Sunday afternoon was full of punch, prayer, paws and possibilities.
Bradley County animal lovers came together for the formal dedication of the SPCA Animal Adoption Center.
The center is the former Bradley County Animal Shelter, but came under SPCA control after the county made the decision to contract with the organization to operate the facility.
“We’re standing here by a dream-come-true and history being made,” said SPCA Board President Betti Gravelle.
She expressed gratitude to members of the Bradley County Commission who “stood up and said we want a better way and we want a better option.”
She also thanked the SPCA board and staff for being generous with their time and dedication in making the goal a realization.
She joked that Bobbi Anderson, the new center director, “must be related to the Energizer Bunny.”
Gravelle said the donors “stuck with us to make a good thing even better.”
She had the most heartfelt words for the center’s volunteer staff.
“Honestly, the ground this building stands on and the backbone of it and what will make it a success and has brought it to where it is right now are the volunteers,” Gravelle said.
“From everything from planting flowers to painting the gorgeous murals on the wall to shoveling waste and walking dogs and giving their time and sacrificing every weekend repeatedly,” she said. “Words cannot express what they mean to us and what they are doing for this organization.
“This is a day that 20 years ago I would have laughed if I had heard this were even in the realm of possibility,” she said. “But, here we are.”
County Commissioner Mark Hall, who also serves on the SPCA board, said the dedication shows how Bradley Countians pitch in to help.
“The volunteer spirit is alive and well here in Bradley County,” Hall said. “You are living proof as to what can happen when you have a community that rallies behind a worthy cause. This is a win-win situation for not only the animals, but for the citizens of Bradley County.”
He said the most important thing about the center is it “gives every animal the chance for success.”
Founding and charter members also received recognition for their help — both financially and physically — in getting the center going and keeping its operations running.
Jodi Westwood, an SPCA founder, told of adopting a dog last October when the organization was having its first rally on the Cleveland/Bradley County Greenway.
“I found a home for this dog, and she is now an 80-pound pure chocolate Lab named Coco who recently saved her 3-year-old owner from drowning,” Westwood said. “I just think of all these wonderful animals who just need an extra day and could make such a valid difference in everybody’s life.”
Westwood called the center “a wonderful opportunity.”
“We have come from grass roots to an exploding success,” she said. “There’s more paws than hands,” she added expressing the need for more volunteers.
Jennifer Bartow King, a charter member, said her family joined because of a love for animals.
“I teach my kids to stand up for those who cannot stand up for themselves, and the animals cannot stand up for themselves,” she said. “It takes a community to come together to make this happen.”
The Rev. Brian Merritt of Mercy Junction Ministries gave the blessing for the center by giving a prayer from, appropriately, St. Francis of Assisi, who is known as the patron saint of animals.
“Praise be my Lord God with all creatures, all that are yours,” the prayer says.