Courtesy Photo of Ramona Humane Society

The formal invitation from the Ramona Humane Society to a 2021 No Year’s Eve Party reads: “You’re Invited to….Stay Home!” In what it touts as its first, and hopefully last, socially distanced party, the nonprofit animal shelter is requesting donations in lieu of what would have been spent on an admission ticket. The non-event is being held whenever and wherever “guests” wish.

The fundraiser to celebrate animals by not celebrating in person is the brainstorm of RHS Board Vice Chairman Wayne Disher, who has served on its board of directors for more than 10 years. “The idea came to me in a conversation I was having with several of our board members about possible fundraising ideas,” Disher said. “We were all saddened that we were not able to have our annual Bow Wow Meow Luau – which generated such critical funds for the animal shelter. As we were throwing out potential ideas, I noted that all the ideas they were offering required people to come together for a live gathering.” Since mass gatherings during the COVID-19 pandemic are not allowed, he said the next logical step was to try and think of ideas that would generate critical funds but would not require crowds getting together. A discussion about hosting a virtual event came about and a possible Zoom meeting for New Year’s Eve. “And my brain just went, ‘You mean NO Year’s Eve’?” Disher said. “The more I thought about it, the more I thought we could market a non-event to help us raise funds. It took some clever thinking, but the result was offering people the opportunity to stay home and be safe but still help animals by donating the money they’d save by not going to an event to help animals.”

Revenue expected from this past summer’s Bow Wow Meow Luau was severely missed as it typically generates, on average, between $25,000 to $35,000 in ticket sales, donations, auctions and beverage sales. That loss was not the only hardship RHS has faced during the closures and restrictions brought about by COVID-19. “While adoptions and spay and neutering can be done, other work in the community has been suspended,” Disher said. “But the biggest challenge is funding – as all our events have been cancelled and we are now heavily relying on donations. Because our community and citizens are facing financial crises of their own, they are not able to offer donations right now. Since all our in-person fundraising events have had to be cancelled, our revenue is down almost 50% this year and so we are struggling to help as many animals as we can while watching our funds dwindle to critical lows.”

Disher said that at the beginning of the pandemic in early spring, animal shelters were not considered essential and RHS had to layoff and furlough all but 25% of its staff as a result. Hours were reduced at both the shelter and the spay/neuter clinic. After the first lockdown implementation, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reclassified animal shelters as essential and some staff were brought back, and some hours were reinstated. While not completely back to normal levels, RHS shelter hours and the spay/neuter clinic have bounced back.

“As the shelter does not receive funding from federal, state, or local tax revenue, funds generated from our events are critical in purchasing daily operational supplies such as cat and dog food, cat litter, and medical supplies for animals who come into the shelter,” Disher said. “We are also able to receive sponsorships from our events from organizations such as the Soboba Foundation and Banner Bank. We recently received a grant from the Soboba Foundation to help us take care of animals needing critical care.”

All animals available for adoption can be viewed at www.ramonahumanesociety.org/available-animals/ and can be met in person by scheduling an appointment. All shelter visits are by appointment only because of COVID-19 precautions but can be scheduled by calling the shelter at (951) 654-8002.

Information, www.ramonahumanesociety.org. Donations can also be made online or by texting 2021 to 951-309-7607.

-Diane A. Rhodes

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