After several years of planning and construction, fundraising, and anticipation, the new Humane Society of Sarasota County is officially complete. We marked this momentous occasion on Friday, September 24, 2021, with our Grand Opening Celebration. We were astounded by the outpouring of support, as hundreds of guests—including elected officials and representatives from more than a dozen animal shelters—filled the campus, braving the scorching Sarasota sun to listen to remarks from HSSC Board President, Teresa Jones; City of Sarasota Mayor, Hagen Brody; and Sarasota County Sheriff, Kurt A. Hoffman. Incoming Board President, Jennifer Steube, offered a blessing of the grounds before Jones; Steube; past Board President John Raleigh; and Senior Director of Operations, Rebecca Gustafson, joined me to cut the ceremonial yellow ribbon. With the building officially "open," guests flooded inside—partly for the air conditioning, but mostly to see the beautifully renovated and expanded facilities. Staff and volunteers led tours, pointing out the cat wing (complete with multi-story "catios"), matchmaking rooms, sensory garden, memorial courtyard, covered play yards, upgraded dog kennels, in-house medical wing, and more. Donors who had purchased legacy pavers were able to admire their engraved bricks, now safely installed in the memorial courtyard. Adoptable animals and pet therapy animals entertained guests, while craft popsicles helped them stay cool. At noon, the donors who funded the building campaign, joined staff, volunteers, and the Board of Directors for a champagne toast. The prevailing theme of the day was gratitude for everyone who had helped make this project a reality. To commemorate the occasion, guests were encouraged to bring trinkets and mementos to include in our time capsule, which will be buried on our property for the next 25 years. With the building project in the rearview mirror, HSSC is transitioning into our next phase: Beyond Shelter. As remarkable as our new facility is, ultimately, it is just a building. It's the lives that are saved and changed and the stories that begin here that make HSSC such a transformational place. We look forward to the work we will do in our community and our region and all the ways we will go Beyond Shelter.
Thank you to everyone who helped make this project possible and everyone who joined in the celebration.