story by Greg Alexander | photos provided by K&L Photography
A relatively new, up and coming nonprofit, A HOPE for Santa Rosa County has many goals to making lives better for companion animals. Their name alone shows that their mission is clear. HOPE stands for Health, Outreach, Prevention, and Education. They offer direction and a means to get pets spayed or neutered and to keep pets Healthy. They have an external network that allows them to offer assistance with lost and found animals and provide Outreach for pet owners. They strive to Prevent pet disease and proper care by facilitating heart worm and flea attacks by Educating owners, children, and communities.
Brandy Winkleman founded the organization in 2017 but has a background of serving. In 2014, her friend, Tara DeAguilera, invited her to work a shelter adoption event. It was a successful adoption event and they got 50 animals adopted out that day. From that point Brandy was hooked, volunteering to do whatever she could to help out. She noticed dogs that weren’t ever getting out and the carts of cats and kittens being rolled to the euthanasia room so she started working hard with rescue groups, to get those animals out. There were many faces that couldn’t be touched, loved, or given treats before their final day. She tried getting as many out to rescue as possible but it was never enough. Brandy knew the goal was to never let them end up there in the first place and the way to do this was by lessening the numbers available. With a smaller population of animals, then there would be more space for those that accidentally ended up at shelters for an overnight stay, funds for the medically needy, and more time for the small staff to do the “happy work” of walking and petting animals. Brandy thought, “Let’s fix them,” and honed in on why more people weren’t altering their animals, putting collars on them, or microchipping. Cost was the primary answer and decided thata low cost clinic was needed for the citizens of Santa Rosa County. Funds were needed so she pulled in a few people that she knew could help on this grand mission and formed the team that has turned into A HOPE for Santa Rosa County.
Q & A with Brandi Winkleman, – President, A HOPE for Santa Rosa County Florida
*How long have you been involved with A HOPE for Santa Rosa County?
Our group formed the non-profit in September, 2017
*How is the organization funded?
We are volunteer based and a 501(c)3 non-profit. The expenses and charitable contributions to pet-owners in need are donated by our volunteers and donors. Our personal out-of-pocket costs include mileage, gas, and tolls. With such a critical, local need, we continuously request sponsorships and donations.
We transport and send supplies for more dogs. We do more Clinical/Veterinary services for cats because there is such an over abundance of felines. Our community cat population is estimated around 30,000 for all of Santa Rosa County. In order to get those numbers down, the cats need more medical attention.
*What impact has A HOPE for Santa Rosa County had on the community in the last year?
We have transported over 300 animals to get altered within the last 6 months. We collaborated with the city on implementing a new Trap/Neuter/Return amendment within Milton city limits. We have educated thousands of people via Facebook, Instagram, and in person to solve the serious animal overpopulation. We have influenced mindsets, educated and made significant changes that have made people excited about A HOPE.
*What is the most rewarding part of your involvement with the organization?
Two major factors have kept me motivated the most. One has been the people we have touched. I started for the animals, wanting to impact their lives and make sure they had a future, but the people… the owners of the animals have been so grateful, giving, and sincere
The second is that my children are so involved and have learned so much that can’t be taught anywhere else. Teaching a child to have love and compassion for an animal while also teaching the importance of medical related needs is vital. My children help carry kennels, feed animals, take photos, and fundraise. It has changed their lives and given them direction for their future. One reads new diseases from her Merck manual every day. Another dresses like a vet and inspects our pets and one wants to be a volunteer. They were impressive before this, now they’re helping us impact others.
*Are there any upcoming events?
May 8th (and every two weeks) Transport to Operation Spay Bay
May 12th (and every second month) Team Meeting
*What is one thing you want readers to know about A HOPE for Santa Rosa County?
Our group was formed to get a low cost spay/neuter clinic opened in Santa Rosa County. We need funds to achieve this and maintain it in the future. We are continuously applying for grants and accepting donations/sponsorships for the future clinic. We don’t plan to stop once we open this facility but plan to open an adoption unit as well. We will continue to offer transport to our clinic, so an immediate need is a cargo van. We are only able to send 20 to 30 animals every 2 weeks out to Operation Spay Bay in Panama City. We could send many more, or possibly go weekly, if we had the vehicle. We need help making a bigger impact!
We also want people to know that educating future animal caregivers is of very high importance to us. With a large enough facility, we can have room to educate school children, civic groups, etc. about the importance of proper pet care, responsibility, and maybe see an actual surgery.
We want people to be aware of our county statistics. In Santa Rosa County, we take in over 6,000 animals a year and over 4,000 are being euthanized. That’s a high kill rate. For cats alone, we have a 90% kill rate. This is why we’re pushing for a Trap/Neuter/Return program county-wide. If the general public would be allowed to trap cats and pay for them to get altered, vaccinated, tip their ear (a universal sign they’ve been altered), and return them, we would eventually see less feral cats. We provide the alter/rabies vaccine/ear tip for just $25 through Operation Spay Bay. If each set of cats and their offspring can produce up to 420,000 cats in 7 years, think of how much money that would save the county.
*How can someone become involved or help with A HOPE for Santa Rosa County?
For questions or volunteer applications, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Our mailing address is P.O. Box 4629 Milton, FL, 32572. If you need help with your cat colony, please register it at catstats.org/ahope4src.