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Gulf Coast Humane Society has volunteers ready for expansion

By Staff | May 20, 2015

Teresa and Alan Marshall moved from Maryland to Cape Coral seven years ago and decided to volunteer at the Gulf Coast Humane Society once a week. That has turned into twice a week and special events on the weekend and that will increase once GCHS sets up shop in Cape Coral. BRIAN WIERIMA

Although the expansion of Gulf Coast Humane Society into Cape Coral is still two to three years away, the non-profit pet shelter already has a solid volunteer base awaiting its arrival.

After the Cape Coral City Council overwhelmingly approved the Gulf Coast Humane Society’s request to bring the city’s first pet shelter, the wheels are starting to turn to provide safety to some of the area’s most needy.

“The next step is to continue our fundraising efforts,” said GCHS director Jennifer Galloway. “The fundraising part is huge because we need to raise $2 million.”

There will be much donated time and material to help construct the new facility, which will be built near Sun Splash Water Park on just under five acres of land. LAI Design is donating their services to draw up the architectural designs and renderings, which is already underway.

With GCHS heavily dependent on volunteers, its Cape Coral destination will be no different. But with longterm volunteers such as Alan and Teresa Marshall awaiting the shelter in Cape Coral, that effort has already begun.

There are dogs of all sizes ready to give would-be adopters the puppy eyes at Gulf Coast Humane Society. BRIAN WIERIMA

“There are a lot of people willing to volunteer who live here in the Cape,” said Alan Marshall, who has volunteered at the Fort Myers location the last two years, along with his wife, Teresa. “Everyone is quite interested.”

The Marshalls have been a consistent presence at the GCHS facility located at 2010 Arcadia Street in Fort Myers. They began their volunteer journey with the shelter about two years ago, after deciding they wanted to donate their time in a different area than they were used to.

Alan Marshall retired from his law enforcement career in Maryland in 2008, while Teresa retired in 2007. The pair bought a lot in Cape Coral in the early 2000’s and moved to Florida five years ago.

“I started volunteering with the Cape Coral Police Department for five years and Teresa volunteered at the Senior Center,” Alan said. “We started looking for something different, since I was doing the same thing for 30 years. We always loved animals, too.”

That sparked the Marshalls arrival to GCHS, where they took the required orientation and started arriving at the shelter’s doors in the morning once a week to walk the dogs and give them plenty of attention.

Felines are also sheltered at Gulf Coast Humane Society, which now has the full support by the City of Cape Coral to open the city’s first animal shelter. BRIAN WIERIMA

But that expanded, as the duo really enjoyed their time with their furry friends.

“Initially, it was supposed to be just one day a week and we were going to do it together,” Teresa said. “One day a week quickly led to two days a week, plus special events on the weekend.”

Over the course of the last two years, the Marshalls became more and more involved with GCHS and it didn’t go unnoticed.

“It’s super important to have volunteers like Alan and Teresa, because they bring consistency to the pets, they start looking forward to their visits,” Galloway said. “But they don’t just come and walk the dogs, they are very supportive at volunteer events and they always give 100-percent.”

The Marshalls were thrilled to learn about GCHS’ plans to build a facility in Cape Coral. The drive to Fort Myers is long, so now with the Cape Coral plans in the making, both will more than likely volunteer even more of their time.

“Once it does get established, we’ll put in many more hours, because it will be closer,” Teresa said. “We come to Fort Myers first thing in the morning, and that’s about 15 miles for us to come over. It takes some time to get here in the morning because of traffic, too.

“But the new one, we’ll be less than a mile away of where we’re going to live and that will allow us to put in more time.”

The Marshalls can be seen manning the GCHS booth at the Cape Coral farmer’s market and both have been on the fundraising committee, which needs to help raise the $2 million needed to build the new shelter.

“We were part of organizing the Motorcycle Poker Run and have been a part of the Yappy Hour at Cape Harbor,” Alan said. “Whenever they have something in Cape Coral, we will be more active there.”

With their adopted small pooch, Shelby, in tow, the Marshalls are ready to give more time to the less fortunate dogs who are brought into GCHS.

“We get asked how can you volunteer here and walk away and leave them all behind?” Teresa said. “A big reason, is that we know this is a no-kill shelter, and we know they’ll be here if the are not adopted. But if they are not here, you know they found a good home because the staff here does a good job of screening.”

The word is spreading about the new GCHS shelter, as well, which means more momentum in gathering more volunteers who live on the Cape.

“There are still so many people who still don’t know about it,” Teresa added. “But the ones who do know, are excited about it and have asked us to tell them when its ready to go so they can volunteer.”

The Fort Myers’ GCHS location was opened in the early 1970’s and the facilities there have been added on throughout the last 40 years. But with construction of a brand new shelters, GCHS officials can plan for the future.

“We really wanted to develop it with the intention for expansion,” Galloway said.

Usually with a large project like GCHS’ in Cape Coral, there is opposition of some sort. Fortunately this time, no one has opposed GCHS move onto the Cape.

“First off, the City of Cape Coral has been very supportive from the beginning,” Galloway said. “It’s been a pleasant experience. We are also excited that we’ll be able to tap into surrounding communities like Bokeelia, James City and Pine Island because there isn’t any other brick and mortar shelter in the area.”

To donate or volunteer at the Gulf Coast Humane Society, go to their website at www.gulfcoasthumanesociety.org/ or call 239-332-0364 or email info@gulfcoasthumanesociety.org.