Q&A with Nicole Rayce with the Humane Society of Midland County

Nicole Rayce grew up in Michigan and moved to Ohio in the mid 80’s. She returned “home” in 2008 to raise her two children, Devon and Max and soon thereafter married her high school sweetheart, Brent, who adopted her children. In addition to being the President of the Humane Society of Midland County (HSoMC), raising a four-legged rescue family, she works full time as a contractor at Dow and owns a gourmet cheesecake business too.

Rayce has served as President of HSoMC since January 2019 and we caught up with her to get a pulse on what’s going on at the shelter and what the future holds for the organization and the community.

Last year, HSoMC placed close to 2,000 animals alone in the area.

Q: How long you have been a member and active volunteer of the HSoMC?

A. Our family has been volunteering with HSoMC since 2011 and since then we have fostered hundreds of displaced pets. Sometimes we are the first face they see, sometimes we are the last face they see but we make sure that every day in between they are cared for and loved.

My family is the reason I can do as much as I do for the organization. They bottle feed through the night, help administer meds, give cuddles to the sick and play with the healthy. We “specialize” in fostering pregnant moms, puppies and pets with special needs. Recently, we brought home 21 puppies for eight weeks. While it was chaos from time to time, we enjoyed their pure love and affection. We helped them to get to a stage where they could either go into foster care or get adopted to a loving home. It’s sometimes hard to let them go since we get so attached but we know that we did our part.

Right now, my family has four dogs and five cats of our own, including Judd, a recently adopted English Mastiff mix senior and Itty Bitty Kitty, a former special needs foster cat who was unadoptable due to her rear leg deformities that she gets physical therapy for to get around.


Want to snuggle with us?

Q: Tell us about the shelter and what goes on there from day to day?

A: The shelter was under the administration of Midland County until 2011 when it was changed over as a non-profit organization that it is today. As a no-kill shelter, the HSoMC is dedicated to saving and improving the lives of homeless animals, including abandoned and neglected animals and strays in our community. We will not refuse or euthanize an animal that has a treatable medical condition.

We take in dogs from other shelters as well who have reached capacity so they have a chance at adoption, rather than being euthanized. This activity has multiple benefits because it generates much needed positive cash flow for HSoMC while helping the animals, and meeting the demand for adoptable animals in the community. All the animals that come into our shelter are spayed or neutered, vaccinated and microchipped prior to adoption.

Since 2011, we have found homes for approximately 18,000 animals. In fact, we have one of the highest placement rates in the state at 98%. Last year, we placed close to 2,000 animals alone in the area so we are proud that Midland County is a pet loving community!

It takes an army to care for the animals in our shelter! We rely on our dedicated staff and depend on our 280 volunteers who donated 2,080 hours in 2018. We are the only shelter in the area that accepts cats. Cats and kittens need their cages cleaned daily and we give them much needed cuddles too. They are really sweet and want to get to a good home so we do our best to match them up.

Volunteers give our dogs much needed walks, as the kennel staff then cleans and preps the kennel with fresh food and water. Something most people do not know is that our dogs are walked SIX times a day. This is more than any other shelter around. We are committed to keeping them socialized, engaged and active. The dogs also have playtime in the yard which enables us to see how they do with other dogs too.

Throughout the day, medicine needs to be administered (and not always to willing patients), visitors need to be greeted, displaced pets are coming in and families are adopting them out. We have visiting vets comes to the shelter and routinely performs diagnostics and surgeries for both shelter animals and existing pets of qualified Midland residents too.

So, as you can see, our work is never ending but the rewards of a good adoption day keep us going.


Will you play with me?

Q: What are some of the challenges the organization faces and how can they be resolved?

A. Many people don’t know this but we do not receive any dedicated governmental funding. We do have operational revenue from adoptions, membership, and events, but that only covers about 40 percent of our expenses. We are thankful to be part of a generous community because the remainder of our expenses must be funded through private donations, fundraising, and grants from various foundations. Raising the funds necessary to pursue our mission and serve our community is an ongoing challenge.

The facility is around 50 years old, small and outdated for the capacity that we serve. While we do our best to manage the animals, we could serve them and the community better if we had a larger and modern facility. The Board is in process of developing a plan for a capital campaign and we are hopeful the community will understand the need and participate to help us reach our goal.

What are you doing reading this article? Come adopt me already.

 

Q: How does the organization connect people and pets in the community?
 

A: We are a resource for the Midland community residents to help reunite lost pets, provide guidance on common behavior issues, facilitate rehoming, and offer adoptions to a diverse group of animals from the very young to senior. Our shelter also provides low cost veterinary services to existing pets of Midland County residents who cannot afford vet care otherwise.

We have partnered with PAWSitive Helpers, at the Juvenile Care Center, which pairs shelter dogs with at-risk children. Once a week, we send dogs to the JCC and the residents work on basic commands and animal behavior. Sometimes the youth see results right away and other times, it is enough just to hug a dog and get kisses back.

We have a Pet Pantry that provides short-term supplemental pet food to qualified Midland County residents who need support. We are fortunate that we get food donations from pet food companies and from the generosity of the community, and for that we are very thankful!

 

Our staff and volunteers enjoy taking dogs and cats to seniors at nursing homes as it brightens their days and the pets enjoy the visits too. The animals also go to schools and colleges to educate and engage students on responsible pet care and ownership.

Hello there! Are you done reading yet? I'm available for adoption too.
 

 

Q: What is future for the organization and what does it look like?
 

A: Our future is BRIGHT! We are blessed with engaged and supportive residents in Midland County. We recently partnered with Three Rivers Construction and are in the pre-planning phase for developing a plan for this new facility I mentioned which will allow us to better meet the needs of the animals and our community. Our goal for this new building will include better overall space, proper kennels and a veterinary clinic that will allow us to offer medical care for those who cannot afford veterinary care and can then keep their pets instead of surrendering them for treatment outside their income.

Our amazing Board has been busy with developing a long-term strategy so the organization can be sustainable going forward. We recently created a new logo and a mission statement that reflects who we are and what we believe is at the heart of the organization. It’s “We provide temporary shelter and care for displaced animals, promote responsible pet care, and enrich our community through animals”.

Our website has been refreshed and we have a wonderful newsletter that anyone can get online and learn more about us. Each month the newsletter provides stories on fosters and adoptions, pertinent pet care and upcoming events. I encourage everyone to visit our website (www.hsomc.org) and sign up for the newsletter, check out what animals are in need of a loving home and to become a volunteer and member. We are so thankful for our volunteers, our members and those who donate as this is critical to our future.


Could you be my new human?

Q: What other shelters have you worked with to place animals in permanent loving homes?

A: Throughout Michigan we have partnered with shelters such as the Detroit Animal Control, Michigan Humane Society, Muskegon, Clare County, Macomb County, and the list goes on and on. Additionally, we've worked with the Humane Society of the United States to transfer in dogs saved from the Korean Meat Trade and The Lebanon Group to bring street dogs from Lebanon to allow them to have forever homes. And most recently the overly crowded Fort Worth Animal Care and Control transported 26 dogs up from their Texas facility. Once at our shelter, most of them were adopted within a week and this is very gratifying. Not only does this activity help the animals, it provides a valuable source of income for the organization.

Q: What are some upcoming activities and events the community can participate in?

 

A. We always have something going on to engage the community! We are excited for next week’s concert on June 28th at the Dow Diamond with Big & Rich - one of the region’s biggest summer concerts this year. Big & Rich will be the event’s headline act while Granger Smith and Jesse Labelle will also take the stage for a night packed with country music entertainment. Proceeds from this event will benefit the Humane Societies of Midland and Bay Counties. It should be a lot of fun for the whole family! Tickets are still available and can be purchased online at www.MiLB.com and at the Dow Diamond ticket office.

 

Our annual Ties & Tails fundraising event will be held on October 11 at the Midland Country Club. The event is a fun evening and has been a good fundraiser for us. This year’s theme is “Cool Cats & Disco Dogs” with featured entertainment by Brett Mitchell & the Mitchfits. We have a live and silent auction, a pooch parade, and unique hors d'oeuvres created by Executive Chef Nate Sell at the Midland Country Club. Tickets will go on sale in July so check out our website to get more information.

Read more articles by Kathleen Davis.

Kathleen is an engaged community volunteer around Midland with non-profit agencies and does some freelance writing as well since retiring from corporate life a few years ago. She enjoys developing relationships with people to find out what makes them unique as everyone has a special story. She is an avid gardener, enjoys Michigan summers up north and along with her husband, has two dogs who keep them quite occupied.
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