The friendship of their four-legged family members have prompted Don and Carol Story to help make life better for Blount County animals who are in need of new homes. The Story family donated $50,000 to the Smoky Mountain Animal Care Foundation on Tuesday to help kick off the fundraising for Phase II of the Blount County Animal Center being constructed in Eagleton.
The Story family, including their dog Lacey, was on hand with a crowd of dignitaries, donors and county officials at the soon-to-be completed first phase of the animal center near the Boys and Girls Club on Currie Avenue.
Don Story said he and his wife wanted to honor deceased Dixie and Buffy and their current pet Lacey. “I’ve always been touched by their friendship and loyalty,” he said.
Chris Protzman, president of SMACF, said the second phase of the project will include the adoption center. “For Phase II, we’re calling it our Campaign for Compassion. We’re earmarking Phase II at a budget of $490,000. This is really what is possible when people come together to meet a critical need,” he said.
County mayor Jerry Cunningham addressed those present and said when the current commission was sworn in, they inherited the animal control issue from the former commission. “The new commission inherited a mess with only half a year of funding left for animal control,” he said. “That was the genesis for this.”
While the former commission had balked at reinstating a contract with the City of Maryville to maintain animal control in the county, the mayor negotiated with Loudon County and contracted with them to take stray animals from Blount. The county hired a Blount County animal control officer.
The foundation was formed more than two years ago with the goal of creating the shelter in phases. The county commission appropriated $350,000 in seed money and donated the land on Currie Avenue.
Since then, $530,000 has been given in financial and in-kind donations. In July, Cunningham went to the commission and asked for $197,000 to complete Phase I. More county money was needed because the sour economy had slowed private donations to the project.
Cunningham praised the commission for approving the funding to finish the project, and the mayor said he had not heard a single complaint about commissioners approving the money to complete Phase I. “I think folks are beginning to understand this is a tremendous investment,” he said. “We’re proud to talk about this facility. It’s a collective effort.”
Marty Yates, construction manager, said crews were about a month from opening the doors to the facility. “We’re going to try to have everything operational by Oct. 1,” he said. “We still lack a little paint work, sheet rock, some flooring and some trim and electrical work. We’re not far.”