Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Almost Home Foundation: When a Rescue Organization Does it Right

While no one person or organization is perfect, there are some that really know how to succeed. You can find rescue organizations anywhere and everywhere these days. Many people are eager to start one of their own, but that doesn't mean they're all worth their salt. Almost Home Foundation is a Chicago area pet rescue that has made a world of difference in the lives of many dogs and cats, and their adoptive families. You can hear founding members uttering "9 years, over 9,000 dogs and cats rescued" as they now celebrate their ninth anniversary.

Almost Home Foundation Founders and New Building
AHF Founders in front of the long-awaited facility, 2013 
Almost Home Foundation began in March, 2005, when the five founders - Chuck and Gloria Hanson, Linda Wyka, Terri Sullivan Victory, and Claire Sleigh - decided to join together and create a no-kill dog and cat rescue organization. These founders shared similar values, hopes and dreams for the welfare of dogs and cats. They went to work immediately, and in no time the rescue was a thriving, successful non-profit business that was literally saving lives.

Over the years, AHF has taken in strays from local communities, rescued dogs and cats from high-kill shelters (not only from around the state of Illinois but other states as well), even rescued dogs from Hurricane Katrina. One of those Katrina dogs was joyfully reunited with her family, who were immensely grateful to AHF and the foster home for saving their beloved pet! All of the pets taken in under the AHF wing have been cared for in foster homes, then rehomed after careful matching of pet and family.

My kids and I with Deanne and Paul Blenkle
 (AHF Cat Coordinators and Board Members),
 April 2005
I'm fortunate to have witnessed that quiet, unassuming beginning, when only a few people would be conducting adoption events on any weekend day. We volunteered as a foster home for cats and kittens, helped out at adoption shows, did what we could. It seems light-years away now, especially when I see how much Almost Home has grown and blossomed. There is now a huge base of volunteers, ever-growing, and an incredible, dedicated base of supporters as well.

Let's face it - it costs quite a bit to vet and properly care for animals. Additionally, AHF covers the costs of food and supplies, as well as the medical expenses, so that fosters can devote themselves to the best care, socialization, training, and nurturing these innocent creatures deserve. Without the wonderful generosity of supporters and successful fundraisers, there's no way so many dogs and cats could be helped.

Linda, Terri, Chuck, Claire, Gloria
One of the longstanding dreams and goals of these inspiring founders was to have a brick-and-mortar facility, a building that would house not only AHF equipment and supplies, but also be a place where the animals could live until a much-needed foster home was found. It's heartbreaking to turn away an animal in need, even though you are capable of helping them, simply because you don't have an available foster home. This year that dream came true.

Almost Home Foundation is unusual as rescues go...while many, if not most, rescue organizations are particular about which animals they will take in, AHF does not discriminate. Where other rescues would take the newborn litter but not the mama - AHF takes them all. Where other rescues avoid the black, old, and medically- or physically-challenged, AHF welcomes them with open arms. While most rescues avoid breeds that are more difficult to adopt out, like pit bulls - AHF, if anything, goes out of their way to make sure they'll have a chance for a loving home.

Almost Home Foundation on WGN News
Two of the dogs from the pet shop on WGN News Adopt A Pet
with Linda Wyka and Kristen Gottschalk (CLICK TO WATCH)
And just this past month, the organization welcomed 35 dogs that had been kept by a pet shop for unscrupulous breeding purposes. Members of Companion Animal Protection Society (CAPS) had been protesting this store relentlessly, on a daily basis, for over a year. They knew the dogs were caged in a back room, and these dedicated volunteers were not going to give up until the dogs were safe and free of that life. Almost Home Foundation rightly gives these heroes from CAPS "4 Paws Up"!

Ida McCarthy and Dianne Arp of CAPS present
Chuck Hanson, AHF, with basket honoring pet store dogs rescued
The dogs involved came in with medical issues and physical deformities from the neglect, as well as behavioral and emotional challenges from living life 24/7 in tiny wire cages. From vaccinations, extensive dentals, and spay/neuters to specialized supervision, training, and behavioral analyses - the needs of these dogs is great.

Plus, one has required surgery, and some have needed additional time adjusting before even going into foster homes. Then there are the ones - like the little one who spins around in circles (a lifetime of being in a cage so small that was the only "running" he could do) - that require more time and patient understanding.

If you wish to help with funding for these sweet victims, Almost Home has huge bills accruing for their care and your donations would be greatly appreciated!

Help Me and My Puppy Parlor Friends Get Medical
Help Me and My Puppy Parlor Friends Get Proper Medical
(Click Here)
It seems like it was only yesterday (okay, maybe not quite, but close!) that I first met these wonderful, caring people - and took in my first foster (Apache, a tortoise-shell Persian cat). Over the years, the number of people involved in this all-volunteer organization has mushroomed, yet it's never lost the sense of family. I am so proud to know these people, and to be able to tell you that I've been a part of this wonderful organization.

Happy 9th Anniversary, Almost Home Foundation! Here's to many, many more happily-ever-after tails!


  1. How wonderful!! It sounds like a fabulous organization, and I can see why you're lending your support!

  2. Well done to them. They do sound like amazing people. We need more organizations like these!

    Purrs xx
    Athena and Marie

  3. Yay for AFH! What a great organization.


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