The grand marshal for the 22nd annual Mountain Heritage Day Parade on Saturday, Sept. 15 is not one or two individuals. It is an entire organization, the Eastern Madera County SPCA, announced Brenda Negley, parade chair.
This dedicated group of volunteers was first organized in 1990 and has worked tirelessly to raise funds for a permanent no-kill facility in Eastern Madera County where unwanted, abandoned or mistreated pets can be placed until a permanent home can be found for them.
“The EMCSPCA was chosen because of their contributions to the community,” said Negley. “The group has worked hard to have a place for animals in our area and it is quite an accomplishment for them to begin construction on their new facility. They have helped find forever homes for those in their care and the mountain members that have benefited are blessed.”
An official groundbreaking ceremony on a 13-acre piece of property across from Wasuma Elementary School on Highway 49 was held on March 12, 2016. By the time construction was begun, a year later, the group had raised over $2.1 million toward the project estimated to cost $3.3 million. The property is being leased long term to the EMCSPCA for $1 per year by Madera County.
Although there is not a firm opening date for the shelter, hopes are that it may open by the end of the year. Currently, efforts are being made to get the building sealed up so that work on the interior may proceed no matter what the weather.
Exterior landscaping and paving still need to be done and interior flooring, kennels, plumbing and drywall still need to be finished, according to Sharon Fitzgerald, who has served as president of the group almost since its inception.
“We’re all part of a team,” Fitzgerald said. But three individuals have been promoting the cause for almost 30 years: Fitzgerald; Lyle Swanson, who serves as treasurer; and Nancy Swanson, who serves as secretary. Some board members have served for 20 years or more and others have stepped in to do what was needed at the time.
The initial inspiration for the shelter came when it became obvious that there was an overpopulation of animals. “Owners of puppies and kittens would be lined up door to door at Raley’s as they tried to find homes for these animals,” said Fitzgerald. “The Sierra Star would run two full columns of animals needing a home.”
And just when the group thought the “prize” was within reach as a result of fundraising, additional costs came to light since the shelter is on a state highway. “Initially, Caltrans was only wanting 17 feet of frontage dedicated to the state for future expansion of Highway 49 to four lanes,” Fitzgerald said. “But then we were required to dedicate 43 feet, the full length of the property. That meant additional grading and drainage and more retaining walls.”
Funds have been raised through a variety of community events including: sales of baked goods and plants; a 19-year run of the annual Animal Faire; and an annual Whine and Noses event.
The EMCSPCA has spent up to $10,000 per month and a total of $1 million over 20-plus years for emergency animal and foster dare, spaying and neutering and feral cat feeding. It is a nonprofit, 501 (C) (3) organization receiving no government funding and relies solely on community support.
With this kind of a commitment to a cause, it was only fitting that the group be named grand marshal for the 10 a.m. parade which kicks off a day-long celebration of the area’s mountain heritage. The parade will wind its way down School Road and past the judges’ stand on Road 426.
“Market your business or feature your service organization, sports team, scout group or family and pets in this fun and entertaining community event,” Negley said. This year’s event celebrates with a “Saving the Past for the Future” theme.
Applications for participation in the parade are at www.fresnoflatsmuseum.org/parade. Registration costs are $15 if received before Aug. 31, $20 between Sept. 1-10 and $25 after Sept. 10 until day of parade.
Make checks to: Sierra Historic Sites Association (SHSA) – a nonprofit organization.
Mail completed parade application, entrance fee and judging announcement sheet to: Brenda Negley, P.O. Box 1134, Oakhurst, CA 93644 or drop all forms off at the Fresno Flats Historical Village, 49777 School Road (Road 427) in Oakhurst.
Donations to the EMCSPCA may be made online at www.emcspca.org.