|By Courtney Llewellyn|
Reminder Assistant Editor
WESTFIELD Animals are not disposable objects, according to Julie Austin, a member of The Animal Shelter Renovation Inc. That's why she and a group of fellow volunteers are working to create a no-kill animal shelter for the region in Westfield through fundraising efforts.
The group's goal is to provide a safe haven for the lost, injured and homeless animals of the lower Pioneer Valley until new loving homes can be found. There are currently no no-kill shelters in this area. The fundraising process for the shelter is ongoing and Austin is working on organizing an art auction to continue these efforts.
The Animal Shelter Renovation Inc. is a non-profit organization that was founded in October 2006 and is currently headed by Ken and Pat Frazer of Southwick. Both are licensed animal control officers; Ken serves as an officer in Westfield. Other volunteers help take care of feral colonies in the area, according to Austin.
Since 2006, the group has raised over $40,000 to either buy and renovate a building suitable for a shelter or buy property to build a shelter on. These funds were raised through private contributions, business contributions, hosting car washes, selling candy bars and pet-related items, car shows and tag sales.
"Whatever it takes," Austin told Reminder Publications. "We do anything and everything."
The ultimate goal is to raise $400,000 for the shelter.
The next large fundraising effort is an art auction Austin is coordinating. "This is the first time we've ever held an art auction," she explained. "We had so many different events in the past, and we wanted to step up our fundraising efforts."
Austin added that the art auction's positive results will be twofold funds raised will go toward the animal shelter fund and local artists will gain exposure through the auction. Approximately 30 artists have contacted Austin about donating art for the auction so far, but she has a loftier goal she'd like to reach.
"I'd like to see a minimum of 50 artists," Austin said, "and more would be great."
The art auction is tentatively scheduled for March 7 at the Tekoa Country Club in Westfield. Austin would like to have at least 50 local artists included by then. If not, the group may have to reschedule.
"We're looking for pieces of various genres," Austin said. "Painting, sculpture, blown glass, wood work, stained glass. We're looking for all kinds of fine art pieces.
"We want people to buy the ticket to the auction and to buy the art," she continued. Austin added the responses from the artists that have contacted her so far have been positive because the donations are going toward "a good cause."
She hopes the auction will raise $10,000 for the shelter project.
"It's on the high side, but we're being optimistic," she stated. "We have to strive hard and it [$10,000] would be a huge shove in the right direction."
Artists who may be interested in donating their work to the auction can contact Austin by calling 562-8118 after 6 p.m. or by emailing her at email@example.com.
Other upcoming fundraisers for The Animal Shelter Renovation Inc. included a kids' fair in March, a pro-wrestling exhibition and a golf tournament.
"The reason for this effort is because animals can't speak for themselves," Austin stated. "We're speaking for them."