On Monday, Sept. 12, Stepphine Tilden got a call bearing bad news.
She was told the barn in which she stores thousands of pounds of cat and dog food for Cedar Rapids AniMeals — a not-for-profit that delivers donated pet food and provides spaying and neutering assistance to the area’s elderly, disabled and others needing help caring for their animals — would be torn down in 30 days.
She wasn’t really surprised, she said. The barn is in bad shape, with a leaking roof that is wreaking havoc on the rest of the frame and foundation.
“We could see it getting worse every day,” she said.
But she thought she’d have more notice.
The owner of the barn, Shawn Graham, said that a severe storm with strong winds last February ripped a significant number of shingles from the roof, leaving big holes that exposed the inside of the barn to the elements.
“The wind demolished the whole top of the building,” he said. “Water is getting in and birds and bats. It’s just not going to be structurally sound. We don’t want it falling down and anybody getting hurt.”
Although he had insurance on the barn, there was not enough to cover the more than $30,000 in repairs needed to save it.
“There’s just not $30,000 worth of building there to be willing to spend that kind of money,” he said. It is time to tear it down.
“We’ve never had any issues with AniMeals. They’re a good group of people — courteous, kind and they always keep everything clean,” Graham said. “I hope they can find a facility to accommodate them.”
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Although Tilden managed to negotiate an additional 30 days to find a new place to store their stash — currently about 8,000 pounds of pet food — the organization has so far come up empty-handed.
Without a new home on the horizon, volunteers fear the organization — which has been serving Cedar Rapids, Marion and Hiawatha since 2000 — may need to shut down for good.
Their disappearance would not only impact their more than 300 clients, but also potentially area shelters which could become overwhelmed with animals if their clients lose the ability to feed their pets.
As of now, AniMeals still is hunting for a new home.
Heidi Karr, president of the non-profit, said they need about 1,000 square feet with public access so that the group’s 40 volunteers can come and go to pick up and make deliveries. The facility does not have to to be climate controlled. If necessary, they could try to downsize to fit into a smaller space, Karr said, adding, “Beggars can’t be choosers.”
Ideally, though, a new space would be donated to the organization, as it is completely volunteer and donation-based. If they receive enough monetary donations, they could consider renting a space temporarily, but that would only delay the problem, Karr said.
“I don’t like to think about what would happen to all the animals if we closed,” she said. “We would be gracious for any opportunity to look at any space. The program really depends on it.”