Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about the Probable, the Possible, and the Impossible. To be honest – until recently my mind really divided everything into three categories: Likely, Not Likely, and Never Happen.
I have spent most of my life trying to inspire people to shift things up one category – from the Probable to the Possible. From the not likely to the Likely. I have been a big believer in vision and inspiration. - in pep talks, and motivation and mission. And I still think these have their place. But lately I’ve come to believe that my thinking is too limiting. That all the motivational speakers and strategic planners have missed a key concept. Life is more about what you do – than anything else. It’s more about action than planning or talking.
Doing trumps vision, doing trumps strategic planning, doing trumps self doubt. Doing opens doors, introduces possibilities we could have not imagined, and leads us to be better than we ever knew we could be. If this all just sounds like an ad for athletic shoes I apologize. I hope you can get past that.
Five years ago the Board of the Lynchburg Humane Society realized that it needed to change. They realized that the status quo - a shelter and City pound with a 50% euthanasia rate - was not good enough. To be sure, they knew about the importance of a long term vision – No Kill by 2015 – and a of a strategic plan to accomplish that vision. But most of all they just started doing.
With Shelley Stone’s leadership the Board hired Makena Yarbrough as the first full time Executive Director, and rather than wait for a new building she stuffed cats and dogs in every available space of the outdated and inadequate facility, When the Spay and Neuter Clinic was about to falter they brought it under the Humane Society Umbrella. Hope you get the idea - they just started doing.
The Board and Makena knew a new facility would be essential to achieve the NO Kill mission and they knew that they had neither the money nor credit rating to build it. So they just decided to do it. They started by asking George and me to lead the campaign. We were flattered but skeptical. After all they had no substantial fund raising history, no professional feasibility study, and no lead donor commitment. As experienced fundraisers, we knew that these were important. We were skeptical. We talked about it, and thought about it, and prayed about it, and in the end we just decided to do it.
And so - two years later – here we are breaking ground on our new Humane Adoption and Education Center. A few years ago it was not possible. Soon it will be reality. It will help us change everything. The community will come to understand that dogs and cats did not deserve to die just because they did not have a home.
This would not have happened if so many had not just decided to do it.
We have already mentioned the Board’s key role. I ask that all current and prior Board members raise your hand to be recognized. And our staff and volunteers who are leading the way on the journey with us from what has been to what can be. Thanks to them we have achieved a 93% save rate with our current outdated facilities - they are living the Impossible. (Staff and volunteers raise hands.)
In 2011 and 2012 we recruited our Campaign committee and Sub committee members to come on board and help. Please raise your hands and be recognized if you served on one of these groups.
In the early stages, we asked the City to come with us in this new journey – a course departure from our 25-year history together. After trepidation, and negotiation, and deliberation they just decided to do it. Let’s recognize our City Council and Administration.
And along the way we asked a dedicated team of professionals to join us in this act of faith and courage. Among them were our Campaign Consultant, Skip Kughn and Prototype Advertising that donated media services. And our project design team led by Dominion Seven Architects - we have worked with them for the last 3 years in the design of this facility. And joining them on the planning team - Hurt and Profitt providing civil engineering and site planning and Nolen Frisa Associates providing structural engineering.
Through a very competitive process we selected our general contractor,
JE Jamerson and Sons. I would like to thank Phillip Jamerson for his personal involvement and interest in our project. He has been an integral member of our design team and has worked hard through the design and subcontractor-bidding process to show us how we could just do it.
But most of all I would like to acknowledge the support of the 1200 people who have made contributions and or pledges to our Capital Campaign. For it is through the faith and generosity of this group that we have learned that there is no real difference between the Probable, the Possible, and the Impossible – except in our minds. They have shown us that these are artificial distinctions - which we create in our search for limits. We rely on those limits out of fear, or lack of imagination. Who could have imagined the generosity of spirit and financial resources that we would experience in this campaign? Who could have imagined the way that the community would embrace this campaign? Who could imagine that we would have already raised more than $4,650,000. Who could have imagined this wonderful day.
There are too many donors to mention each personally but please know that all of you have been instrumental in helping us move from the Probable to the Possible to the Impossible. There have been many surprises and blessings in this Campaign. While we are not done yet, I am confident that before we are done we will reach our goal of $4.8 million and my hope is that we exceed our stretch goal of $5 million.
While we cannot personally name each donor, there are those who are part of an elite group of Leadership Givers. These individuals have made commitments of $100,000 or more to the capital campaign.
· The first and foremost is our anonymous donor. Who could have imagined that at a pivotal moment in our campaign this giving and animal loving person would step forward with a pledge to match donations on a dollar for dollar basis up to $1 million dollars. That match has been achieved and the Humane Society is the recipient of this tremendous gift of one million dollars from this individual. We had expected to introduce this person today. But for reasons we highly respect, our donor wishes to continue to remain anonymous. We are deeply indebted to this individual whose gift has clearly made today's groundbreaking activities possible. I look forward to the day in the future when this person can be further acknowledged for this generous donation. For now, please join me in an ovation for our $1 million challenge donor.
· Barbara and Cleve McGehee have been long time supporters of the Lynchburg Humane Society. Barbara is motivated by her love for animals and the idea that the helpless dogs and cats in our community are not able to speak out for themselves. Together they have come forward with a commitment of $350,000 in support of the effort.
· This 9.6-acre site is a great location for the new Center. It will be visible and easily accessible to the region. Without the support of the family of Lillian Schenkle this site would not have been feasible. The family’s gift of $280,000 of the sales price back to the campaign made this location possible.
· Lillian Somers, who loved animals, directed in her will that a fund to be used to promote a No Kill mission as her legacy. With the assistance of her son, Jeff Somers, this generous support of this fund in the amount of $250,000 has been instrumental in our success.
· There are 6 other donors who have made individually commitments of between $100,000 and $250,000 dollars. Together they have contributed more than $900,000 to the campaign. Several have asked to remain anonymous. Others joining Rosemary and I at this level include Sara Candler, Phillip and Terry Jamerson, Becky Hawkins, and Ron and Nancy Rodgers, We greatly appreciate this leadership group so let’s give them a round of applause!
And so we think there is a lesson here. In our community, our organization, and our professional lives and personal lives; we too often limit ourselves based on our timid view of what is Probable. Once in a while we dare to dream about what is Possible. But is reality - our greater potential lies in the things we see as Impossible. The only distinction is in our minds and we just need the capacity to get started doing. For it is only in the actual doing that we can ever transcend our arbitrary limits. It is our action that shows us what can be. The building that will rest on this site and the lives of the thousands of animals that will be saved because of it are a testimony of the power of action.
Now for the fun part. we ask those donors in the leadership level who are present to come forward to participate in the ground breaking. I also ask that they be joined by our Mayor, Mike Gillette who will represent City Council, Brenda Gray who is President of the Lynchburg Humane Society Board and will represent the Board, Makena Yarbrough our executive director representing the staff, our mascot Pede who represents the animals. Rosemary will represent our campaign volunteers.