Schell generosity grants Grass Roots Rescue permanent home opportunity

LEWES – Christmas arrived in January for Grass Roots Rescue co-founders Brittani Clegg and Karli Crenshaw, who are now barking for joy.

Their non-profit, foster-based/in-home animal care they have operated since the summer of 2013 has been granted an opportunity for a permanent home.

Grass Roots Rescue was among five $1,000 winners in Schell Brothers’ “Give Thanks, Give Back … with Schell” contest conducted last fall.

A connection and a meeting recently led to an incredible offer: a donation of land and a substantial monetary donation toward a permanent facility that will serve as an adoption center and much more.

Dream became reality when Ms. Crenshaw, who fosters animals at her family home in Harbeson, and Ms. Clegg, who does likewise at her family home in Hartly, met with Chris Schell of Schell Brothers Jan. 9.

“When he made that offer, I was numb,” said Ms. Crenshaw. “I don’t think it has totally sunk in yet. It’s just surreal.”

“All of this has happened very fast and Mr. Schell was very generous with his donation. This was a dream come true for us,” said Ms. Clegg. “We are super grateful. I think what opened his eyes to Grass Roots Rescue was the contest they had in November. So many of our supporters had such amazing things to say about us. I really think that is kind of the driving force behind him actually initiating this meeting and making our dream come true.”

“This building only means that we don’t have to be strictly foster-based, it means that our community can come together and help us a little more than they are able to now,” said Ms. Clegg. “We have volunteers that transport for us. We have volunteers who foster for us. We have volunteers who come out to the events and help with hands-on things. But, the building is going to allow them to actually see the whole process and help hands-on-wise.”

The parcel donation is about a half-acre located on Stingy Lane off RT. 9 not too far west of Five Points.

“It is already zoned commercial so there won’t be any problems getting the usage permit and stuff,” said Ms. Crenshaw.

In addition to an adoption center, there will be a business component, generating income for upkeep, maintenance, bills, and taxes for the facility. Plans include a doggie daycare, boarding and training. Ms. Clegg has training expertise.

“Britt will be there daily for business side that will support the utilities and what-not so that the money that is donated to Grass Roots Rescue continues to go to the animals.,” said Ms. Crenshaw. “We wanted to make sure we weren’t taking money away from the animals.”

“We want to make sure everything is done correctly, safely and appropriately,” said Ms. Clegg.  “I will be overseeing everything as far as intakes, adoptions and fosters. We do foster coordinating to make sure we have appropriate bios of our dogs that going to be adopted out. I will probably be there all of the time. So that will be home, my second home. We will still be foster-based but our dogs will be able to get more exposure as well. We’ll be able to see who is ready to be adopted, or maybe needs another foster home.”

Schell’s monetary donation will serve as the project foundation.

‘We’re still going to need the community’s help and support,” said Ms. Crenshaw. “We are going to be forming a fundraising committee here shortly. Over the next few months and into summer we plan to have a series of fundraising events – different themed events to try to help come up with some of the costs that are going to be associated with opening it.”

Fundraisers will likely support the parking lot, and amenities like new dog beds.

“We’re going to be looking for businesses and individuals who want to sponsor a certain dog room, conference room, or the dog run,” said Ms. Crenshaw.

The pole-building structure will be different from traditional shelters. Kennels will not be standard chain link but will offer a “homey” atmosphere. “They’ll have their own little rooms. It will be warm,” said Ms. Crenshaw.

“We want a very ‘homey’ atmosphere. That is something we have always prided ourselves on in being foster-based, because when you adopt a dog from us or when you come to us and tell us that you are ready to adopt, we pretty much know as much as we possibly could about that dog because it was in either our homes or a foster home,” said Ms. Clegg. “We are going to be able to tell you their dislikes, the pros and everything; if they are housed-trained, if they like cats … things you wouldn’t really get from a pure shelter environment.”

This generous gesture comes a pivotal juncture for Grass Roots Rescue, which will mark its fifth anniversary in August 2013.

Grass Roots Rescue co-founders Brittani Clegg, left, holding Oslo, and Karli Crenshaw, holding Ivar, recently announced a generous offer of land and money from the Schell family will enable them to build a permanent structure in their animal-care effort. Through Grass Roots Rescue, the two English Bulldog pups born with hereditary front-leg defects have undergone a series of surgeries and can now walk and run.

“We had kind of hit a spot where we were both at an important fork in the road,” said Ms. Crenshaw, who like Ms. Clegg has a large family not counting the many animals they foster. “Our (foster) families give so much. I had 11 dogs in my house this weekend. That’s too much. Our families have put up with a lot. It has gotten to the point to where it either had to be something where we were able to grow and actually benefit our families or we needed to scale back.”

“We wanted this for so long. We have been to the point where we had like $30,000 saved up to put a down payment on property, but then along comes somebody like Tank (a dog with very expensive medical bills) or the boys – the bulldogs,” said Ms. Crenshaw, referring to brothers Ivar and Oslo, English Bulldogs born with front-leg genetic defects. “They are so much more important than us. The animals have always been the primary concern, whereas our level of comfort with our daily lives has taken a back seat.”

“So that offer is going to help our quality of living,” said Ms. Crenshaw.

Grass Roots will hit a grand milestone in 2018. “We will surpass the 1,000-animal mark this year.,” said Ms. Crenshaw.

Most of foster animals are dogs but there are some cats, plus others including rabbits, guinea pigs, and even real pigs.

“I took in quite a few guinea pigs and rabbits last summer,” said Ms. Clegg. “We don’t discriminate.”

Grass Roots Rescue formed following closure of Safe Haven animal shelter in Georgetown. Ms. Crenshaw and Ms. Clegg met and became good friends through Safe Haven.

“Our big focus has always been doing this the right way. Safe Haven failed because so many people didn’t do what was right for the animals,” said Ms. Crenshaw. “They had their own agendas. We just always wanted to make sure that any animals that came into our care were taken care of and got everything they needed.”

Some animals will continue to be cared for in foster homes.

“But there will be some at the adoption center. If people want to make the trip on weekends and see a specific dog, we can try to have them brought in. And we are going to rotate them so that not all the same ones are in foster homes all of the time, or all of the same ones are in the kennel all of the time,” Ms. Crenshaw said.

“Right now, we basically publicize our dogs through social media, which has been phenomenal in helping our effort,” said Ms. Clegg. “But having an actual building, people can come and meet more than one dog at a time to find the right fit for them. It will help in so many ways.”

So, excitement is building – literally – for Grass Roots Rescue.

“I think people really forget that Grass Roots Rescue is just Karli and I and some fosters. It’s not like we are a big business or a corporation,” said Ms. Clegg. “Honestly, we’ve kind of impressed ourselves with how much we have been able to accomplish without a building. It has been pretty cool to watch the growth of us and how many animals lives we’ve been able to touch in the time that we’ve been around.”

“With this building, everything we do now we will actually have a home base for it. We’re adding more responsibility to it. You can actually see where your donations are going; where your support is going,” said Ms. Clegg. “It is a milestone definitely for us. But it really means more hands-on for the community. And we will also have a resource center where we can help people who are considering surrendering their animals and go over all of the options and resources to allow them to be able to keep them.”

“It was cool to see our followers, our adopters and people we have helped over the years come together just for this event, which was for $1,000, which we were super-grateful for,” said Ms. Clegg. “We were not expecting anything else. We never expected this. It was a dream to have a shelter. But people dream every day about things.”

News Editor Glenn Rolfe can be reached at grolfe@newszap.com

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