Roanoke woman issues $100,000 challenge to community for shelter

Jean Ann Tribolet, of Roanoke, says she will match any donations the Huntington County Humane Society receives up to $100,000 through Dec. 31, 2010.
Jean Ann Tribolet, of Roanoke, says she will match any donations the Huntington County Humane Society receives up to $100,000 through Dec. 31, 2010. Photo by Matt Murphy.

For years, the Huntington County Humane Society had dreamed of a new facility, allowing the society to more properly care for and adopt out the animals for which it provides.

Now, a generous woman with a heart for all animals has offered the humane society a challenge: she will match all donations the Society receives up to $100,000 toward the new building.

Jean Ann Tribolet, a Roanoke resident, has actively supported the society for years, and has now offered the challenge in order to get the building project off the ground.

"It's been mulling in my mind for a number of years," Tribolet says. "I've seen the dedication of the staff and how hard they try to do their very best ... I've been very impressed."

Tribolet says that she originally included the humane society in her will, but decided to issue the challenge now at the suggestion of her financial advisor, Jim Scheiber.

"[Scheiber] has been encouraging me to do it while I was alive so I could live to see what [the money] could do," Tribolet says.

Tribolet also requested that the building be named for her parents, who she says would be "very supportive of the mission and what is being done right now."

"They were farmers," she adds. "They always tried to be good to their animals."

A resident of Roanoke for all but 20 years of her life, Tribolet has been involved in donating her resources to the humane society, and even her dog Skipper was adopted from the society.

Skipper actually was one of the reasons Tribolet decided to donate to the Society. Tribolet says that Skipper was originally adopted by a friend, but with the understanding that Tribolet would assume responsibility of the dog when her friend passed away. But it was when the two took Skipper back to the shelter for a visit that Tribolet really appreciated the work the humane society had done.

"When we got to the shelter, Skipper lunged to greet the caregiver," she says. "That gave me insight to how well the animals are treated. For me, that was a Kodak moment."

Tribolet's generosity has completely changed the outlook of construction for the new building, says Pat Merckx, president of the society, and who knew Tribolet growing up in Roanoke.

"She's really stirred the pot," Merckx says.

Merckx says that the new building has indeed been in the planning stages for years, but the society has only slowly built up funding for the building.

"It is our hope to get the structure of the building started in May 2010," says Merckx.

Although the building will still not be finished once the core structure is assembled, Merkx says that the society hopes to draw attention from the community once local residents and businesses can see the ociety is serious about the building.

The new facility will be connected to the current building, and will house an education center, a small library, an office, more space for animals, rooms for potential owners to get to know the animals before adoption and a clinic to treat incoming animals.

The new building will also allow for the improvement of the older building, and will allow for separate entrances for incoming animals and adoptions.

"The biggest problem in Huntington is stray feral cats," Merckx says. "They have to sit for a three-day evaluation by city ordinance, and we will have a separate area for that."

Dogs and cats will also have separate areas once the new facility is built.

As far as the education center and library, the humane society hopes that local school groups as well as the general public will use that resource.

"We have quite a little library started, but no one really knows about it," Merckx says. "It's all animal-oriented materials."

The education center will also have three to four computer stations for public use, and will provide an office for the shelter, as Merckx private residence is currently used for that purpose.

The clinic is expected to be staffed by Huntington-area veterinarians, and a new employee bathroom will allow workers to shower in between admissions.

Merckx also hopes to have a small chapel where pet owners can be with their animals before they are euthanized due to old age or disease.

The new building is expected to cost several hundred thousand dollars, and will be built in sections as money becomes available. Eventually, the society hopes to build over the old shelter as well.

Currently, 25 percent of the society's fundraising goes to the building fund, and Tribolet will match all money designated to that fund up to $100,000 before Jan. 1, 2011.

"We really want to get this done," Merckx says.
However, Merckx notes that the shelter still needs resources for its day-to-day operations as well, especially in light of budget cuts by the City of Huntington.

Several fundraisers are already planned and include golf outings at Norwood Golf Course, a battle of the bands and a dog walk at Evergreen Park. The next fundraiser will be the first of two "Street Corps Brigade and Dog Wash" on May 22.

Donations to the shelter may be arranged by contacting Merckx or Dee Hoffman at 356-0355. Additional contact information may be found at www.huntingtonhumaneshelter.org.

But for Tribolet, a self-described dog-lover, any donation to the society is a win in her book.

"This is one of the best investments I've ever made," she says.