Monday, December 22, 2008

Holiday Greetings and Reflections

To our wonderful AARF family,

As the end of 2008 nears, I am reflecting on what a wonderful, difficult, tumultuous and amazing year we have had. The year has been filled with the some of the highest and lowest points we have had since our beginning in 2002. But in this holiday season, I am filled with gratitude and peace as I look back on this past year.

First, I want to thank our AARF team. We have undeniably the hardest working program board in town. These people are my colleagues and friends, and I have the greatest respect for them. You can never know just how hard they work, how many hours they dedicate to saving the lives of pets in Atlanta, how many tears they cry and how often they rejoice at a job well done. And as many of you may not realize, they don't get paid. In this tough economy, many of them have had to increase the time at their "real" jobs to make ends meet, yet they still make so much time for AARF. They dedicate themselves because they care so deeply, and know that their efforts are making a difference in the lives of so many dogs and cats. I cannot thank them enough, or tell them often enough how very important their work is. If you feel so persuaded, send one of them a note of thanks for a job well done. Our 2008 team: Brooke Martin, India Powell, Carrieann Banacki-Gillert, Melanie Wiggins, Renee Malinowski, Stephanie Manley, Julie Lewis, Carroll Ball, Gayle Schleuter and Erica Cottrill. I also want to thank our AARF members who worked with us for several years, but 2008 led them on to other endeavors. I thank them for their time and service and for jobs well done: Gwen Sparling and Amy Anderson. Last, but certainly not least, I want to say thank you to our fosters. They are the foundation of our adoption and Silver Paws programs.

We have struggled through this difficult financial time. At times during 2008, I feared that the end of AARF was near. We had to make difficult decisions, just to keep the doors open, both metaphorically and literally. During the summer of 2008, we decided to freeze our animal intake in hopes of catching up financially. Our expenses for the first half of 2008 had been almost double our income, and we were watching other rescue groups collapse under the stress of the economy. I continued to look at every email from shelter managers that came to me, with the faces of those dogs and cats that I knew we could not help. But those faces kept me motivated and inspired for AARF to survive. I knew our work had only begun, and our goal for long-term change was still possible, even in the midst of difficult times.

As many of you know, we had planned by this time to have our own facility and a paid staff -- a place to call our own. But as with many others during this time, our plans have not come to fruition. They are not halted, only delayed, and we will continue to push on in 2009. We know that our foundation is strong, and that we have not compromised our mission or our principles in the face of adversity, and that consistency will ultimately lead us where we want to go. I am excited and anxious to see what new developments 2009 will bring.

I have to end my reflections with extreme gratitude for you, our supporters. Each one of you means so much to me, and I am thankful every day that you are on this journey with us. It is because of you that AARF has survived, and grown in many ways, in 2008. Every time a dog or cat needs your help for surgery or heartworm treatment, you are there. Every time AARF has an adoption day, an event or a fundraiser, you are there. Every time we ask, you give. You help us save pets from euthanasia, help us subsidize spay/neuter surgeries, help us teach children about compassion toward animals, and help us create love matches between mature pets and mature adults.

You, our extended family of supporters, are my heroes. I wish for you this holiday season wonderful surprises and blessings. And as we enter 2009 together, I hope for a joyous year for you, for us, for AARF, and for every pet in Atlanta.

Thank you, thank you, thank you. You are helping to create a world where every pet matters.

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