- June 16, 2022
Rob and Dari Oglesby have long loved dogs. The couple has had dogs and volunteered at dog shelters for years. Their daughter took a photography class when she was 10 years old.
Her muse for her photos?
The Oglesbys are also leading advocates for the safe adoption of dogs and cats in East County through their role overseeing Nate’s Honor Animal Rescue. Rob is the development and fundraising director, while Dari is executive director of the nonprofit, which says its goal is to “provide a loving haven for rescued dogs and cats on their way to finding their forever homes.” The organization had net assets of $4.3 million in its most recent fiscal year, according to public tax filings.
“Our overall mission is to change people’s views on shelter animals, one family at a time,” Rob Oglesby says. “It’s not something that has to be horrible or negative. It can be fun.”
That mission, Oglesby and Nate’s board of fellow animal lovers believe, requires a larger, reimagined space that, in turn, requires a significant investment. That’s why Oglesby is at the helm of a $12 million transformation of Nate’s. The expansion — it will double the facility’s capacity, to 117 dogs and 60 cats — has a variety of components, most of which stick to a family-friendly, whimsical theme. Some of the features came from trips Rob Oglesby has taken to other shelters nationwide. Austin Pets Alive! in Texas was one of the best places, he says, to get ideas.
The $12 million capital campaign, dubbed “Journey Home,” is entering its final stages in 2023, with about $2.8 million to go to reach its overall goal as of late December. Mary Dougherty, Gulf Coast Builders Exchange’s executive director and a longtime board member and supporter of Nate’s, says the expansion project is long overdue. Like Oglesby, she recalls some flooding and less-than-stellar conditions of the earlier facility on the same 8-acre site. “This will be state of the art and world class,” Dougherty says.
Nate’s dates to 2008, when a small group of volunteers with a passion for helping animals in need of rescue banded together. They worked from garages, and sometimes a dirt floor barn, to save the lives of homeless and at-risk animals. Benderson Development Co. founder Nate Benderson, then in his late 80s, joined the group, providing financial support and business leadership. Benderson died in 2012, and the East County-based company’s support of the rescue nonprofit that bears his name has continued. That includes serving as lead builder for the current expansion project.
The expansion project was announced in 2018 and broke ground in 2019.
Some of the project has been completed, including the 4,300-square-foot training center and 5,000-square-foot intake building. The training center, say Nate’s officials, is a key component of the project because that’s where staff will train dogs and cats on becoming home-based pets.
The last phase of construction, currently ongoing, is a 23,000-square-foot welcome and education center. That phase includes nine new dog cottages, which come with solar-powered fans inside and cupolas to circulate air. There’s also a new cat habitat in the works, which will provide felines indoor and outdoor access.
The welcome center has many other highlights. The list includes a veterinary clinic; parvo and maternity ward; an education and community center that can host birthday parties and even weddings; and a waffle cafe and ice cream shop. The events side is important, say both Oglesby and Dougherty, because it provides ongoing revenue streams. “How great would that be,” asks Dougherty, “to have a wedding surrounded by kittens and puppies?”
There will be a two-bedroom apartment on the second level of the center for students on a veterinary externship and possibly an employee. There will also be an end-of-life room for pet owners to avoid the lobby, when preparing to have their pet euthanized.
The fundraising goal to cover all this was initially $10 million, but that went up by $2 million to account for supply chain and other issues. While the Benderson family is a big supporter, and there are some other major donors, for the most part, Oglesby says, “we’ve gotten a bunch of small donors” to fuel the campaign.
The welcome center is scheduled to be open by June, though Oglesby, taking a visitor on a tour in late 2022, says he’s prepared for more delays. Oglesby counts off some of the delays one by one: air conditioning units were more than a year behind, doors for kennels were 20 weeks behind schedule and cabinets were four to six months late.
“It’s taking forever,” Oglesby says. “But it’s going to be amazing.”