Almost Home Shelter and Rescue will celebrate two years of service to the community on Friday, March 29.

Prior to Almost Home's arrival dogs picked up by Van Buren animal control were held at the dog pound for five days. In the event the dogs were not claimed, they were euthanized at the end of the five day period.

Since Almost Home's arrival approximately 500 dogs have been saved in two years either by adoption or transportation to other facilities. 

Prior to securing the dog pound, a 501c3 non-profit status was established. Open meetings were held to explore volunteer interest, a meeting was held with the mayor and a request was made to be placed on the agenda for a city council meeting.

Almost Home’s plan was presented to the council and, following discussion, the request was granted to turn the city dog pound over to Almost Home. It was agreed that the only dogs that could be accepted were dogs picked up by animal control inside the city limits.

At the time the shelter was established it consisted of a concrete building with eight pens. Many improvements have been added to aid in the high number of dogs picked up.

Some of the improvements include six additional pens for inside, Kuranda beds for all inside dog pens, chain link fence with cross fencing for three separate areas, two carport structures to place outside pens under, a roof over the front of a building to protect six outside pens, Igloo dog houses for all outside pens, holding pens, outside of building painted, two storage buildings, air conditioning/heat units, wooden surround with door added to front porch to protect dogs from elements and paint inside. The city replaced the facility's original nine pens, a used van was purchased and the shelter received a small container to store dog food. 

Almost Home accumulated over 14,000 volunteer hours that helped establish 2018 Volunteer Community.

These many accomplishments and more have been done strictly with volunteer hours and donations, with the exception of the replacement pens and the chain link fence provided by the city.

Almost Home has no paid staff and operates strictly on donations.

Volunteers care for the dogs in the mornings and late afternoons. Twice each day dogs are walked or they get to spend time in the play yard. Pens are cleaned, fresh food and water is provided and medications are given as needed. Volunteers give love and attention to what many times times are scared and bewildered dogs.

Prior to adoption each dog receives shots and is spayed or neutered as necessary. They are also tested for heartworms and placed on heartworm preventatives. Numerous dogs have also required a surgery to get them healthy.

Adoption fees are $50,which is a bargain, and potential adopters can fill out an online application on Almost Home's web site. Almost Home has an adoption committee that reviews applications and places dogs with the best match.

Almost Home is blessed with local fosters who take puppies or small dogs into their homes until the dog is adopted or goes on transport.

Intakes far exceed the number of reunited dogs and adoption transports. The transports to states such as Rhode Island are necessary to insure each dog has a second chance for a forever home.

Northern states tend to have very strict dog laws resulting in few strays. Most of Almost Home's dogs that are transported go directly into their new home. They have been selected by pictures, bios and videos. Fosters care for the other dogs until they are adopted which is usually one to two weeks.

Almost Home has a working board comprised of eight people: President JoEllen Banhart; Vice President Tom Hill; Treasurer Melinda Hill; Secretary Connie Martin; board members, Kristie Kimes, Suzie McPhearson, Lucia Turner and Camille Breeden.

Almost Home participates in local activities such as Old Timers Day, Fall Festival, Christmas Parade, adoption days at Tractor Supply and Petsense and takes every opportunity to get its dogs out in the public.

When the time arrived that the shelter needed a van, USA Truck donated $5,000, which became seed money for the van project. Generous business owners then helped make the shelter's need a realty.

These business owners include platinum sponsors USA Truck and Yeagers Ace Hardware; Gold sponsors DK Construction and Dr. Donald and Mrs. Samms, Silver sponsors Criswell Dental Clinic, Jim Martin R.E. Inc., Lafemme Headquarters Unlimited, Larry and Camille Breeden , Rosemary Blasingame  and  Shamrock Bolt and Screw. Through the combined efforts of the sponsors, Almost Home was able to purchase the van and make the dream a realty. 

Mayor Freeman appointed Tom Hill and seven other citizens to review dog laws from other towns to explore updating Van Buren with sensible doable regulations.

Larry and Camille Breeden donated a billboard and Marr Lynn Bearden paid for the ad material. Volunteers are anxiously awaiting the billboard which features dogs adopted by volunteers.

The shelter is always in need of volunteers. As with most organizations a core group is overworked. Individuals are invited to contact Jessica Day, the organization's volunteer coordinator, at ahvolunteerinfo@yahoo.com. Besides needing volunteers, Almost Home's residents need foster homes or forever homes, and there are always needs that can be met through donations that help keep the shelter up and running. ,  about volunteering. Anyone who can dedicate 3 hours a week would be most appreciated by both the dogs and current volunteers.

Almost Home invites the pubic to attend its Second Anniversary Open House, which will be held Saturday from 1-3 pm., at 3390 Pointer Trail East (across street from Flat Rock Village).

Free hot dogs and drinks will be served and there will also be face painting and several drawings.