Today, we have zero money in our bank account; we barely scraped paychecks together for our incredibly dedicated and hard-working caregivers. It’s the beginning of the month, with all the ‘monthlies’ of our $1,500 rent (we’re two months behind as of this moment), insurance, taxes, supplies, veterinary bills, utilities, etc, due to come screaming into our mailbox. There’s no ‘profit’ to take it from because we are a NON-profit. Our only profit, is great lives, new wonderful futures, for these loving, loyal, amazing dogs and cats.
After we were embezzled by a former (now convicted) office manager, SBDC helped us to re-engineer our way of doing business. We went to an ‘appointment only’ method of adoption, conserving our resources. We implemented other changes, including ways to keep our funds safe. But when someone took our money and didn’t pay the bills, it’s hard to bounce back. (Just ask us about our continuing discussions with the IRS.)
Someone asked me last week, “Well, haven’t you gotten past the embezzlement? Wasn’t that late 2014? Why do you need more money to run the shelter?” I said, “Do you know any Katrina victims? Have they ‘gotten past it?’ Are their lives back to normal? Did they recoup what they lost? Is everything back to being great for them?” Because that’s what an embezzlement is like, and in our case, our embezzler also destroyed our computer records (felony evidence tampering was one of the charges she was convicted of), which left us in the dark about what HAD been paid, and what HADN’T. Thank goodness for the Securities and Frauds Division of NM, and the Otero County Sheriff’s Department, and forensics department of the District Attorney’s office. They couldn’t restore the data, but they could see the KEYSTROKES, even those at the last minute, when she searched, “...how to destroy data...”, and then, did it. So, no, we “haven’t gotten past it.”
We had planned to use our savings to construct a new shelter, on the almost 7 acres next door. Instead, we are still in debt and have to beg for enough monthly sponsors, in any amount, to help us cover the expenses of the shelter we have now. Today, we are able to care for half the number of animals we used to have. This is due in part to our stricter adoption policy, being careful about who we trust with these precious lives, which means pets are often here longer. And it is due in part to the drastic cut in all our expenses, including staff hours.
Our 8th anniversary is coming up November 15. The last couple of months have been particularly hard, and at the same time, good things are happening regarding the remaining financial devastation of the embezzlement. These are things I can’t share because they are being handled by experts who tell me, “...don’t share this yet.” We just have to hang on long enough to let all these things come to fruition.
Every day, with 1,300 rescues behind us (and dozens still here) I’m asked the same question, by people who see the effects on me from the last sleepless 7.5 years, without a day and night off yet. (My sweet staff did give me a day off last year, but I decided to potty train Petunia that night, instead. It was worth it!)
And honestly, I ask myself the same question: “Why don’t you just give up?” My answer comes every time I look at these beautiful, loving pets. My answer comes in the face of every dog and cat who was abandoned already. These trusting animals were abused, neglected, or just dumped, confused and scared, by the people they loved. The answer gives me enough energy to plan another fundraiser, to beg more people to volunteer, to keep pleading with folks who expect someone else to keep us afloat to actually HELP us do it. People like you, reading this now, while we have no money in the bank, NOW.
The answer to giving up is in every furry face here. The answer to why I don’t give up is, “Because someone else already did.”
Sunny Aris, Director, Animal Village NM
Donations to Animal Village NM are easy to make. Just use the donate button (with a drop down menu to choose your amount) to make a one-time, or monthly contribution, at AnimalVillageNM.org. We’re a non-profit, 501c)(3), with financial information posted publicly on Guidestar.org. Monthly sponsors help us to qualify for needed grants, something we had to stop applying for due to our debt.