AWA shelter awaits opening of its new building

At 25,000 square feet, facility will feature several upgrades

A new addition to the Voorhees Animal Welfare Association (AWA) facility is expected to be completed in time for a soft opening by the end of this month.


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The construction, which began in fall 2020, will result in upgrades to the facility that include new cages, medical-care facilities, showers, transport stations and a spacious veterinarian office.


Marian Coincella, development manager for the project, boasted about the new space and activities that will be added for shelter animals in the 25,000-square-foot addition. 


“For the dogs, we have almost doubled the size and number of cages, so it allows us to house more animals,” she noted. “The dogs were also built a huge covered outdoor play area that helps with their daily exercise.”


Among unique features for cats is a clear, covered catwalk that wraps around the entire length of the building’s lobby. It will allow the cats to roam free and provide them with  exercise.


“The catwalk is one of the coolest features about the lobby,” Coincella said. “The thinking was that when guests walk in, they’re not only greeted by someone on staff, but also by an animal.”


Staffers will have new offices and storage closets that will free them from cramped spaces in the current building, where they dealt with pandemic challenges.


“It allows a relief for the staff who have done an exceptional job, using every resource they have been given,” said Maya Richmond, AWA’s strategic dIrector.  The current set  up is tight, it’s loud, and really just not an ideal amount of space. But, this is the world we’ve been living in for a few years now.”


The new addition also features an upgraded transport center for animals rescued by the shelter, so they can get cleaned up and vaccinated before interacting with other shelter residents. 


“Getting to a new shelter can be as stressful experience for an animal, so these rooms allow for the dog to decompress and get adjusted to new surroundings.” said Nanci Urban, AWA’s senior shelter manager


While construction is nearly complete, the shelter is still accepting donations for building costs, with a goal of $2.5 million as yet unmet.


“We’re very close, but anything helps at this point,” Richmond said. “We have received so much support from the community and the state. There are always improvements to be made for the animals and staff. So we appreciate help in any way we can get it.”


To donate, adopt or volunteer, visit the AWA website at

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