Rescue organization opens thrift store

Robin Bradfield, president of Furry Friends Animal Rescue, unpacks donated merchandise in the group's new thrift store located north of Woodstock while Scout, a Bernese mountain dog and former rescue of the group, looks on. Rich Cooley/Daily

WOODSTOCK – After years of assisting animals in need through an informal social media network, nonprofit-in-progress Furry Friends will open up a thrift store today to help raise funds and serve as a headquarters.

President Robin Bradfield started the organized initiative to provide health care, food and shelter for pets by setting up the Furry Friends Needing Homes Facebook group in 2012. Now, with more than 12,000 members, the group has grown so much in scope that Bradfield and other board members needed to find other means to raise money for the expenses involved.

Another Facebook page for yard sale and auction items has helped gather some funds for the group’s operations, but a large volume of donated items paved the way for a thrift store that they’re opening in the lower level of 23540 Old Valley Pike.

“We were working out of our storage unit and then when Kenny Garman offered us this for a decent price, we just grabbed it,” Bradfield said.

Bradfield and the other group admins had to give the building a bit of a face-lift before setting up shop by laying down carpet, installing new lights, painting and getting a new window installed. The group has more than enough inventory to fill the store and is open to new donations of items to sell and pet supplies to distribute directly as needed.

Operations for the thrift store are still being situated, so Bradfield estimated that it will be open from about 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays, purely dependent on volunteer help.

Secretary Rachel Calabrase said the organization has spent more than $11,000 on animals in 2015 alone. Much of that comes from vet bills for spaying and neutering animals and providing pets and owners with needed treatment for injury and disease.

Jane Johnson, foster coordinator for Furry Friends, said her Bernese mountain dog mix Scout came to Furry Friends weighing a pitiful 91 pounds before she took him in. Volunteers assist pets and pull animals from high-kill shelters in North Carolina and West Virginia. Bradfield said they’d once rescued 27 dogs in a single day in North Carolina.

“There’s just an overpopulation and not enough shelters or other rescues in the area to handle them all,” Calabrase said.

Furry Friends seeks out permanent and foster homes from its network, but a large number of homeless pets end up staying with the volunteers themselves. Bradfield said she’s fostering 14 rescue cats alongside her own pets.

Bradfield only recently filed for official nonprofit 501(c)3 status with the IRS, a process she said is expected to take around a year. Until then, she said Furry Friends can’t take animals from shelters in Virginia or accept any grants or company sponsorships. The organization can still take in direct donations through PayPal and GoFundMe accounts online as well as to an account at Seven Bends Veterinary Hospital, which matches donations up to 10 percent.

Seven Bends veterinarian Dr. Bruce Costen said Bradfield has been very active in her rescue efforts and frequently comes to the hospital for advice.

“I’m thrilled that people are interested in helping the animal community in this county,” he said. “There’s certainly room for people who need assistance, and as a business with expenses I can’t provide as much assistance as I would like, so its wonderful to have organizations that are set up to do that particular thing.”

With so much time and money invested in the rescue efforts and setup of the thrift store, Bradfield is counting on making it a success.

“We’ve got so much riding on this store … because there’s no room for failure,” she said.

Contact staff writer Rachel Mahoney at 540-465-5137 ext. 164, or rmahoney@nvdaily.com