Story By Carolyn Arkinson (Author of Sadie Mae Baird bookseries)
THERE’S A LITTLE-KNOWN SECT OF SECRET SAINTS residing in northern Tulsa County in the City of Collinsville. The humble warriors of the Ward-Wiseman Animal Haven (WWAH), modest as any ordinary “saints” and sporting compassionate hearts, have worked tirelessly for years to assure the homeless dogs and cats in Collinsville have a safe shelter until their forever-home can be found.
In August, 2004, Susan Babbitt, the Collinsville Librarian, together with other concerned Collinsville residents realized that the only shelter available for the one animal control officer in Collinsville was a decrepit cinderblock building with a lean-to tin roof and no windows. These gracious souls decided to do something about it. Forming the Friends of the Collinsville Animal Shelter (F.O.C.A.S.), the group’s objective was to build the first and only no-kill shelter to replace the existing shanty, to lobby for implementation and enforcement of animal care ordinances and to give Collinsville animals a chance to find a loving home.
Launching various fund raising drives where sponsors could buy a doorknob, a wall or a sink, the building was built as the group had available funds. During this process, Susan learned a great deal about how to construct a building and she received enormous assistance and cooperation from various members of the Collinsville community whom she would call to ask, “What do I do next?” It took four years to raise the money and on January 28, 2008, the WardWiseman Animal Haven opened its doors as a debt-free, kill-free shelter which can house 14 dogs and 10-12 cats. The land was donated by the City of Collinsville and the City also pays the WWAH utilities.
Susan says, “When we opened, we had no idea what we were doing. We now work with a veterinarian; we have a paid part-time staff and many volunteers. All babies are now healthy and we take in animals just from the Collinsville area. An animal is only euthanized here if it is determined to be too ill or too aggressive to place.” Susan also appears on Fox 23 every Wednesday morning featuring a special animal needing a forever-home.
Being a uniquely “Collinsville” treasure, the Ward-Wiseman Animal Haven was named after two helping Saints, Veterinarian Lincoln Ward and Episcopal Priest Father Bill Wiseman who both departed the earth in separate accidents too soon to witness the completion of WWAH. Both gentlemen were instrumental in the building of the Animal Haven. To honor their spirits and their involvement, the citizens of Collinsville chose Ward-Wiseman as an appropriate demonstration of appreciation in naming this extraordinary project.
Ward-Wiseman Animal Haven operates entirely by donations. Contributions of food, toys, bedding and cash as well as donations of time by Girl Scout Groups, Eagle Scout Projects, 4-H Clubs and local residents make this community project a most sincere expression of “a body of people working together.” Children in the community have birthday parties with all gifts going to the WWAH in the form of food and necessary items. Eagle Scout projects also include the building of an outdoor cat playpen, a lighted flag and garden area, and a special drain to help with rain run-off. Individuals work constantly to assure the shelter does not have that shelter smell, stays neat and clean, and does not feel like an animal shelter. The pets are exercised on a regular basis and socialized.
The organization is financially stable as they work each year to raise the money needed for the following year ahead of time. The Board of Directors includes an attorney, a CPA and other very organized Collinsville and Tulsa citizens.
Chris Armistead, WWAH Board Chairman, very proudly describes the WWAH Waggin’ Wagon which is a 12-foot air-conditioned trailer that was donated to transport animals to adoption events. A generator was also donated to operate the air conditioning. Mr. Armistead states the group is currently in need of a pickup truck that can pull the trailer to allow for more events. WWAH dogs are available for viewing and adoption locally at the PETCO® located on 41st Street, near Yale Avenue, on the third Saturday of every month. Visitors are always welcome at the Ward-Wiseman Animal Haven located at 15628 North 129th East Avenue in Collinsville. Weekend hours are Saturday 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. and Sunday by appointment so please call ahead to make sure the volunteers are present (918) 371-1009. Their web site is www.wwahonline.org, and it provides news of the organization’s current projects, fundraisers and various pets available for adoption. The website makes it easy to make contributions to the organization and to become a member as well.
The major projects that Ward-Wiseman Animal Haven is currently involved with include a cooperative effort again with the City of Collinsville and Mayor Stan Sallee to build an Animal Control Officer (ACO) City Building with 11 kennels to replace the cinderblock building currently in use as an isolation unit, and offices for the City ACO. (To prevent the spread of disease, animals are currently quarantined at the original cinder-block building until they pass a health inspection and are placed in the WWAH building.) Engraved bricks can also be purchased at the www.wwahonline.org website for the Pete & Piper Nature Park which will be constructed next to the Ward-Wiseman Animal Haven providing a wonderful nature park environment for the City of Collinsville as well as an exercise area for the residents at WWAH.
WWAH Board Members and officers include, Chris Armistead, Jenn Armistead, Tracy Baldwin Mary Bishop, Susan Branen, Linda Carnes, Mary Francis, Mary Guilfoyle, Deb Lutz, Faith Orlowski, Diane Schultz, Ann Stribling, and Jennifer Wooldridge. WWAH Staff include kennel manager, Michelle Loggins, assistant, Sam Francis, and secretary, Wanda Nyberg. These saintly souls in Collinsville are doing wonderful work for the canine and feline critters among us. The example of community action and responsibility being demonstrated by the residents of the City of Collinsville make us all proud Oklahomans. Let’s join with them in supporting these projects so vital to their thriving populace.