After more than 25 years of finding homes for cats and dogs in Winston-Salem, the Animal Adoption and Rescue Foundation [AARF] cut the ribbon on its forever home on August 2. The new facility offers more than 6,000 square feet dedicated to providing veterinary care for animals, housing adoptable cats, training volunteers, and hosting community events.
Like most things at AARF, the project began with a rescue. When local animal advocates and philanthropists Michael and Christine Morykwas found an abandoned cat and kittens by the dumpsters at a local country club, they reached out to AARF for help. That relationship kickstarted the multi-year project.
“We couldn’t ask for better community partners on this project than the Morykwas family,” says Mitchell Currin, AARF’s first Executive Director. “Not only are their generosity and commitment to investing in animal welfare unmatched, but we were fortunate to learn from Christine’s experience starting and building an animal shelter in Fresno.”
A truly local organization, AARF was founded in 1995 by community volunteers, Leila Warren and Starr Stimmel. AARF’s humble beginnings included adoption fairs in the Thruway Shopping Center, meetings at the public library, and volunteer fosters covering the costs of animal care. Despite challenges, AARF was always guided by passionate volunteers working hard for the animals’ best interests.
The new facility was built on this solid foundation. “This gift has been truly transformational for our organization,” adds Currin. “After many years operating with a limited budget and minimal staff, this facility shows animal lovers in our community that we are here to stay.”
AARF plays a critical role in addressing the problem of homeless cats and dogs in the community. Each year more than 6 million animals are surrendered to shelters. AARF receives countless requests to rehome pets or assist strays daily.
One of the most impactful opportunities with the new facility is the ability to perform spay and neuter surgeries in-house. According to a recent study by Mars Veterinary Health, the United States will need nearly 41,000 additional veterinarians to meet the demand by 2030. Indeed, AARF has experienced the challenge of scheduling spay and neuter surgeries with partners at local veterinary clinics. According to Currin, the current system isn’t sustainable. “We have great veterinary partners who have served our organization for many years, but they are overwhelmed with the rising demand for their time and services. We also must ask our volunteers and staff to jump through more hoops with transportation and scheduling logistics working with multiple partners,” he says. With the addition of a staff veterinarian and the investment in a surgical suite, AARF can keep up with the spay and neuter procedures that directly address the community’s stray problem.
While these big changes bring new opportunities, AARF is committed to maintaining the core values represented in its mission of “finding loving homes for dogs and cats through rescue, foster care, veterinary services, adoption, and education.” AARF still depends on community volunteers and donations to accomplish this mission and welcomes new supporters. Currin adds, “We are excited for the potential to expand our volunteer opportunities and add new corporate and private partnerships with our new space. We are just scratching the surface of our possibilities.”
If you’re interested in learning more about AARF and how you can support the mission, please visit AARF’s website (www.aarfws.org). The new facility is located at 302 Thurston Street in Winston-Salem and is open to the public from 12–5pm Tuesday–Friday. Adoption fairs with adoptable dogs and cats are every Saturday from 11am–2pm.