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New animal adoption center almost ready

Posted: July 9, 2015 5:43 p.m.
Updated: July 10, 2015 1:00 a.m.
Gary Phillips/C-I

Philanthropist Austin Meyer (left) with Humane Society of Kershaw County donor Jim Burns at the new Meyer-Austin Animal Adoption Center on Black River Road. The new facility’s renovation is nearly complete. Meyer is matching donations, dollar-for-dollar, up to $1 million. Burns recently gave a generous amount toward the project.

As construction continues on the new home of the Humane Society of Kershaw County, generous benefactors also continue to donate funds being matched dollar-for-dollar by Columbia software designer Austin Meyer. The Humane Society hopes to soon relocate from the Walter M. Crowe Animal Shelter to its remodeled facility on Black River Road near I-20 southeast of Camden. The building was formerly a Coca-Cola bottling plant and will be known as the Meyer-Thiel Animal Adoption Center, after Meyer and local animal advocate, the late Judy Thiel.

Meyer has pledged to match donations up to a total of $1 million, a move which apparently inspired already generous donors to give even more, knowing their money is being doubled. One such donation was recently given by Camden businessman Jim Burns, former owner of Burns Hardware on Broad Street.

“I have always been interested in the facility, even the Walter Crowe, and given them contributions along (the way). When I heard about this and the fact Austin Meyer was matching the money the Burns in me said ‘turning 50 cents into a dollar is a pretty good investment,’” Burns said. “They indicated they needed $160,000 to get to the $1 million that he’s going to match and they only had six or eight weeks to do it. So, I thought ‘it’s going to take more than $100 here and $100 there. What can I do?’”

Burns said he hopes his donation will inspire others to do the same.

“I like to kind of fly below the radar, but hopefully this will encourage other people to help us get to the finish line here, to get the final push and really make it happen,” Burns said.

Humane Society board member Sue Sensor said the community has always been generous, but contributions have grown tremendously since Meyer became involved.

“We’ve gotten it kickstarted and generated some more local interest and when people realized, even though we’ve been asking them for the past three years to give money for this project, once they actually knew the finish line was in sight, everybody’s pitching in,” Sensor said. “It’s just incredible. When I went over the donation list, I was pleasantly surprised to see even $50. When you turn it into $100, it makes a difference.”

Meyer said he was looking for a project to support and, after a visit to the Walter M. Crowe Animal Shelter, he knew Kershaw County had a real need. He previously gave financial help to the Pawmetto Lifeline Center, an animal adoption facility in Columbia.  

“It looks like it’s going to work out just the way we wanted, so I’m excited. When we did the Pawmetto Lifeline Center, what I thought was we would get animals adopted out. When I went there, I saw so much more. It draws in so many people. People are getting new family members adopted that they wouldn’t have had otherwise,” Meyer said. “The benefits of Pawmetto Lifeline have been huge, and I’m sure we’ll see the same benefits here, so it’s going to do a tremendous amount of good for the animals and for the people who work here.”

Meyer said his goal is to change the public’s perception from the “dog pound” to the “pet adoption center.”

“I can’t wait to see it open and in full swing when there’s crowds of people coming through and getting all the animals that otherwise would be languishing in some pound somewhere that nobody knows about. It’s not just getting the animals into a better situation, it’s putting them somewhere where the average Joe going down the street is going to see the place,” Meyer said. “But when you see a nice place like this and realize there are lots of animals here who need a home, it looks like a nice place to stop and look, why not look? And that is the stealth benefit of doing things this way, when you’re not ‘the pound,’ instead you’re a nice place to go where animals need a home.”

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