Focus on Cumberland County Animal Safety organization turned over the results of a four-year, $400,000 project from the heart and donated a new animal intake facility to Cumberland County Saturday.

The nonprofit group also hosted an open house celebration and ribbon cutting at the building which will temporarily house stray animals once they are brought to the county animal shelter. Animals will be evaluated, treated and those that are healthy will be transferred to the county’s adoption facility.

“It’s never been ours; we’re just kind of been entrusted with it and so today we’re giving back to the community and entrusting the county and the animal shelter staff to care for it from here going forward. It’s the community’s responsibility to look after the animals …,” Dr. Mark Hendrixson of FOCCAS said.

Hendrixson thanked all of the volunteers, donors and friends who helped the group along the way. He personally thanked other nonprofit agencies such as Wags and Whiskers, who lent them a hand and gave advice in the beginning with organizing.

The facility is built directly behind the Cumberland County animal shelter’s adoption facility.

Hendrixson said the vision of a new animal shelter started four years ago with a Facebook page organized by his wife, Jan Hendrixson.

“Within one week, there were 100 people interested,” he said.

The group began organizing and holding weekend fundraising events and eventually raised more than $400,000 for the project.

Cumberland County Mayor Allen Foster said, “Wow, is this not an exciting day? This is a great day for Cumberland County … I think what makes it special are all of you. All the people that have come together and put their time and efforts into making this happen. You always hear about how Tennessee is the Volunteer State, but I’m telling you volunteerism is alive and well in Cumberland County. You can tell by looking around right now.”

Foster reflected back to a building and grounds committee meeting when he was a county commissioner.

“I was thinking how close we came to not being here today. I mean it was within seconds of us not being here today. And what a tragic loss that would be for the animals of our community. But working here, together, (we all) did it. So, thank you all. It’s a proud day, but I also think it’s a day of reflection. I think we should just look at all we can accomplish when everybody works together instead of pulling in opposite directions. It’s truly amazing what we can do as a team.”

Foster said he is excited about the future of animal welfare in Cumberland County. He thanked all of the volunteers, FOCCAS, the Hendrixsons and presented them with a plaque honoring them and FOCCAS for all of their volunteering and efforts for animal welfare in Cumberland County.

Rob Harrison, Crossville city councilman, said, “This is really a great facility, and I’m glad we had so many people supporting it and have come so far in caring for animals.”

The city of Crossville and Cumberland County partner in sharing the annual costs of operating the animal shelter.

“We have waited so long for this day, and I am so excited about it,” Jan Hendrixson said.

“It’s like sending your child off to college,” Dr. Hendrixson added.

Although the facility was turned over to the county, it will not be occupied right away.

Andrea Henshaw, Cumberland County Animal Shelter director, said the facility needs a few finishing touches with plumbing and water.

“Then we will have to wait for the certificate of occupancy to come through,” she said.

Henshaw estimated they can start moving animals into the facility sometime in August.

During his thank you speech, Hendrixson said FOCCAS is just getting started.

“FOCCAS’ work is not done. Stay tuned, because there is more to come,” Hendrixson said.

Many volunteers, citizens and public officials attended the event and celebrated.

The Cumberland County Animal Shelter is at 782 East Lane. For more information about the animal shelter, call 484-8525.

Gary Nelson may be reached at gnelson@crossville-chronicle.com

Crossville Chronicle senior staff writer