Monroe animal shelter mortgage could be gone with couple’s generosity

As a young girl, Juli Nimitz remembers talking to her grandmother about the importance of giving.

Her grandmother’s advice: There are three groups that have no voice and need your assistance: Animals, children, and the elderly.

Spoken more than 50 years ago, those words stuck.

Now Nimitz and her husband, Mark Ott, are helping all three groups with one significant donation: a matching challenge capital campaign that could generate $500,000 for Progressive Animal Welfare Society (PAWS) in Monroe, nearly paying off its mortgage.

“I couldn’t get a higher return on my investment,” said Nimitz, a long-time PAWS volunteer and recent board member. “It’s the best money I’ll ever spend.”

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Tracy Gilchrist, executive director of the animal shelter, called the matching campaign “enormous” and said the goal is to have the money raised by the end of the year.

“Thank you isn’t enough,” she said when asked her reaction to the couple’s generosity. “Thank you a million times isn’t enough. This will insure that we continue saving lives indefinitely. That true love for animals is a blessing for the animals and the longevity of PAWS.”

One day Nimitz, looking for an organization to support, asked Gilchrist how she and her husband could financially assist the center.

“Pay off the mortgage,” Gilchrist joked.

“We’ll see what we can do” was Nimitz’s response.

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Four years ago, PAWS moved from Cincinnati-Dayton Road to its new adoption center at 6302 Crossings Blvd. The 4,000-square-foot building cost $1.2 million, and $200,000 more was spent on the garage and other additions, Gilchrist said. She said the mortgage is $610,000, meaning if the capital campaign is successful, only $110,000 will be owed.

Nimitz, 59, of West Chester Twp., and her husband of 34 years talked about donating to different organizations and said they chose PAWS because they believe in the work being done there. They both have volunteered there in different capacities.

Children will benefit from the donation because PAWS offers a Cat Chat Reading Society where elementary children are invited to read to cats, Nimitz said. The reading program helps the cats with their social skills and allows children to read out loud without being judged by their audience, Gilchrist said.

PAWS also offers an Animal Bequest Program, where elderly animal owners are encouraged to include their pets in their wills to insure the animals are cared for if their owners die first.

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The campaign may be successful, Gilchrist said, because sometimes donors are “intimidated by large numbers.” With the matching program, Nimitz and her husband are matching donations to the organization dollar-for-dollar up to $250,000.

Nimitz said she wanted to donate the money now so she could see the benefits of her savings.

“There was no sense in waiting and putting the money in our will,” she said. “So we decided to give it away now. If I give the money when I’m dead, I don’t see it. I’m selfish, I guess. I want to see this.”

Since moving PAWS from Cincinnati-Dayton Road to the center that faces Ohio 63, Gilchrist said foot traffic has increased 80 percent and that has resulted in more adoptions. PAWS used to average eight to 10 adoptions of dogs and cats per month, and during one recent month, it adopted 41 animals, she said.

With the increased demand, Gilchrist said PAWS now is receiving animals from area kill shelters. When someone adopts an animal, she tells them they’re saving two lives: the adopted animal and the space created for another animal.

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