Castaways project

Castaways Animal Shelter and Sanctuary board president Dr. Verdon Parham looks over progress in the boarding kennel area at the shelter. Organizers had hoped to have the shelter open by now but it remains under construction, and a fundraising chicken dinner is planned 5-7 pm Friday at the Central Park Pavilion.


The Castaways animal rescue shelter east of Chanute remains unfinished and organizers have planned a fundraising event for Friday.

Board president Dr. Verdon Parham said the project has not made as much progress in the past year as they would have liked. Organizers had hoped to have the shelter open in 2019, but last week workers were doing floor preparation and the board wants to finish with interior concrete work.

Castaways will sell fried chicken dinners at the Central Park Pavilion from 5 to 7 pm Friday. The two-piece dinners are provided by Chicken Annie’s in Crawford County and cost $10 with two side dishes and a roll. Desserts are available for a $2 donation.

Parham said they ordered 200 dinners for a potential income of $2,000.

“Sometimes I’m afraid we’re going to have 190 leftover meals,” he said.

Castaways’ goal is to get the kennel boarding portion of the shelter operating so it can be part of the base income. The organization also is looking at other fundraising options like a thrift shop, which has been successful for an Iola group.

Parham said some of the criticism on social media – directed at the shelter because it has not opened and has been raising funds for more than 16 years – is justified, but there is a lot of misunderstanding. He said the primary goal has always been to open without going into debt.


Ground-breaking in 2016

The 9,375-square-foot shelter broke ground in 2016 after a 12-year fundraising effort. It was intended to house 40 dogs and 50 cats for adoption, plus an additional five cats and eight dogs for temporary kennel boarding.

It also includes offices, a medical care room, food preparation and laundry rooms, a quarantine room and a conference room where the Castaways board meets.

Weather made it difficult to get cement trucks into the shelter last year and Parham said the project turned out larger than expected. He said it required more leg work and details.

Board member Chris Wehlage said one big unknown is how long it will take to receive state approval once the shelter is completed.

“It could just be a week, it could be a month,” he said.

The board also has to create goals, policies and manuals.

“All those things have to be in place before we open,” Wehlage said.

The current goal is to have everything done within six months. Wehlage said from a construction standpoint, it should be very doable.

The shelter can’t start the licensing process until construction is finished. Once Castaways gets veterinarian approval, it can submit a license application to the state.

The Kansas Department of Agriculture website lists Ann’s Angels and Furever Shihtzu and Companion Dog Rescue, based in St. Louis, as licensed rescue network sites in Neosho County, while the Chanute Animal Impound and the Shire Kennel Club in Erie are licensed as animal shelters. Castaways and Furever Shitzu are 501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations, while Shire Kennel Club and Ann’s Angels are not. Ann’s Angels takes donations online through Paypal.

Parham also operates Shire Kennel Club, and he said it is an entirely separate entity. The kennel, which has six dogs and more cats, does adoptions but many of those animals are too old to be adoptable.


By the numbers

Tax returns posted online with the Internal Revenue Service show Castaways received $160,175 in revenue in 2017 and $92,530 in 2016. Expenses in 2017 were $91,174, including $58,976 in supplies, $14,462 in veterinary expense and $7,137 in repairs and maintenance.

At the end of 2017, the forms showed $241,672 in land, buildings and equipment assets, $18,301 in non-interest-bearing cash accounts and $1,478 in savings accounts.

The 2018 tax form was not posted online.

The forms show no expenses listed for benefits to or for members, compensation to officers, directors, trustees or employees, or for salaries.

Expenses for 2016 were $77,442, including $44,293 for supplies, $9,643 in veterinary expense and $6,156 in repairs and maintenance.

Castaways had less than $50,000 in revenue in 2013. In 2014, Castaways had $79,548 in revenue and $66,593 in expenses with $178,155 in assets at the end of the year. For 2015, revenue was $84,856 with $85,649 in expenses, including $43,718 in supplies, $16,829 in repairs and maintenance, and $11,549 in veterinary expense.

It began 2015 with $178,155 in cash assets with no land or building assets. It ended 2016 with $74,834 in cash assets and $117,616 in land, buildings and equipment assets.

Although financial records of 501(c)(3) organizations are public record, audits are not required. Parham said the finances are reviewed by a certified public accountant each year.

Wehlage said the veterinary expense was for a spay-and-neuter voucher program. He said people who meet a poverty-level threshold can receive vouchers for 75 percent of the cost that pays $100 to $150.

Wehlage, who was board president during 2019, said the tax filings usually are completed in October or November under an extension. The IRS postings have not been updated since then.


The shelter

Wehlage said a shelter of this size would be a $450,000 value.

“Something of this size is significant cost,” he said.

Parham pointed out that the shelter has separate heating and ventilation systems for different areas.

By comparison, the new pound Chanute is buildings will be 2,250 square feet with concrete block construction at a maximum budget of $137,000.

The pound will house 20 dogs and about the same number of cats. Officials hope to complete it by spring, but it will not be a no-kill facility.

Parham said the organization has tried to be as supportive of the community as possible, even though it may be cheaper to out-source services.

The year-to-year cash intake varies, Parham said. Wehlage said a lot comes from memorials.

“We spend money as we have it,” Wehlage said, adding that as soon as money is available, the pace of construction will pick up.

Chicken Annie’s has been featured on the Travel Channel, Food War and PBS, written up in the New Yorker, Los Angeles Today, San Francisco Chronicles and Honolulu Times and was voted one of the Eight Wonders of Kansas.

The Castaways annual meeting will be Feb. 4 at the animal shelter, and the organization invites anyone who is interested to attend.

Parham said there is a constant need for people to serve on the board of directors. The bylaws allow up to 15 members, but there are five on the board now with six to eight average in attendance at meetings, which are held at 6:30 pm on the first Tuesday of the month.

“Board meetings are public. Everything’s public,” Wehlage said.

Parham said people with questions about Castaways can contact him at (620) 433-1054. Wehlage is available at (785) 766-8731.

Of people critical of Castaways, Wehlage said there always is room for improvement.

“I’d even love to have their negativity,” he said.




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