The cats are in their colonies. The dogs are in their kennels. And the Humane Society of North Central Iowa's Almost Home animal shelter is open for business.
The $1.6 million facility at 725 S. 32nd St. was the site of a reception for donors, volunteers and past board members Thursday evening, but the public will get its first chance to view the state-of-the-art shelter today.
"It is very difficult for me to come into this building without crying," said Laurie Hagey, the shelter's executive director. "I have never been part of such an amazing journey as this. The people, the businesses and the organizations that have stepped up to make this happen ... it's just awesome."
Almost Home is the new animal shelter in Fort Dodge.
But the shelter - which replaces an outdated, damp former body shop building on Fifth Avenue South - wouldn't be in existence today if it weren't for Tim and Kellie Guderian, who jump-started the project.
The Guderians won $200.8 million in a Powerball drawing in 2006 - $67 million after taxes - and gave $350,000 to the shelter's capital campaign, paid Hagey's salary for three months and are matching $1 for every $2 the shelter raises to put toward operating expenses.
"This would not have happened without the challenge gift that Tim and Kellie Guderian made," she said.
-Messenger photo by Hans Madsen
Humane Society of North Central Iowa board members Barb Erickson, right, walking Mikey, and Erin Lusk, with Peter, walk Thursday evening at the new Almost Home animal shelter.
The couple have avoided the spotlight since their 2006 windfall, but Tim Guderian said it was time to make their support for the project more public.
"This project has been the worst-kept secret in town," Guderian said. "Everybody knows we're behind it. So we might as well make it official."
As a self-described pet owner and pet lover, Guderian said investing in the shelter was a logical choice.
What: Grand opening of Humane Society of North Central Iowa's Almost Home animal shelter
Where: 725 S. 32nd St.
Open house from 2 to 4 p.m.; Fort Dodge Area Chamber of Commerce ribbon cutting at 2 p.m.
Open house from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Activities include a family picnic, games and crafts for children (including an ongoing Opoly tournament where players can compete in Dog-Opoly, Puppy-Opoly, Cat-Opoly and Horse-Opoly) and a 2 p.m. "for-fun" dog show with prizes for fastest tail-wagger, highest jumper, best booty wiggle, owner look-alike and best trick, among others.
Open house from noon to 3 p.m.
At noon, the Rev. Matt Martens of Grace Lutheran Church will bless all animals present, and the public is welcome to bring their pets to the ceremony. Other activities include maurice's "Rescues & Runways" style show at 2 p.m., as well as an ongoing silent auction and a shelter dog and puppy mill survivor reunion.
"It was needed to the extreme. I had seen the old shelter, didn't really care for it, heard all the problems they had," he said. "It was flooding after every heavy rain, and it was just in a bad location."
Assisting the project rather than funding it entirely was a deliberate decision.
"That was just to make the community feel they were a part of it, versus just putting all my money in it and calling it mine. This way, the community felt as if they owned part of it as well," Guderian said. "It will continue to be the community's for as long as they support it."
That support will be important, Hagey said, because expenses will be ongoing.
"We started the capital campaign last year," she said. "Some people gave cash and some people pledged to give over a five-year period. The capital campaign goes on because we have a mortgage, so we have interest, and we have not been able to completely furnish this with brand-new everything. There are still many, many things we need to make this the best shelter it can be."
About $1.55 million has been raised toward the building cost of $1.6 million, Hagey said.
"We have raised enough to get the building up and to get us moved over here, and that was the primary goal," she said.
Among the immediate needs are some new cat cages and dog kennels, along with sod for the six-acre site.
"Part of the capital campaign is also a campaign for the endowment," Hagey said. "It is very difficult to run an organization like this when there is no assurance of a steady revenue stream. An endowment would give us that, would give us a savings account where we could use the interest for operations. That would give us assurance about the future."
Hagey is, however, optimistic about that future.
"We are all so humbled, humbled and grateful by the response we've had. This is going to be such an asset to the community," she said. "I can't wait to see what we're going to do next."
The Guderians have been donating their time as well as money to get the shelter ready for the grand opening,
Kellie Guderian said, seeing it ready to go means "We've done something right,"
"It feels right to see the reward for all the hard work; it feels good to see it come to fruition," said Tim Guderian, adding it's likely their volunteerism will continue.
"I'll probably come out every now and then to see how things are going. I don't want to come out too much, because I will want to take too many home," he said.
He also took one last chance to get in a plug for his pet cause.
"We can always use volunteers," he said. "even if they come out and help one day a week."
Contact Barbara Wallace Hughes at (515) 573-2141 or email@example.com