best nonprofit organization

Photo by Roland Lane

A mission built on

Animal Shelter of the Wood River Valley voted best nonprofit group.
Kate Wutz

In a valley filled with nonprofit organizations, it can be hard for a single one to stand out from the crowd. But the Animal Shelter of the Wood River Valley has managed it, and has been voted "Best Nonprofit Organization" for the past four years.

How the organization did it is not a mystery, said Executive Director Jo-Anne Dixon. The shelter adopts out approximately 400 animals per year, directly impacting the lives of that many families in the area.

"People have a personal connection with the shelter," Dixon said. "What we really value in our community is that we all care about each other, and we want to be a community of compassion. The animal shelter really embodies that."
The shelter's efforts, including a distinctive spay and neuter program, are 100 percent funded by donors. Dixon said the shelter has a reputation for being fiscally responsible, placing every dollar where it can do the most good.

"We make every dollar stretch," she said. "We exist because people are invested financially, emotionally and personally."

Animal Shelter of the Wood River Valley workers Robin Potts, left, Rachel Sanker, center, and Connie Koonce take Tommy, one of the shelter dogs, for a walk outside of the facility near Hailey.
Photo by Roland Lane

The flagship shelter program is the low-to-no-cost spay and neuter program the staff has adopted. Dixon said that a successful spay and neuter program can help stabilize a community's homeless animal population over five years, and the Animal Shelter of the Wood River Valley's program has been incredibly successful. Offering spay and neuter services for free allows people who couldn't otherwise afford the surgery to avoid unwanted litters and a crowded shelter, she said.

"It's a big expense to have an animal spayed or neutered," she said. "For a lot of people, they are going to get an animal either way, so we can help them make that work."

This year has been a big one for the shelter's growth as an organization. On June 1, the organization closed a deal to purchase more property west of Hailey and has begun planning all of the improvements they hope to make.

Dixon said the shelter's current facility in Croy Canyon is not representative of the services the staff provides, and it's reached the point where it's actually hindering what they can do.

"Anyone who has visited the shelter knows it's just not adequate for what we're trying to do for the community," she said. "People here pride themselves on living in a valley with world-class everything—a world-class resort and world-class skiing. They want that for their animals as well."

The new facility is planned to include kennels designed to ease canine stress, reducing the need for foster homes for some more-sensitive homeless dogs.

The new building is also planned to have room for school field trips and educational activities, which can now only be held outside at the current facility.

Dixon said the Beaver Creek Fire last summer helped the staff and board of directors realize that the shelter's current location wasn't sustainable. The fire and subsequent mudslides were a blessing in disguise, she said, helping the shelter realize how much the community truly cared about their cause.

"I can't tell you how much the community rallied around us, and how much support and volunteer time was given," she said. "It made a lot of people at the shelter feel so appreciated, because they saw how much the community absolutely cared about what we do."

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