By Julie Huss
---- — DERRY — After 27 years of helping animals, a local humane group may call it quits.
The Greater Derry Humane Society is in dire need of new volunteers in order to continue its mission, members said this week.
If no new faces step up, the group may dissolve.
“I’m not hopeful,” organizer and co-president Barbara McCarthy said. “I think it’s too late.”
McCarthy said she also has to think about herself at this point as she battles some health issues.
“I’ve been sick and, after 27 years, I just can’t do it,” she said.
The nonprofit, all-volunteer organization offers not only foster homes and adoption services, but also education programs in local schools, dog obedience classes, pet therapy in area nursing homes and other community outreach programs.
McCarthy got involved in Derry’s organization right from the start.
In the beginning there were about three active volunteers. McCarthy jumped in full force and helped the program grow from an early effort with only $11 in the bank into a mission that joined the Derry-based group with other animal rescue efforts around the area to find homes for pets.
The organization now has about $30,000 in the bank, she said.
There is no physical shelter in Derry. All pets waiting to be adopted are in volunteer foster homes. The group’s budget comes only from volunteer support and donations.
Right now, it’s a case of not having enough help.
“We have so many great programs, as well as all the animals we rescue from terrible situations,” volunteer Paula Dunlavey said.
She said the lack of volunteers is serious enough that the group could disband this year.
“It’s certainly depressing to see how few volunteers we have now,” she said.
Only a core group of about seven attend the monthly meetings.
Dunlavey and her husband Marty have volunteered for about three years. The couple participates in many efforts, including pet therapy and community television programming.
They found their niche.
“I just loved everything about it,” Dunlavey said.
Many volunteers have adopted their own pets through the local group.
Right now, there are three dogs listed on the group’s website for adoption. Cats are handled through a joint mission with Salem-based Feline Friends, another all-volunteer, no-shelter organization.
McCarthy said she is proud of the adoption success stories. The group’s work is made possible through donations and the support of committed veterinarians who give discounts spaying or neutering and vaccinations.
McCarthy said she has worked hard to secure grant funding, but often found herself reaching out to the same people time and time again for financial support.
She said will find out what has to be done to legally dissolve the organization. That includes finding out what to do with any remaining money.
McCarthy credits the passion of the remaining volunteers, but it’s not enough.
“Some like the idea of helping,” McCarthy said, “But when I say, ‘Call me,’ or ‘Come over, I want to teach you things,’ no one has.”
There just aren’t enough people willing to help, she said.
Marty Dunlavey said he is depressed about the potential demise of the organization.
He credited McCarthy’s passion.
“This woman is the reason we have had success,” he said. “It would be so much more difficult without her. There is no better friend or president for the Humane Society than her.”
It’s now down to some last-minute attempts to rally help.
“We’re doing last ditch efforts to put the word out,” Dunlavey said.
For McCarthy, it’s about taking care of her health, but she’ll never stop caring about the animals.
“I just can’t physically do this anymore,” she said. “We all do the best we can, but I don’t see it continuing.”
For information about the Greater Derry Humane Society, call 434-1512 or visit derryhumanesociety.com.