Richland couple gives $250K to Humane Society shelter

KENNEWICK -- A $250,000 donation from a Richland couple who are longtime animal lovers is going a long way toward putting fundraising efforts to build a new Benton-Franklin Humane Society shelter over the top.

The small-dog room at the new shelter will be named after donors Bob and Joy Vosburgh, said Ed Dawson, the nonprofit's operations manager said Wednesday.

The Humane Society plans to build a 10,000-square-foot shelter on East Seventh Street near Highway 397 in Kennewick. The shelter will have room for about 120 animals, which is three times as many as the current building on Gage Boulevard holds.

The Vosburghs always had dogs and over the years have contributed small amounts to the Humane Society, said Bob Vosburgh, who was an engineer at Energy Northwest before his retirement.

In recent years, they had dedicated a large amount in their wills to be distributed for animal-related causes.

Then two developments changed their financial planning -- the Humane Society bought land for a new shelter in 2009 and Joy Vosburgh fell ill with lung disease last fall.

Her husband moved the money out of their estate and made it immediately available to the Humane Society.

"I wanted her to see the benefits (of our gift) and feel good about it," he said. "We thought this would make a nice splash."

He was right. The donation virtually ensures that the Humane Society won't have to take out any loans to pay for the $1.7 million project, Dawson said.

The group now is only about $200,000 short of being able to pay the projected total cost of the new shelter.

But it won't have to pay for some of the construction costs because the contractor for the project -- TR Masterson Construction of Kennewick -- is expected to donate some material and labor. Negotiations with subcontractors are under way, Dawson said.

The amount left to be raised by the group could be as little as $150,000, and "once we're digging in the dirt, we'll see more donations coming in," Dawson predicted.

With most of the funding secured, the nonprofit will begin construction next month. The building should be ready this fall.

"Barring a disaster, we'll have the grand opening in September or October," Dawson said.

And there might be more to come after the shelter opens. The new shelter takes up about half of the four-acre plot the nonprofit bought two years ago.

A smaller empty building is on the other half, and once the new shelter is up and running, the Humane Society will look at turning that building into a low-cost spay and neuter clinic, Dawson said.

The Vosburghs also might support that operation. Not all of the money that was moved out of their will went toward the construction project. Some of it is held by the Three Rivers Community Foundation, "to do something for other causes as well," Vosburgh said.

One of the causes the couple want to support is spay and neuter clinics in the Tri-Cities.

-- Jacques Von Lunen: 582-1402; jvonlunen@tricityherald.com