VAO celebrates grand opening of new building

New 8,900 square-foot facility includes larger kennels, disease prevention methods

The Voorhees Animal Orphanage celebrates the construction of its new building Wednesday, Feb. 12 with a leash-cutting ceremony. Pictured, left to right, is Marketing Director Jennifer Bailey, Voorhees Mayor Michael Mignogna, Doug Collier, President of the Board of Directors David Semless, shelter director Dawn Mason and Camden County Freeholder Barbara Holcomb.

Surrounded by gracious volunteers, supportive community members and adoptable cats and dogs that have spent time at the shelter for as little as a few days or as long as nearly two years, members of the Voorhees Animal Orphanage’s board of directors celebrated the construction of a new building Feb. 12 with a grand opening leash cutting.

For nearly a decade, according to multiple board members, the VAO has saved a dollar here and a dollar there with the hope that one day, the nonprofit could construct a much-needed facility to better support the thousands of animals that come through the shelter each year as well as the thousands of residents who adopt them.

Since its 1988 opening, shelter staffers have dreamed of a better facility. Now, after the completion of phase II in the new building construction project, that dream has become real.

“Since our inception in 1988, we have saved the lives of more than 30,000 cats and dogs — never turning away a cat or dog in need,” said VAO Marketing Director Jennifer Bailey. “This new facility will help our small but mighty staff and volunteers continue their lifesaving work to help cats and dogs find forever homes.”

The new shelter — spanning 8,900 square feet — is approximately double the size of the building the VAO previously had in the same location. Included in the various improvements are dog kennels that are 50 percent larger, a laundry room to help maintain clean linens for animals, additional storage space, a large lobby for guests to help with the adoption process.

Potentially one of the most important features of the new building are the six ventilation systems that span throughout the facility to help improve cleanliness and reduce the spread of germs and common shelter illnesses. The building features separate rooms and areas for animals that need medical attention or medication.

“In our previous structure, disease would run rampant,” said David Semless, president of the VAO board. “When a dog would come in that’s ill, it would flow. With this facility, we have six different ventilation systems so we can isolate disease. We also have separate quarantines and intake [in order to best prevent disease.]”

All in all, the facility provides the shelter with an all-around better future for serving its 26 South Jersey towns, 19 in Camden County.

“This new building is a much more comfortable environment for our animals and welcoming space for our visitors,” Semless noted. “The VAO is poised to do even greater things for our homeless cats and dogs.”

In attendance at the grand opening was Voorhees Township Mayor Michael Mignogna.

“This organization has worked miracles for thousands and thousands of precious, innocent animals,” he said. “I’ve very excited to see the work that’s going to get done in this new facility.

“I’m confident that this new facility will really up the game of this wonderful organization.”

While the new building is complete, the VAO’s capital campaign still is underway to raise the $350,000 remaining from its $1.6-million project, in an effort to be mortgage-free.

To make a donation and support the VAO, supporters can visit http://www.vaonj.org/voorhees-animal-orphanage-capital-campaign/.