The Past and Present of Paws2Help, Inc
Paws2Help was founded by Eve Van Engel after she noticed a desperate, tiny black dog not far from her neighborhood. His sad form appeared to be a walking skeleton, covered in mange and body sores. “Skelly” was the only fitting name for him. The heartbreaking sight of this neglected little fellow served as only a glimpse into the future. Daring to acknowledge that this was but a small sample of so much lack of care and attention in such a small area of the city, there was no way to close the “bag of worms” and walk away
So many dogs and cats needed medical attention. The numbers had climbed to five or six every month. The cost for one retired person to shoulder became prohibitive. Funds had to be raised.
To offset the growing medical fees, the first thrift store was opened in West Palm Beach. The store’s location soon became known as a safe place to bring the lost, injured abused and/or homeless animals. The sanctuary merely evolved from the need.
Paws2Help acquired an old, but adequate, veterinary clinic that was much in need of a “face-lift”. Three grueling months later with much perseverance and blind determination, we opened, with no money. Providing deeply discounted spay/neuter and a $10 minimal cost “shots and wellness clinic” made us very popular in the community. Some days as many as 80 animals came through our doors. We were able to purchase the building within two years.
Our small leased thrift store building was sold, with no warning. The replacement store was a 13,000 square foot facility in a perfect location. The dogs in rooms that were custom designed for their comfort. We never used cages. Animals were kept behind glass so they can enjoy watching the shoppers. Each room had multi-levels so the dogs could travel top to bottom, side to side as they play with each other. The cats roamed in a giant cattery with ceiling high catwalks and catwalks that crisis crossed all over the store. Kittens stayed in a glass-enclosed nursery surrounding the front counter where people waiting to check out their purchases play with and talk to them.
1999 – 2002
In the summer of 2002 we were notified that the building on Palm Beach Lakes Boulevard that we had learned to think of as “home”, was for sale. Creating a plan to finance a property with a price tag of over one million dollars was initially daunting. We went all out to achieve it.
Our service to the community has spread from that one small segment of the city where “Skelly” scavenged, to being known countywide.
2003 – 2004
A very disturbing period, expensive, disruptive and emotionally draining, we lost both of our properties, at the same time. The Palm Beach Lakes store, became a “litigation and strangulation” nightmare. The billions of dollars of the oil company won the battle. Our rock solid concrete clinic on 25th Street, was taken by the City, under the “pretense” of eminent domain. With over 100 animals to house and care for, these had to be our first priority.
We found a small building on Military Trail with almost an acre of vacant land, space for the animals. We moved in and while we made as much comfort for the animals we built a very difficult to work in environment for the staff. No laundry facility, no commissary, limited storage and very squashed office space. A draw back, these premises were only available to us for one year. Our clinic service is a necessity. Having neither the space nor the inclination to put a lot of money into this temporary location, we built two state of the art mobile clinics.
2005 – 2006
We became mobile, working our clinics and adoptions out of parking lots. The Salvation Army on Palm Beach Lakes Boulevard were wonderful supporters of our cause and allowed us to park in their rear lot for one year.
2006 – 2008
In the process of negotiating to purchase the store on Westgate, we found that the building was not commercially zoned, and in October we were evicted. We again went mobile.
We’ve moved into our now location at 2061 Indian Road, West Palm Beach. Here we really flourished, initially open just four days each week with one doctor and three staff. Soon after we added another day and another doctor. Word spread about our services, and by customer demand we added additional exam rooms, doctors and staff.
We have the space, so it was time to start to build a new work/customer friendly clinic inside the building. Whoa! a very exciting time.
It was at this time that we became aware that the building was slowly sinking into the sugar sand below us. Add to this fact, that we had totally outgrown our parking we reluctantly realized that we had to move AGAIN.
We signed a contract on what could be the perfect location for us to have our dream clinic. 12 days after we submitted our contract to buy the building, Sunnilands Patio Store, burned down. Yes we are feeling a little dented, but defeated we are not. We have thousands of good reasons pushing us to forge ahead and once again overcome a “location problem”.
We are not connected to the county sewer system, and it seems that we have totally “killed the drain field”, we are constantly backing up, and now unable to run washing machines, another problem with our location to be overcome as we try so hard to raise funds to acquire a more suitable location right here in the immediate area. Our intended satellite office in Jupiter is in construction stages and we hope to be open there March 2014.
Finally our Jupiter branch clinic opened early September 2014, Paws2Help cannot recall ever having an easy time to achieve its goals, in the early days it was lack of finances, lack of equipment, and very little support from donors, but we forged ahead. Opening Jupiter should have been a piece of cake compared to past achievements, not so, it seemed that everything in the book became a problem. Finally it is all behind us and we are now open. Focus now is to find a suitable building in West Palm to move our current clinic to.
Finally found a new location. After too many setbacks, including building out a location that we were unable to work in, we found our home. It was on Forest Hill Blvd. We started construction immediately.
We move into our new building on Forest Hill Blvd. So many compliments were received (and still are) about the change of scenery. Not only by clients, but also employees! "We have windows!" A major declaration we all had coming in from our warehouse building. So clean, so open, so beautiful! We couldn't have had a better spot. Little did we know, that with our fancy new digs we would lose out on the many donations that have kept us afloat in the past. Donation boxes aren't being filled like before... As well as a board deadlock which halts all growth, for now.
Struggles between board members still cause tension within Paws 2 Help. With the board in deadlock, we cannot make any big changes, so we continue working, helping the animals in need of care.
Unfortunately, Nov 5th we lost Eve Van Engel, our Founder. It was a sudden and unexpected loss. She has been missed greatly, but all employees, dedicated to Paws 2 Help, are doing everything they can to keep her memory alive, and continue the mission.
A story from Eve:
"People say to us almost daily, “I don’t know how you do this work, it must be heartbreaking.” It is heartbreaking, but also heartwarming."
"Hardly a day goes by that somehow I am reminded of a very undernourished Rottweiler who came to us with a 5-day-old litter of 8 puppies. Her life consisted of being tied to an old wooden doghouse, and a bowl of food when “He” remembered or had the time to fill it. This undernourished mom could not produce milk, and therefore could not feed her pups. She dug holes around the dog kennel and, one by one, she buried the pups. She was distraught, and then would frantically dig them up. Within hours would dig holes and bury them again. Her nose was bleeding from the effort; she became frenzied, tied with a chain, not knowing when she would get a decent meal. She felt that she had to save her puppies from the pangs of hunger that she knew so well as she knew that she could not feed them."
"A neighbor saw this, rescued the mom and her pups, and brought her to us. She devoured three large bowls of high-protein food, as we all frantically bottle-fed the puppies. Two days later she lay so proud of her brood that were suckling happily on her milk."
"We get our rewards every day, when we see the gratitude of these poor animals. We look forward to doing so much more, on a higher level than in prior years."