With a goal of raising $2.5 million towards a new Wadena County Humane Society facility, board members are excited to announce recent donations that are advancing the project forward.

Who's to thank for the recent $300,000 donation. Well, you could point to five adorable and abandoned kittens, who stole the hearts of their current owners, Armand and Mary Brachman.

“Mary and I personally experienced the challenge of finding homes for unwanted animals when five kittens were abandoned on our property," said Armand Brachman. "No shelters wanted the kittens as their kennels were filled and we were at a loss for how to rehome them. It wasn’t long before we fell in love with all of the kittens and we decided to bring them into our home. This experience gave us a greater appreciation of the plight of homeless animals and the resources needed to care for these animals and find good homes."

When the couple heard that the Wadena County Humane Society (WCHS) wanted to do something more to help the problem of unwanted or abandoned cats, they knew they could get behind the project.

“I’ve heard about WCHS for the past several years, through my friend Tracy Adams and I’ve marveled at her passion and commitment to grow WCHS," Mary Brachman said. "After our own personal experience with the abandoned kittens on our property, how much joy they have brought to our lives, and the potential for WCHS to not only save animals, but enrich the lives of individuals, families and the greater community, Armand and I wanted to be part of this vision and building project. I'm excited not only for the new animal facility, but also to see how the existing and future programs of WCHS will evolve."

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Plans are to revamp the former Freshwater building at 910 Ash Ave, NE, in Wadena, which the pet-loving group bought in 2019. With anticipation for a groundbreaking in 2021, the Brachman's major cash contribution will launch the first phase of the project, with heavy focus on a spay and neuter clinic for cats. The Brachmans live in the Twin Cities but their passion for cats and their connection to Wadena played a role in their gift to this project, according to a news release from the Wadena County Humane Society.

RELATED: Humane Society expands board breadth with new member - Kelly Brooks

Other major donors

A great number of contributors for the new building are residents of Wadena County. The Wadena State Bank and the Jack and Alvida Browne Foundation committed multi-year pledges for $150,000 and $50,000 respectively.

Executive vice president of Wadena State bank, Jeff Browne, said he worked with his brother Kip and mother Alvida to get these funds committed because it was clear that the project was going to be a major asset to the community and region.

"We need to participate in this," Browne said. "It's an investment in our community, it's another asset we can be proud of."

Jeff, Kip, and their parents Jack (deceased) and Alvida have all been dog lovers, so the idea to invest in a project focused on those animals came natural. Jeff looks forward to the group taking this project to the next level.

Other multi-year pledge contributors in the community include:

Lane and Donna Waldahl, Luther and Marilyn Nervig, Judy Erdahl (in honor of Bruce Erdahl), Rich and Tom Paper, Rosemary and Harry Harrison Foundation, Jeff and Kathy Harrison, and Peter and Tracy Kooman.

“Armand and Mary are passionate about providing the best possible care for cats in Minnesota,” said Tracy Adams Kooman, President of the WCHS Board of Directors, in a news release. “We are proud to have them as partners on this journey to better the lives of cats in our community. The new facility will play a major role in raising the bar for critical needs such as increased cat enrichment, healthier kennel space, and high-volume spay and neuter clinic.”

The campaign began with a goal to save cats and dogs and to provide resources to Wadena and surrounding areas. Although a small and rural shelter, WCHS has helped over 1,000 animals on a yearly basis since 2016 and brought visitors to the community from hundreds of miles away to adopt pets.

In order to continue the trend of helping more animals at the shelter with proper care, the group feels a new shelter is a must. The current small building site lacks proper air flow; lacks indoor space for animal exercise and additional animals; lacks space for interactions with the community; and offers minimal parking for the regular flurry of vehicles coming and going during visits and adoptions.

Project update

In mid-October, WCHS hired TWM Architecture to finalize floorplans, and begin with Phase One of the project.

“We see the capital campaign occurring in two phases,” said Jeff Harrison, Vice President of the WCHS Board of Directors. "The first phase is the remodel of the Freshwater building to include an expansive cat clinic and area, and the second phase is the extension to the building to provide more space for dogs. This will allow us to begin the project while still caring for the hundreds of animals we save right here in Wadena. We are excited to have the funds available now for Phase I and will continue to push to raise the much needed additional funds for Phase II immediately."

With architectural planning in the final stages, bidding out the work followed soon after by remodeling and construction will support the goal to finish Phase I and move in by years end.

To find out more about the project or how to give, visit www.wadenacountyhumanesociety.org or call Tracy at 612-382-8635 or email her at tadams@wadenacountyhumanesociety.org.