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ARC adapts

By Staff | Jul 15, 2020

During this pandemic, non-profit organizations have had to get creative to raise money and stay in business.

The Animal Refuge Center in North Fort Myers has tried to do more with less since March, with creative ways to adopt animals while having as few people come to the shelter as possible.

Rob Spicker, vice president at ARC, said they closed down for a while at the pandemic’s start. Volunteers stepped up to care for the animals, though, and ARC was able to partially open during Phase 1 of the recovery.

ARC also has had families apply online to be pre-approved for adopting dogs and cats in their care, only taking in new animals when space permits, which only started happening a few weeks ago.

“We reduced our intake so we weren’t flooded with new animals to take car of. Now, we’re seeing people by appointment,” Spicker said. “We ask you go to the gate, call us so we can let you in. You can see the animals available in the facility. We’ve seen a lot of families being able to adopt dogs and cats into new homes.”

Doing it this way has allowed those who visit to fill out the application online, so they get pre-approved. This streamlines the process once they enter the facility, as they can choose an animal and take it home, Spicker said.

Prospective adopters can also go on the ARC website to see the animal’s photos, which are updated frequently, especially if they are kittens or puppies, as they change rapidly.

Running an organization like ARC takes a lot of money.

The no-kill shelter has 13 paid employees (who were paid while closed) and it costs about $800,000 per year to keep the facility open. That means raising funds. Spicker said ARC has tried to focus on the fundraising that it can do.

“We’ve been getting money through Facebook campaigns, newsletter drives, and people have even bequeathed us money in their estates, which has been a real important factor this year,” Spicker said. “We appreciate all that our donors do for us with regular donations.”

ARC had to cancel its casino night, but is continuing its plans to hold the annual Starlight Auction, the biggest fundraiser of the year, on Thanksgiving weekend.

What happens in the future depends on the COVID-19 pandemic, which is right now affecting the state with record case numbers. Gov. Ron DeSantis has pledged to keep the state open for business.

ARC’s future status depends on the state’s next steps, Spicker said.

“We will monitor the situation. Depending on where we are and how the cases are going, we can always scale back or open up even more,” Spicker said. “We consult with our employees. As long as they feel safe every day, we will be there for them every day to be open.”

And as long as the community continues to pitch in and volunteers come to care for the animals, ARC should be in good shape, Spiker said.

“We appreciate everyone’s support. Our donors haven’t left us, they continue to give. And we certainly appreciate our volunteers as they have stepped up big time,” Spicker said.

For more information, to apply to adopt an animal, or to make a donation, visit www.animarefugecenter.com.