Wadena County Humane Society launches $2 million capital campaign for building remodel

The funds will help them move into a facility better equipped for their needs and the needs of adoptable pets.

Wadena County Humane Society building.jpg
The future home of the Wadena County Humane Society is in the former Freshwater Education District building on east Hwy 10 in Wadena. Michael Johnson/Pioneer Journal

The Wadena County Humane Society has become so successful at adopting out dogs and cats, they've far outgrown their humble space on the west side of Wadena. In an effort to continue to find pets new homes and become an increasingly important piece in the puzzle of saving animal lives, the organization is embarking on a major capital campaign.

WCHS has launched a $2 million campaign to remodel a prominent Hwy 10 building into their future headquarters in Wadena. The building, which they bought from Freshwater Education District, sits on east Hwy 10 in Wadena. 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 800 animals this year alone through community programs, microchips, foster, and adoptions, according to a Wadena County Humane Society news release.

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The current shelter no longer meets the expanding needs of the facility, according to board members. The Humane Society began operating in Wadena in 1997. WCHS board president Tracy Adams Kooman outlined a number of issues with their current facility, including a lack of indoor space for healthy animal activity; inadequate kennel sizes, lack of airflow for animals and people. The current space also lacks in parking and space for community programming.

Kooman, fellow board member Jeff Harrison and WCHS development director Shelbi Waters recently met at the new building to walk through the plans for the new facility. It's a large space with ample office space for a variety of uses. The group has plans of having a clinic inside to offer spay and neuter services in-house. There's room for the dogs, cats and the people, and plans to expand the building as well as an outdoor play area utilizing the 3-acre site to the north of their building site.

In early November, WCHS hired TWM Architecture to finalize floorplans, and begin with Phase One of the project.


"When we bought this, we took everything that we had worked on designing with an architect and went into the garbage and started all over with a plan to tie this facility in," Harrison said.

The board has a major fundraising goal in the coming weeks as they have a match of up to $50,000 for end-of-year giving.

“We see the capital campaign occurring in two phases. The first phase is the remodel of the Freshwater building, and the second phase is the extension to the building to provide more space. This will allow us to begin the project while still caring for the hundreds of animals we save right here in Wadena. We know the community is proud of the work we do, and we want a facility that represents the work we put in,” Kooman said.

Until the new site undergoes a remodel, staff will continue to utilize the current shelter. But, once funds allow, and the work is done, the organization looks to go well beyond the impressive work that they can do right here.

"We can use it for other people in Wadena other groups and organizations," Kooman said.

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She looks to see this place opened up to the state and nation to show others what this organization, in smalll-town Minnesota, is doing well. Several staff have had training opportunities that have given them an advantage in the field.

"We really want to be the Minnesota hub . . . we want to be the training hub," Kooman said.

Kooman said the group has been visiting with various other shelters and clinics to put together the best facility for animals they can assemble. And while it may have comforts, the end goal is that the animals that make their way to this new shelter will find a forever home before they can even get cozy.


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The former Freshwater Education building on east Hwy 10 in Wadena was also a doctor's clinic and Crop Production Services site but will soon become the main site for the Wadena County Humane Society.

Michael Johnson is the news editor for Agweek. He lives in rural Deer Creek, Minn., where he is starting to homestead with his two children and wife.
You can reach Michael at or 218-640-2312.
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