by Judi Young with interviews of Janet Joers and John Van den Bergh
On February 22, 2012, The Kerry Blue terrier foundation will celebrate the end of its first decade of service and support to Kerry Blue terriers and their people everywhere. To help us understand what has happened in these last ten years, I turned to two of the people who were instrumental in creating and establishing the Foundation: Jan Joers and John Van den Bergh.
I asked Jan to just talk about the Foundation, how she saw it develop and the benefit it gives all KBT lovers. Here's the answer, in Jan's words:
"In my view, the Foundation got started as a way to bring people together for the betterment of breed. And it still does this. Initially, the Kerry newslist brought together Kerry owners who didn't know each other and had no other means of meeting each other. They didn't go to dog shows or belong to breed clubs, but they loved the breed, and we began sharing information on health issues, behavior issues, training issues, and the personalities and antics of our dogs. Suddenly, we were a community, and what we learned from each other benefitted our dogs, changing the way we interacted with them and how we approached some of the challenges in owning this breed. That newslist embodied a huge reservoir of knowledge and wisdom. It was empowering!"
"I believe that it was some of those newslist exchanges that got John and me thinking about formalizing a nonprofit for the breed. Online we discussed health issues, but what could we do about them? We discussed how Kerries are mistaken for other breeds, but what was being done to find them in shelters? And we shared this huge pool of knowledge about the breed, but who was it benefitting besides us? From those three questions, the Foundation was formed to address: (1) the health and genetic issues of the breed by doing a comprehensive health survey among Kerry owners, identifying the issues of most concern, and ultimately participating in and funding research projects that would improve the health of the breed, (2) the rescue of Kerries misidentified in shelters, aided by the online Shelter Scout program, and finding other Kerries in need of help across the country and placing them in good homes, and (3) the education of the public, as well as Kerry owners, about the breed through a quarterly newsletter, and a website that covered virtually every aspect of what owning a Kerry was all about."
"Thus, the Kerry Foundation mission statement came into being, and it is still the same today: The Kerry Blue Terrier Foundation is a nonprofit charity dedicated to promoting the welfare of the Kerry Blue Terrier breed in the areas of education, rescue, and health & Genetics."
"The Foundation brought together people in ways and on a scope that had never been done before. Suddenly hundreds-no, thousands-of people were learning about the breed in a public forum, and they were supporting the work of the Foundation through their donation dollars and by volunteering. And nowhere did the volunteers join forces more than in the Rescue program. With a network of volunteers across the US and Canada, we were able to rescue hundreds of Kerries-Kerries in shelters, Kerries in bad homes, and Kerries in puppy mills and dog auctions-and place them in good homes. At one time, in March of 2006, the Foundation had 65 Kerries in its Rescue program, including 34 from one rescue that involved over 50 volunteers-numbers unprecedented in the history of the breed. The incredible teamwork that made that happen also cemented lifelong friendships, not just friendships among the Rescue team, but also among the foster families and the adopters of the Rescue Kerries. These people, as well as those who serve in other areas of Foundation work, came together to make a difference in the lives of Kerries, but for many, it made a powerful difference in their lives as well. I believe that's where the value of the Foundation lies-in its roots, in its ongoing ability to bring people together for the betterment of the breed they love."
A visual example of how the Foundation brought people together is seen in the "Foursome" photo.
From left to right: Mimi Wight, Judith Bruno, Tracey Fulmer, and Jan Joers. Although Jan knew Judith before the Foundation, the rest were brought together by the work for the Foundation. The photo also represents East (Mimi in NH and Tracey in MA) and West (Judith and Jan from CA). The weekend this photo was taken, there were 7 Kerries in all (not altogether at the same time!), but the three shown here are all Mimi's-from left to right Lady Day, Connor (adopted Foundation Rescue dog), and Ella.
Mimi Wight was instrumental in the success of our first big Rescue, The Great Escape (flying to St. Louis to process 14 Kerries), and an indefatigable Rescue volunteer throughout the years. Judith Bruno started and maintains the Foundation database, volunteered in Rescue, and owned only Rescue Kerries. (5 in all!) Tracey Fulmer developed the Shelter Scout program and served as the Northeast Rescue Coordinator, working in all aspects of Rescue-from rescuing, fostering, vetting, screening, and placing Kerries, and even adopting one from the Shelbina Rescue (a Rescue she worked on, flying to Iowa to process 34 Kerries).
Tracey Fulmer also served on the Foundation Board. Janet Joers served as the first Rescue Director for the Foundation, and developed the policies, procedures, and network that helped rescue hundreds of Kerries, including those from puppy mills and dog auctions.
She also produced the quarterly newsletter "What's New?" and helped raise the funds needed to support the Rescue program.
John Van den Bergh was asked some very specific questions for his part in this history:
When the Foundation started in Y2002, what did it offer to its members? Not much: only the KB-L newslist and a website both of which had been started earlier! We did offer receipts for tax deductible donation and we did get our first matching corporate donations from Adobe and Microsoft.
We were not thinking about what we can offer "members", but what we could offer the Kerries. The KBTF never had a membership requirement; anyone with a Kerry or interested in one is automatically a "member" of our Kerry community.
When did the KBTF start the rescue program? Janet Joers was the Rescue Coordinator for the KBT Club of Southern California beginning in the early 1990s so she was well seasoned in rescue before the Foundations began in Y2002. Much of what became part of the Foundation was developed and in operation before the legal entity now known as the KBTF was set up.
The rescue program developed as the needs expanded and more and more regions of the country were assigned to local Rescue Coordinators, all working under the supervision of the Rescue Director.
Why did you feel it necessary to create the legal entity the Kerry Blue Terrier Foundation?
- To create a non-profit 501(c) 3) so that people could donate tax deductible gifts to support the programs and the breed.
- To create a vehicle for receiving grants and matching gifts which only a 501(c) (3) organization can legally do.
- To create a formal organization with a structure that could survive the founders of the organization.
- To create an organizational structure where volunteers could utilize in their talents and volunteer in support of the breed they love.
- To provide an example for Kerry clubs and other rescue and breed organization on how an effective and dynamic organization such as the KBTF can make a positive difference in supporting owners and their Kerries.
When did the KBTF start to sell KBT items and what was the first thing we sold? The Christmas cards in Y2005 were the first things we sold through the Foundation. These first Kerry cards were a big success. The plush Kerry toy still sells well today.
Were there things that were implemented that sounded like great ideas at the time but didn't work out so well? Oh yes! For example, it sounded like a wonderful idea to post the names and addresses of KBT list members on the website: it backfired because people got lots of spam.
Then the holiday cards: the first year sold very well, but the second year the sales were much lower, even though the cards were different and just as lovely. After that we reduced the number of cards printed but the 2006 cards are still available.
One other project that didn't work out as planned was participating in the iGive program. Even though people shopped at the same sites that gave the Foundation 3-30% of the sales, entering the stores through the iGive portal just never made it to the forefront of people's action when they shopped online. Although the program still exists and still gives monies to KBTF for those people who use our portal on the KBTF home page, it is not very popular.
What do the next ten years look like in your crystal ball for the Foundation?
- With the popularity of the KBT waning and fewer puppy mills with Kerries still in operation, I think our emphasis on rescue may wane to same degree. (This is good!) Thus more focus can be developed on education.
- The KBTF has a unique expertise to teach other rescue groups about our highly successful rescue model.
- Higher quality articles on the web site
- A major reorganization of the web site, with maybe a completely new look.
- Consideration of expansion into Europe
- It is likely that within ten years there will be a new leadership in the Foundation as I hope to slowly reduce my involvement.
As KBT lovers, the KBTF has given us a "home" for ten years to exchange ideas, to find solutions to problems and questions on how to provide the best for our KBTs, and to meet other KBT "groupies" just like ourselves.
It has helped us grieve, it has given stories of great joy, it's given us a place to simply look at other KBTs, it has provided direction when illness affects our KBTs, it has become THE place to go to for education on just about everything Kerry.
And it has given us an opportunity to support something we care deeply about, either financially or as a volunteer. As the world becomes smaller and more interconnected, we are grateful for this one place to find like-minded, caring people who, like each of us, treasure relationships with our own Kerry Blue terriers.
We are all looking forward to the second decade!