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Collaborating to unchain dogs

by: SUBMITTED PHOTO Among the staff at the in Lake Oswego who volunteered  Saturday for a Fences for Fido  rummage sale are, standing from left, Bambie  Brown and Tiffany Noreuil; seated from left: Melisa Evans, Danyale West, Courtney Lee and Dr. Amy Tongue.

What could possibly be better than a rummage sale on a gorgeous spring day? How about a rummage sale with an altruistic mission to un-chain dogs?

The unstoppable staff at the Oswego Veterinary Hospital in Lake Oswego was on a mission to raise enough funds to un-chain one dog. In just four hours, they blew that goal out of the water.

Melisa Evans, lead receptionist at the hospital, was the visionary behind the event. Melisa had made a personal goal to begin holding events throughout the year to help the staff get more acquainted with their clients and beloved patients. She put her plan in motion by bringing together staff and clients to collaborate in aiding a local animal welfare organization. In Melisa's words, 'I wanted our clients to see first-hand that we don't just work in the veterinary field; we truly love animals and care deeply about their quality of life. I also knew that, together, we could make a big difference.'

The hospital's practice manager, Jessie Merritt, told Melisa about Fences for Fido (FFF). 'Jessie had come across the FFF online and was so impressed with the big-hearted, hardworking volunteers involved. Her excitement was so infectious that I had to learn more,' said Melisa.

FFF aligned perfectly with the hospital in that one of its main objectives was to find a worthy 'grassroots' animal welfare organization that may not receive many contributions. Melisa said, 'We understand that not all dog owners believe that dogs should be allowed indoors, but this doesn't mean that they aren't loved. Our main focus was to improve a dog's quality of life by offering freedom and exercise.'

The Oswego Veterinary Hospital developed a repeatable process that any individual or business could replicate to raise funds for Fences for Fido. Here's their secret sauce:

DONATIONS: To get the rummage sale project off the ground, the staff posted signs in their lobby, requesting donations during the month prior to the sale. The clients and staff generously cleaned out their homes, closets, and garages, donating such items as clothing, luggage, artwork, jewelry, children's toys, pet supplies, furniture, kitchen goods, bedding, books, and holiday decorations. They even had one client who made items specifically for the rummage sale, including pet beds, stationery and journals.

PUBLICITY: Receptionist and outreach extraordinaire Bambie Brown publicized the event via 'Spot Magazine,' OregonLive.com, yard sale websites (gsalr.com, yardsalesearch.com, yardies.com), the hospital's website and Facebook page, Craigslist, local news station websites (FOX, NBC, ABC, CBS), and word-of-mouth. They posted flyers at local libraries, grocery stores, coffee shops, veterinary hospitals and specialists, grooming facilities, banks, doggie daycares, and pet supply stores. Brilliantly, they also sent home flyers with each client's invoice.

SETUP: The staff and their clients loaned their tables and clothing racks, so that they could attractively display the donations. In the end, all 15 staff members contributed to the event in some way. The day of the sale, nurses Danyale West and Courtney Lee, volunteered alongside Melisa. The hospital owner, Dr. Amy Tongue, was also in attendance, offering her time and energy. The entire staff, whether working or volunteering were sporting their FFF apparel that they previously ordered from the FFF website.

SELL: At the end of the four-hour sale, the Oswego Veterinary Hospital - with the generous donations of their clients and the community - raised enough funds to un-chain two dogs and provide two insulated dog houses, far ceeding their original goal!

Of course, a lot of other details and countless hours were in the mix, but the essentials are to request donations, get the word out, organize the donations, and experience the bliss and fulfillment of making the amazing happen.

Patti Loverink is a a Lake Oswego resident, principal with the Lake Oswego-based Mesh Group and a volunteer for a local non-profit volunteer organization called Fences for Fido that builds fences at no cost to families for dogs who are chained around the clock.