VVHS annual meeting: New board member, returning executive director and $10K loss

With a dozen or so audience members in attendance, President David Leibforth explained the difficulties faced by the VVHS leadership in the last year.

"We began long on concern and short on savvy," he explained. "In a word, we were incredibly naïve."

In the past year, Leibforth says the organization has reorganized and restructured the shelter and the Good-Buy Shoppe, improved the corporation's business structure and procedures and reduced the number of animals euthanized due to space considerations.

It's been a demanding year with zero financial benefit.

Tim Casey reported that the VVHS had a net loss for fiscal year 2001-2002 of $10,695.

Casey's report also included information regarding the non-profit's net worth of $333,422 and a budget for 2002-2003 that allows for approximately $22,000 for new expanded programs, investments in the building fund and long-term assets.

"The VVHS is in a strong financial position, and this is a testament to the hard work of many VVHS boards of directors and staff over many years," said Casey.

But apparently, not many new faces are up for the challenge.

"It still remains difficult to recruit board members and other volunteers whose service to the VVHS requires so much from them," Leibforth explained.

In the past, annual meetings of the organization provided an opportunity for VVHS members to vote in new members for the board. Because new changes to the by-laws approved in August rescind voting rights for members, nominees were to be made by committee and sent to the board for approval before the Sept. 12 meeting.

"We recently sought nominees for board positions," explained Leibforth. "Several people expressed an interest but not enough to accept a seat at this time – with one exception."

Noting Terri Brunsman's community service, intelligence and experience, Leibforth announced her seat on the VVHS Board of Directors.

Leibforth also announced the return of Cyndi Sessoms as the executive director for VVHS. "She is back and ready to take on new challenges," he explained.

Sessoms resigned in June after providing leadership at the local shelter after the new board took over the VVHS leadership in August 2001.

"She became knowledgeable and skilled in animal care issues in record time," said Leibforth. "Her resignation was a great disappointment but we respected that decision."

Former interim director Lee Fringer will re-assume his position as the shelter's kennel manager.

"The board is working to redefine the job descriptions of both positions to assure the best possible use of staff and VVHS resources in addressing the challenges and goals before us," said Leibforth.

The only resignation of the evening came from board member Mary Jane Gosselin, who said she would continue to support the VVHS but was vacating her seat for personal reasons.

What's new? What's to come?

The VVHS board of directors cites many positive changes in the last year regarding the shelter's kennel procedures, facilities, programs and policies. It also refers to changes and improvements for shelter staff and an expanded role of volunteers.

Changes at the shelter include: Established a close working relationship with Arizona Humane Society with an in-service for all employees on pet handling, cleaning, disinfecting and euthanization. Improved cleaning standards for both dogs and cats. Daily monitoring of animals, tranquilizing animals before euthanization and the changing of the euthanization fluids for dogs and cats. Improved heating system and air exchange for kennel area. New "Meet the Dog" area, security system, computer network and safe. The shelter now conducts its banking daily, orders supplies in quantity for additional cost savings, solicits donations from major retailers, has increased the amount of spay and neuter assistance, and established special adoption promotions.

Staff improvements listed include: Drug testing for employees, expanded number of volunteers, provide employees a week's supply of VVHS shirts, created a lunch break area, flexible schedules and revised the employee handbook and benefits.

Other improvements: Restarted "Pet of the Week," Petfinder computer site and redesigned the VVHS web site.

Challenges to be met in the coming year listed by the VVHS board of directors include: On- site veterinary services, altering of adopted animals before they leave the VVHS, providing an exercise are for animals, locating and building a new VVHS facility, better employee benefit package, bigger and better fund for spay and neuter assistance, steadily increasing adoption rates, public education, increase community and membership involvement, continue to counteract voices predicting the organization's failure by demonstrating indisputable success.

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