Community Development Office.  If you are starting a business in Independence, they will organize a meeting with representatives from all relevant city departments, who will then walk you through everything you need.  How awesome is that?  Probably every city has one, and I’m just ignorant, but I was very relieved to discover them.  Anyway, they are coming to Shep’s Place on June 21 to help us figure out what permits, etc., we need to open.

I also have a meeting next week with the head of Independence Animal Control, Jennifer Polston.  She will visit Shep’s Place, and answer a zillion questions about how to obtain an animal shelter license from the city and state.

4.  Other cool stuff

Our Volunteer work groups have merged into a single Planning Group, which meets every Wednesday from 6:00 – 7:30.  We had eight people at the meeting Monday, which was great.  This update is basically a report on that meeting.

The Planning Group will meet next month with a local veterinary group, who will hopefully become our primary vet care providers.

We have official colors!  We were talking about T-shirts, and decided we need a consistent color scheme for apparel, flyers, and so on.  I happened to be wearing my Senior Dog Sanctuary of Maryland shirt, and people liked how the lettering stood out against the background.  So, our colors are (Kansas City) Royal Blue, and Bright Yellow.  Thanks, SDS, and I hope you don’t mind us copying!

We have created application forms for Fosters and Adoptions.  We will eventually post them on the website.

Our “500 by the 500” push, to get 500 Facebook likes by the start of the Indianapolis 500, didn’t quite make it all the way — but we got farther than Danica Patrick!  We added 97 new likes, and got to 440, so it was a great success.

We recently added three new members to the Board of Directors:  Angie Bloss, Gina Carnahan, and Amy Caviness.  With Ann and myself, we now have five Board members.

We’ve ordered printed flyers to hand out at public events.  We plan to attend the Blue Springs Fall Fun Festival in September, and Dogtoberfest in October.  We are looking into a bunch of other events and fundraisers, as well.

Gina Carnahan snagged us a computer that her office was getting rid of!

There’s more, but that’s enough for now.  Just wanted to let you know that we are working diligently to make Shep’s Place happen.   Thanks to the Volunteers for all of their efforts.

Volunteer Reboot

One of the biggest challenges in starting a Sanctuary has been learning how to successfully engage Volunteers. With no paid staff, we need Volunteers to take ownership of Shep’s Place, to empower them to act creatively.  I thought the best way to achieve that was to give Volunteers a hand in shaping all aspects of the program.  I split the project into a number of different areas (Management, Outreach, etc.), set up Work Groups for each, and enlisted Volunteers to help.

It went well at first, I thought.  We had a lot of enthusiasm at the Open House and the first Group meetings.  However, as the weeks wore on, attendance declined.  The last five meetings have had an average attendance of 2 people, including me.  The numbers signed up for upcoming meetings look similar.  Clearly, people have been voting with their feet, and sending the message that they don’t care for the Work Groups.

Naturally, my first reaction was disappointment, tinged with despair.  I’d driven everyone away before we even started!  But after a moment of panic, I put on my scientist hat and tried to analyze the problem.  As a robotics coach, when kids got frustrated, I reminded them that nothing works perfectly the first time.  The important thing is to figure out the problem, make adjustments, and try again.  And if that works for robots, it should work for a dog sanctuary, right?

So, why did people stop coming?  Could it be fixed?

As I thought it over, I had a bit of an epiphany.  Obviously, our Volunteers all want to help old dogs, or they wouldn’t have signed up in the first place.  So the problem is not lack of commitment.  However — and here’s where the light bulb went on — working with dogs is NOT the same thing as working on programs for dogs.  Regardless of their doggy devotion, not everyone wants to work on managerial stuff like policies, procedures, and forms.  Most people don’t enjoy that type of thing, or feel it is their strong suit.  When I volunteered at Great Plains, it sure wasn’t to develop handbooks or programs; I just wanted to walk dogs.  So, duh, it shouldn’t have been a surprise that others felt the same way about Shep’s Place.

Once I realized that, I felt much better.  I should have expected that only a portion of the Volunteers would be into the policy aspects of building Shep’s Place; in hindsight, it’s a no-brainer.  Many people (most?) don’t want to create the program, they just want to help out with the dogs once it’s up and running.  And that is completely okay!  We very much need those people.  It’s not a problem at all.  It’s just a fact we have to acknowledge and build around.

Sooooo…  Time for a change in philosophy.  Let’s not expect every Volunteer to be involved with planning; we’ll leave that to those who are interested.  If that’s not you, it’s cool, no big deal, just chill out until the dogs arrive.  Until they do, though, we’re going to ask the planners to carry the ball for us.

We’ll start by doing away with the eight Work Groups; they were too much.  I thought about consolidating down to 3 or 4 groups, but figured that pretty much the same people would show up each time anyway.  So it makes more sense to put that group of hardcore planners into a single committee, and let them decide everything.  We’ll call it the “Planning Group.”  They will be responsible for all aspects of the program at Shep’s Place:  renovation, outreach, volunteer training, adoptions, the works.

So who can be on the Planning Group?  Anyone who wants to be!  It’s meant to be self-selecting, not exclusive.  Anyone who is willing to show up and help is strongly encouraged to do so.  If we get a lot of people at a meeting, we can break into smaller groups and work on different things.  I’ve got a feeling that we’ll have the same 4-6 people every time, but that’s fine; we can work with that.

I figure we ought to meet once a week.  Some people can’t do Mondays, others Wednesdays, so how about we alternate meeting days?  We’ll do Monday one week, Wednesday the next, then Monday, and so on.

Since we’re going from 8 groups to 1, there will be a lot to do, so we should meet a little longer, say from 6:00 – 7:30.  I will post an agenda a few days in advance, so we can be prepared and jump right in.  Unless I forget.  Which happens a lot.

So what do you think about the Planning Group:  good idea, or not?  I think the Work Groups aren’t, well, working, but this is not the only solution.  I am open to other suggestions.  Shower me with your insights, dog people!

Reflection on First Round of Volunteer Group Meetings

Today marks the end of the first round of Group meetings (except for Outreach Programs, which had to be rescheduled).  I thought this would be a good time to reflect on how it’s going, and see if there are ways we can make improvements.

First off, thanks to all those who attended one or more Group meetings.  This first round dealt mostly with understanding the issues and discussing possibilities.

Of the eight meetings, four were well-attended (by six or more people):

  • Intake/Foster/Adoption (IFA)
  • Dog Care
  • Management
  • Renovation Advisory.

The interest in IFA and Dog Care makes sense, since they deal directly with dogs, and we love  pooches!  Management discussed how to train and use Volunteers, something which almost all of you have had personal experience with.  The Renovation Group talked about how to make the space usable for the dogs.  Each of these meetings was active and productive, and they all left with things to research for the next meeting.

I think the most important decisions to come out of those meetings were:  a) we will only take in dogs that have already spent time at a shelter or rescue, and b) that we will construct a new kennel building connected to the house, rather than remodel the garage.

The other Groups had fewer people attend.  Still, most made good progress.  Social Media had 3 people, as did Fundraising, while Events had 2.  And that’s okay.  For each of these, it may only take a handful of people to plan and organize, but once the plans are made, we’ll have to enlist others to help.  Fundraising is a make-or-break thing for us, so we’ll need almost everyone involved in some way.  And to get our message out, we’ll need a core of people to represent us at public Events.  But those things will develop as we go along.  The least sexy Group, Landscape and Grounds, had one person attend, namely me.

We did have some leaders emerge from the meetings.  Amy Caviness and Virginia Dameron are now administrators of our Facebook page, so we can begin to develop more content, and push for more followers.  Angie Bloss will serve as our Event Coordinator.  She has an ambitious list of event to attend this summer and fall.  We plan to attend our first event, PrideFest, in June; more details soon.  And Gina Carnahan has been actively pursuing options for the renovation.

As I said at the meetings, these Groups are a work in progress, and we can adjust them as needed.  Reflecting on the first round, I’d like to propose a few changes.

* Merge the Landscape and Grounds Group with the Renovation Advisory Group, into a single “Facility Group”, charged with decisions relating to the building, including the grounds.

* Merge the Events Group and the Outreach Programs Group into a single group, “Outreach”.  Though there are differences between public events like Dogtoberfest, and programs like taking dogs to visit retirement homes, they are both focused on reaching out into the community.

* We may eventually need to do some rearranging or consolidation to boost Fundraising, but we’ll see how it develops.

As we enter the second round of meetings, I look forward to moving from generalities into specifics.  We’ll be coming up with forms and procedures, making decisions on building design, choosing online fundraising sites and event… a lot of important stuff.  Thanks for your work so far!

Results of Social Media and Renovation Work Group Meetings 4/23 & 4/25

With the Work Groups starting to meet, our Volunteers have begun shaping the future of Shep’s Place.  We want to keep everyone in the loop, so it’s important to share the decisions being made with all of the Volunteers.

Social Media met on Monday 4/23, with three people in attendance.  Thanks to Virginia Dameron for taking notes.  Here are the highlights:

  • To strengthen the Facebook page, we will add Amy Caviness and Virginia Dameron as administrators, in addition to Russell Clothier.
  • Any Volunteer is welcome to submit a post for the Facebook page. The posts will have to be okayed by one of the administrators, for quality control and consistency of message.
  • To increase the number of Facebook followers, we will soon make a push for our Volunteers to “share” the page with their friends.
  • Once the Sanctuary opens, we will begin messaging on Twitter and other platforms, including a a house webcam! But for now, Facebook is the best outlet.
  • The Social Media group will have to coordinate with a number of other groups, including Fundraising, Management, Events and Outreach.

The Renovation Advisory group met on Wednesday 4/25, with 6 adults (plus 2 kids and a dog) in attendance.  Hayley Woods was kind enough to take notes.  The highlights:

  • The main issue discussed was whether we could adequately renovate the garage into the kennel room for the dogs. We discussed the state requirements for drainage, ventilation, sanitation, etc., that have to be met for certification.
  • We also discussed the state requirements on how much space we would need to house the dogs. Russell Clothier presented a draft floor plan that could house 10 dogs, if they were doubled up and not too large.
  • We discussed the possibility of adding on an additional space in front of the garage, and whether to do it now or later.
  • Barb Allen, a construction manager for J.D. Dunn, walked us through the steps it would take to renovate the existing garage. She later suggested that, for the same amount of money, it would be easier to build an entirely new “Butler building” kennel next to the garage.  We would get more space for the money, and build in proper drainage and ventilation from the start, rather than retrofitting the existing garage.
  • Barb helped us come up with a realistic timetable for the renovations.
    • May: research buildings, city construction requirements, and other shelters
    • June/July: hire architect, have drawings made, price estimates, obtain permits and approvals
    • August – October: construction of kennel, renovation of the rest of the building
  • So, if all goes well, we could be ready for business mid-Fall

So how does October sound?  We have our work cut out for us!

Report on IFA Meeting, 4/18/18

We had our first ever Work Group meeting yesterday, for the IFA (Intake/Foster/Adoption) group, and IMHO it went quite well.  Eight people showed up, and we had a good discussion about what dogs to accept, where to accept them from, and what criteria to use to decide which dogs to take.  We also talked about how we’d like to handle fosters and adoptions.  I thought I should share some of the decisions the Group made, since they will affect everyone.

  • For now, we will take dogs from shelters and rescues
    • Our mission is to make a home for dogs who can’t find one elsewhere. If they can get adopted quickly from a shelter, that is the best outcome for them.  If not, we will take them.
    • Shelter dogs have already received preliminary medical care, which can be expensive
  • We will NOT accept owner surrenders
  • We will accept dogs from anywhere in the KC area
  • The dogs we take must get along well with other dogs
    • Our dogs will be free to move about the house as they wish. That is only possible if they can live peacefully with the other dogs.
  • Factors that will determine which dogs we take are:
    • age
    • disposition
    • duration of stay in the shelter
    • medical condition
    • residence in a kill shelter
    • Adoptability is NOT a factor.
  • Decisions on which dogs to take will be made by an appointed committee, with members from IFA, Management, and Dog Care
  • We want to actively promote Foster and Adoption, to help as many dogs as possible. But it is not our overriding goal.
  • We will require home visits for both Foster and Adoption applicants.
  • We will require Meet & Greets for both Foster and Adoption applicants.
  • Foster and Adoption visits will be by appointment only.

We discussed a number of other related issues as well, but those are the main points.

Our next meeting will focus on creating the various forms we will need:  to gather information on prospective dogs, applications for foster and adoption, and so on.  It is tentatively scheduled for May 16.

Thanks to those who showed up, and to Gina Carnahan for taking notes.

Volunteer Work Group Selection

At the Getting Acquainted Meeting on March 31, we decided to set up a number of Volunteer Work Groups to start making plans for Shep’s Place.  For a description of the Groups, please click on the Volunteer tab.  Those that attended the meeting filled out a form about which Groups they’d like to work with.  Based on those responses, I divvied up the Volunteers among the Groups.  Over the next few days, I’ll be contacting each Volunteer about their proposed assignment, to make sure they accept.

A few points of explanation:

  • You don’t have to say yes. You’re a volunteer; you don’t HAVE to do anything!  If you don’t like a Group, you can stop going.  You can switch.  It’s all open.  Just let me know.
  • Everyone who filled out a form will be asked to be part of at least one Work Group.
  • Given our current numbers, most people will be asked to join two Work Groups. As we gain more volunteers, that number can go down.
  • You are not limited to 2 Work Groups. Any volunteer can help with as many Work Groups as they want.  Or none.
  • Just because I didn’t ask you about a particular group doesn’t mean you can’t be part of it. The invitations are meant to ensure each Group has at least 3 members; there can always be more.
  • Almost everyone picked “Dog Care” as their top interest, which makes sense. But I had to spread some of those people to other Groups, to even out the numbers.  You can still join Dog Care if you want.
  • If you weren’t at the March 31 meeting, but would like to help, just fill out the Volunteer Info Form on the website; click either the “Volunteer” tab, or the “Forms” tab.
  • As new Volunteers join, we will slot them into Groups based on their preferences and our needs.

Over the next few weeks, we’ll start scheduling one Group a week to meet at Shep’s Place, probably on Wednesday evening.  After that, the Groups can set their own schedules.  I’ll send out the details once they are figured out.

Come Meet Shep at Our First Event!

Shep’s Place Getting Acquainted Meeting, March 31

Shep is looking forward to meet you!

We’ve been working on this lovely dream of starting a Sanctuary for almost a year now.  From the enthusiastic response, it is a goal that many of you share.  Now that we have an actual, physical location, it’s time to start making the dream real.  Facebook messages and blog posts are not enough.  We’ve reached the point where we need to build a genuine organization, a dedicated group of volunteers with the skills and energy to make it happen.

How do you pull that off?  Well, getting together to talk about it would be a great start.

With that in mind, we’d like to invite you and any other interested parties to our very first event, a Getting Acquainted Meeting on March 31.

Date:  Saturday, March 31

Time:  2:00 – 4:00 pm

Location:  Shep’s Place, 17012 Truman Rd., Independence, MO

We have an unrealistic number of lofty goals for our first meeting:

  • To make introductions, and start getting to know each other
  • To show off the building and grounds (so you realize what needs to be done)
  • To discuss the current plans for Shep’s Place, and how to implement or change them
  • To discuss the role of volunteers at Shep’s Place, and how best to organize them
  • To begin establishing our Organizational Culture: the central beliefs and overall philosophy that will guide Shep’s Place
  • To answer and ask questions
  • To figure out as a group what to do next

Here’s the deal.  Since we can’t afford staff, Shep’s Place has to rely entirely on volunteers.  That will only work if we empower our volunteers to take ownership of the place and the program.  We need people to develop the plans, the schedule, the day to day procedures, the outreach, the website, all of it.  But if we don’t want chaos, we need to make sure we are all on the same page, rowing in the same direction.  This goal of this meeting is to start that process.

If you want an opportunity to make a difference, to contribute and have your voice be heard, well, this is certainly it!  We are on the ground floor; everything is open, and all voices are welcome.  We need your input!  Please come check it out.

If you plan to attend, please let us know by March 24, so we have an idea of how many to expect.  You can send a message on Facebook, or an email to russell@shepsplace.org . Hope to see you there!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Moving Into Shep’s Place

We’re here!  We finally completed the purchase of the property for Shep’s Place, and Ann and I and the dogs have moved into the house next door.  Now begins the long process of renovation.  Both houses are over 80 years old, and need TLC to nurse them back into shape.  For now, we are focusing on our residence.  It is half the size of our previous home, so we have WAY too much stuff crammed into it.  Some of it will eventually go to Shep’s Place, some to Goodwill, but for now it is piled up in boxes; the basement looks like a warehouse.  Since we both work full time, we can only find a few hours a day to work on it, but we’re making progress.  It’s okay, though.  The house is like a senior dog:  it may have some issues, but it has a lot of character, and with love and patience it can shine again.

Moving stuff into Shep’s Place

Shep’s Place next door is probably in better shape than our house, but it will require more extensive renovations to meet state requirements for animal shelters.  For now, it is storage room for our extra stuff.  Hopefully in a month or two, we can turn our attention to it.

Shep’s Place Kitchen / Box Depository

It’s exciting to have actually made the step, to have a physical place in hand to start working on.  A lot of effort remains, but we are well and truly on the road.

Shep is adjusting to life in his new house.

Help Make #GivingTuesday a Milestone for Shep’s Place

Hey, Sheppers!  This Tuesday, Nov. 28, we have a special opportunity to raise funds for the renovation of Shep’s Place.  Starting at 7:00 AM Central, the Gates Foundation has agreed to match all charitable donations given though Facebook, up to $50,000 per charity.  Facebook has also agreed to waive its usual 5% processing fee.  How cool is that?  That means every $1 you give will contribute $2 toward refurbishing Shep’s Place.  However, Gates will only match the first $2 million donated.  That sounds like a lot, but given how many charities there are, it won’t last long.  We’ll have to act fast to get a piece of the pie.

Why should you give?  As you hopefully know, we have an agreement in place to purchase land and a building for Shep’s Place.  Before we can open, though, we’ll have to renovate the building to meet state codes for animal care, and to make it a safe and comfortable home for the dogs and volunteers.  The Clothiers are going to purchase the property, but the charity will have to raise funds for the renovation.

So, dear folks, we are asking you to help us with this, our very first fundraiser.  It’s easy!  Here’s what to do:

  1. Before 7:00 AM Central, be on our Facebook page @ShepsPlaceSDS, ready to hit the Donate button under the cover photo, up top. Have a debit or credit card ready.
  2. At 7:00:00.00, hit the Donate Button!
  3. Fill out the info as quickly as possible, to beat the deadline.
  4. Feel good about yourself for the rest of the day, knowing you helped get Shep’s Place ready to serve senior dogs.

Don’t forget, Shep’s Place SDS is a registered 501(c)(3) public charitable foundation, so donations are tax-deductible.  Facebook will automatically generate a receipt, which you should save for your tax records.

That’s it!  For the dogs’ sake, please help make #GivingTuesday a success.  Thanks!

Shep Just Got Real

It’s been months, but at last, news worth posting:  We have reached an agreement to buy property for Shep’s Place!  The deal is contingent on us selling our current house, so it is not 100% certain yet.  But the odds are good that we’ve found a home.

The property is on the northeast corner of the Truman Rd / MO-291 interchange in Independence, MO, which makes it easily accessible.  We looked at land in the country, but felt a city location would give us a better pool of volunteers and adopters.  If you hike back onto the property, though, it feels like you’re in the country.  It’s the best of both worlds.

Notice we are on the same map as Kaufmann Stadium. Cool!

We are actually buying two adjacent properties.  Each has an old house near the road, with ample, undeveloped land behind.  Ann and I plan to live in one house, and refurbish the other to be the Sanctuary.  Both properties are zoned Industrial, which is important, because animal care facilities are not allowed in Residential zones.  The surrounding properties are also Industrial, which is fortunate, because you can’t locate an animal shelter within 200 feet of a residential property.

The house itself will require a good deal of work to be turned into a Sanctuary.  There is an attached garage that can be converted into a kennel room.  Inside the house, there is a kitchen, living room, 2 baths, and 3 bedrooms that can be transformed into workspaces, an office, and dog hang-out space.  We will have to add lighting, drainage, ventilation, kennels, play yards, a sprinkler system… like I said, a lot of work.  Then we’ll have to pass inspection with the city and state.  It won’t happen overnight.

Proposed Floor Plan

This house is only intended to be Phase 1 of Shep’s Place.  It will be able to service 6-10 dogs.  Down the road, once we’ve proven our sustainability, we’d like to build a larger Phase 2 Sanctuary.  Fortunately, there is a beautiful spot and lots of land (10 acres!) behind the house where we can someday build.

Potential site for Phase 2 building. Some day…

It is important to note that all of these plans are preliminary.  They are just ideas Ann and I have come up with over the past few months.  Once we have the place in hand, we want to start meeting with interested parties and volunteers, to show you firsthand what we’ve got, and solicit your input and advice.  We will decide together how we want to proceed.

On a personal level, I feel like we’ve crossed a boundary into a new realm.  For months, all our efforts have been focused on acquiring this property, but now we’ve moved past that into a whole new set of challenges.  It’s no longer hypothetical; it’s actually happening.  Dilly dilly!