New animal shelter director to focus on funding, upgrades
HUNTINGTON — Courtney Proctor Cross may have only started her job as executive director at the Huntington Cabell Wayne Animal Shelter two weeks ago, but it’s a job she’s been unknowingly preparing for her whole life.
As a child, the animals at her home outnumbered the people.
“Ever since I was a little girl, I have always loved animals and taken in strays and just cared for animals,” she said. “My parents were big animal lovers, and when I was a little girl we had a little bit of everything — dogs, cats, rabbits, fish, frogs, guinea pigs.”
For a few years, her family also had a buffalo named Marco that served as the mascot at Marshall University football games.
As adult, Cross said she has carried on the tradition of surrounding herself with more animals than people.
“Animals are my passion,” she said. “It just always has been.”
In the beginning of August, Cross, 54, turned her passion into a full-time job as the new as executive director at the Huntington Cabell Wayne Animal Shelter.
Cross said the former director of the shelter, Scott Iseli, will now solely focus on the animal control aspect of the shelter while her responsibilities will include fundraising, grant applications, outreach and shelter improvements.
“It feels kind of like a little miracle to have this opportunity,” Cross said. “It’s kind of one of those ‘Pinch me, is this really happening’ kind of moments because for years I’ve attended meetings and written letters and come up with plans for how to improve things at the shelter, and now I get to be part of it all.”
To cover the cost of her salary, which is roughly $60,000, and the cost for needed supplies, repairs and improvements, Cross is working to raise funds through the Western West Virginia Animal Rescue Alliance.
Eventually, Cross said she is hoping her position as well as other shelter necessities can be covered by grants.
Prior to coming to the shelter, Cross
taught at what was Cammack Middle School and is now Southside Elementary for more than three decades.
As another passion of hers, Cross said it was hard to take a leave of absence from teaching.
“It was difficult to make that decision, but I felt like at this point in time the animals needed me more,” she said.
Cross said right now her leave of absence is only temporary, but if things at the shelter work out, she is hoping to make to move permanent.
Since stepping into her new role less than two weeks ago, Cross said she has worked on making some big changes.
“We’ve had 60 or more volunteers over the past week who have put in over 200 hours,” she said.
Cross said volunteers and staff members have cleaned, made repairs, cared for animals and much more.
Right now, Cross said volunteers are working to clean out two rooms and turn them into a nursery and a recovery room for sick animals.
She added that the cats have also been moved out of their small room and into the garage, which is large but is in need of some work.
Cross said she is also reaching out to local high schools, Marshall University and other organizations that may need community service hours as volunteers, which are always needed at the shelter.
“We’re just really trying to make a lot of positive changes and welcome people and encourage people to come and help,” she said.
While she’s already got the ball rolling on a number of projects, Cross also has a long of future goals and improvements she’d like to make.
Ultimately, Cross said she would like to have a new animal shelter building that would cater to the shelter and the community’s growing needs.
“People are very passionate about animals, most people have pets and they want to help animals,” she said. “I think that given the opportunity and given the invitation to come in and help people around here will step up — they’re already stepping up.”
Though her parents are not around to see how she has carried on their passion, having perished in the Nov. 14, 1970, plane crash that killed 75, including most of the Marshall University football team, Cross said she has no doubt they would be proud of what she has accomplished.
“They would be really pleased.”