By Sarah E. Williamson, Executive Director at Forsyth Humane Society
Give us the very old, the very young, the lost, the left behind. Give us the unwanted, the abandoned, the neglected. Give us the angry, the abused, the healthy. We take them all. That is what it means to be an open admission animal shelter.
When an animal comes to us at Forsyth Humane Society, we do our best for each and every one. With our community’s help, we have increased the save rate of shelter dogs and cats from 36% in 2017 to 75% in 2020. Our goal is to achieve a 90% save rate by 2023.
Translating that 75% to lives, it means in 2020 alone we took in 4,670 stray cats and dogs. Of those, we placed 1,866 in loving homes and reunited 674 lost pets with their families. We also transferred 737 animals to other life-saving rescues. Our in-house surgical suite completed 1,589 spay and neuter surgeries. It means this community, throughout the year, has opened their homes and hearts 3,738 times to foster shelter cats and dogs. Together we saved lives. These are not just words. This is the power of what we as a community have done and can do together.
Forsyth Humane Society has always been a community effort since our inception in 1941. Our organization began thanks in large part to D.D. and Lydia Schouler whose dog was trained to catch the bus—with a coin in his mouth—and bring Mr. Schouler his lunch each day. Years later, Mrs. Schouler honored the memory of such loyalty by establishing a legacy gift in her will: The D.D. Schouler Fund for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
In the 1960s, we opened a small office staffed by volunteers, and the matching of pets with people began. In 1971, we received non-profit status and could receive tax deductible donations to sustain our organization. In 1982, we changed our name to the name our community now recognizes: Forsyth Humane Society (FHS).
Over the years, with the generosity of our community members, we grew. In 1986, Margaret and Bob Taylor donated the land on Miller Street, which served as the Forsyth Humane Society animal shelter for almost 30 years. In the early 2000s, Mike and Mardene Morykwas gifted us the ability to expand the Miller Street location and helped establish our first Furr Ball fundraiser.
In 2010, FHS launched a capital campaign and raised 3.8 million dollars to build the Morykwas Adoption & Resource Center located on Country Club Road in Winston-Salem. The new building opened in 2016 and increased our square footage, increased our capacity to care for and adopt shelter animals, and increased our ability to provide education and resources to our community.
In January 2018, FHS became a contracted partner of Forsyth County, managing cat and dog intake, care, and placement at the Forsyth County Animal shelter in addition to managing the Morykwas Adoption & Resource Center on Country Club Road.
The unprecedented COVID-19 Pandemic reached Forsyth County in March 2020. Forsyth Humane Society leadership and staff rose to the challenge of continuing our 90% save rate goal during uncertain circumstances. We redesigned our programs to be accessible virtually and by curbside open-air service. Most of our animal population went on a “couch vacation” in foster homes and provided our community with comfort during periods of isolation. Our supporters also stepped up and joined us in virtual fundraisers to continue funding our lifesaving goal. While we had to temporarily pause some of our programs during this time, we look forward to the day they will resume later this year.
In our 80 years of lifesaving work, we have grown tremendously, from a generous planned gift inspired by a loyal companion to a small group of members and volunteers, to a 1,350 square foot animal shelter, to managing two locations and caring for over 5,000 dogs and cats annually. Our supporters, volunteers, fosters, adopters, and community partners are our lifeblood. With everyone’s help, we continue our work to reach our 90% save rate goal for shelter dogs and cats under the banner #SAVEFURSYTH.
In celebration of the 80th anniversary of our lifesaving organization, Forsyth Humane Society is launching a brand new Virtual #SAVEFURSYTH Challenge for the Animals sponsored by Bob King Automotive Group. For 80 days, participants can choose to complete 80 miles of exercise/activities or 80 hours of self-care. Proceeds from this event will help us achieve our goal.
Registration for the Virtual #SAVEFURSYTH Challenge for the Animals opens April 20, 2021. Participants can register at ForsythHumane.org/challenge/. Together as a community, we can turn our strength and resilience into hope for a brighter future where we will continue to #SAVEFURSYTH.