40th Celebration Article from our Director
Great River Rescue Celebrates 40 Years
A message from Executive Director Brandon Mustful
Great River Rescue Celebrates 40 Years
In late March of this year, I attended a Volunteer Recruitment Fair at a local Senior Care Facility. It was a quiet afternoon and unfortunately, we didn’t get too many visitors. However, those that did stop by my table were very curious about our work and I had the opportunity to hear plenty of good pet rescue stories. There was one visitor in particular that I will not soon forget. Her name was Marsha, and as soon as she saw what organization I represented, she lit up! Marsha was very excited and even asked if she could give me a hug. I was a little taken back, and I thought maybe she was just a pet lover that had adopted from our shelter.
Marsha was not just a pet adopter though. She didn’t know quite how to say it, but Marsha was one of the founders of the Beltrami Humane Society. Admittedly, I was a little dubious about that claim. She told me several details about how it all started though, and I realized that she might be telling the truth. Marsha was also incredibly thankful for our work and all the people that have kept the organization going over the years. I talked with her for several minutes. She shared some stories about raising sled dogs and then she went on her way to allow others to visit my table. When I got back to the shelter that afternoon I looked up our Articles of Incorporation. Sure enough, I saw her husband’s name as one of the original founding members of the Beltrami Humane Society in 1977.
When this 40th year began, I had hoped to put together an extensive article that included personal interviews with people who helped get the Beltrami Humane Society started. Unfortunately, that’s not going to happen. But, I still wanted to reflect a bit on the past, present, and future of this organization, and share it with you.
Some of the people who helped start this organization are not with us anymore, some are not in the area, while others are still involved in our work. I have had the privilege of knowing a few of them. One common theme I’ve noticed is that they don’t want any credit or fanfare for what they’ve done. If anything, they believe the hard work has been done by others that have followed and helped continue the work of the Beltrami Humane Society/Great River Rescue.
For me, and I hope many others in the community, we are grateful for what they did. They saw a need and did something about it. Animals were being dumped on country roads, mistreated and abused, and left to fend for themselves. There was no safe refuge for these animals, and only the most compassionate of people were left to try to help them on a case-by-case basis. Thankfully, this group of concerned citizens decided to come together and make a difference. They didn’t have many resources to offer, but they did have pluck and determination. It was back in 1976 that this group first started posting notices in the paper of their intentions. Only a year later, in September of 1977 the Articles of Incorporation were officially recognized and the Beltrami Humane Society was formed.
I am not familiar with most of the early and middle years of the organization. I know that the Beltrami Humane Society had no facility of its own for a number of years. Later, in the 80s they moved into a building near the old Bemidji Vet Hospital. I’m sure many of you remember that facility. Then, in the year 2000, with the support of many community businesses and individuals, they moved into our current facility on Carr Lake Rd SE.
What I do know is that many dedicated, caring, and compassionate people have kept this organization going. Things haven’t always gone well. As recently as five years ago there was the threat of closing down due to mounting debt. People stepped up though. And, the truly dedicated individuals rose to the top and made sure that this place didn’t die out. After working here for five years, I know that the only way to keep this place going is through hard work, and constant outreach. There are no magic sources of revenue or other resources. It takes people who have drive and commitment: people who believe in the importance of this organization.
Today, Great River Rescue saves, cares for, and finds home for about 30 animals per month. In 40 years, we’ve probably saved over 10 to 15,000 animals. Those are all animals that have had a second chance at life, and have enriched the lives our community members. We are still here; still working hard to make a difference. We are still not a perfect organization, but we strive to improve every day. My hope is that in the near future Great River Rescue will take more steps to be a secure and viable organization for years to come. My hope is that we can have an even greater impact on this community over the next 40 years. I suppose that all depends on who steps up though. Who will see the need and decide it is time to make a difference?
Blessings to you. Thank you for supporting Great River Rescue.