WESTBROOK – The Animal Refuge League of Greater Portland has unveiled the final phase of a fundraising campaign to build a larger, updated facility at its Stroudwater Street location.

Slated the “Future Fund” campaign, the effort, announced at a press conference Wednesday, now seeks community support to reach the shelter’s goal of $6.5 million for the construction of the new building.

According to Patsy Murphy, executive director since 2010, the campaign has already succeeded in raising $4.3 million from private donations in roughly one year. The shelter is now looking to the public at large in order to raise the remaining $2.2 million that is needed for what will be a 25,000-square-foot facility.

Murphy said Tuesday that the new building, which has been designed by Steve Jenson, an architect who specializes in animal care facilities, will effectively double the current space, as well as allow for the consolidation of the shelter’s three buildings at 449 Stroudwater St. The shelter’s administrative office at 690 Stroudwater St. would also be part of the new building.

Murphy said that since joining the shelter in 2010, she has made a new building a priority, as the facility is “bursting at the seams.” The plan calls for the new facility to be built behind the existing buildings. One building would eventually be razed to allow for a larger setback and parking.

Maine Gov. Percival Baxter founded the Animal Refuge League in 1911, originally on India Street in Portland. The Westbrook facility has existed since 1956, according to Murphy, with minimal upgrades. She said the space was originally designed more as a “holding facility” and doesn’t fit the shelter’s goals of education and rehabilitation.

“We want to let the community know of the great work that’s been done in the last year, and ask for the community’s support to help us close this funding gap so we can get a shovel in the ground,” she said.

According to Murphy, the Animal Refuge League has been taking in a growing number of animals each year – some 4,500 last year – which she says is beyond its capacity. She added the shelter has roughly 250 active volunteers.

“That space is just not designed for that many animals,” she said. “We want the community to know that the space is just bursting.”

Towns that contract with the shelter include Buxton, Cape Elizabeth, Casco, Chebeague Island, Gorham, Gray, Long Island, Peaks Island, Portland, Raymond, Scarborough, South Portland, Standish, Westbrook and Windham.

Murphy said two small fires last year were a “catalyst” to move things forward.

“We said, ‘This building can’t be rehabbed,’” she said. “Animals are tucked into every nook and cranny.”

The organization hopes to have the remaining funds in place, or possibly have a shovel in the ground, by the end of 2014.

Murphy said the space crunch also restricts the viewing capacity for the visiting public, as well as the shelter’s ability to host community programs for kids.

“We’re out of the facility over 50 times a year, meeting with members of the community because there just isn’t space,” she said.

According to the press release, a new facility is designed to include a modern surgical center for care and spay and neuter services, isolation rooms for sick animals, outdoor play areas and meeting rooms for community events.

Murphy said that in designing the new facility, the goal is to create a building that “changes the face of sheltering in Maine.”

At the press conference, held at the Westbrook Performing Arts Center, Murphy announced the new facility would be named the Arthur P. Girard Adoption Center, after Girard donated $1 million toward the fundraising.

On Wednesday, Girard’s daughter, Monica Girard, spoke of her father’s inspiration for giving back to the shelter.

“He never thought he’d have the means to donate this type of money, but animals have always been in his heart and our family’s heart,” she said.

Arthur Girard, of Portland, worked as an auto mechanic until he saved enough to buy his own garage. It later turned into a successful career as a commercial real estate owner and developer.

She added that her father’s inspiration for donating was because “animals don’t have a voice. Somebody has to give it to them,” she said. “I want to say how proud I am of my father.”

Also speaking at the press conference, Westbrook Mayor Colleen Hilton said that a community “can often be judged on how it cares for the vulnerable. I know the community of Westbrook is extremely proud of the work that you have done.”


For more information on

the Animal Refuge League

of Greater Portland

fundraising campaign,

see www.futurefund.me./

An architect’s rendering of the new Animal Refuge League of Greater Portland facility, which would be built on Stroundwater Street in Westbrook.  

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