WALLA WALLA — While it was cold on the outside Friday afternoon, with rain pelting like a golden retriever shaking off water, there was nothing but sunshine on the inside of the Blue Mountain Humane Society’s building.
It began with the postal delivery that brought two donation checks to the desk of Sara Archer, executive director. One from a Walla Walla resident in memory of “Tom, the orange cat.” Another was a gift for several thousand dollars from the Patterson Charitable Foundation in Lowden.
Both donations were surprises, Archer said. “Every day I walk to the mail box thinking ‘What affirmation is in there today?’ From seven years ago, it couldn’t be more different.”
She didn’t know how different this day would be until she spied Lawson Knight standing in the shelter’s lobby.
Knight, executive director of the Blue Mountain Community Foundation, had brought more light to Archer’s day — $328,410.07 worth.
The money is nearly one-third of the estate left by Luetta Anderson, who arrived in Walla Walla with her family in the 1930s as a fourth-grader. After graduating from Walla Walla High School, Anderson made a career in the insurance business, working at McDonald Zaring Insurance here.
Before her death in November of 2011, Anderson once turned down Archer’s request for a direct donation to help the animal shelter during leaner times.
Anderson agreed to talk to the humane society’s director about her outdoor cats and the enclosure she had built for them, Archer recalled, but made it clear she wasn’t going to hand any money over at the time.
Getting such a decided confirmation that Anderson understood and appreciated the shelter’s mission was humbling, Archer said to Knight. “And we will spend every penny wisely.”
Via the Blue Mountain Community Foundation, the money came without strings, for use in ways the BMHS board of directors sees fit. Archer, however, was already dreaming of a new surgery table. One that doesn’t have to be set up on blocks, with veterinarians of varying heights standing on bags of dog food to reach proper operating altitude, she said.
In minutes, the director had gathered staff for an announcement, but not before greeting a crated guinea pig, a newcomer to the shelter.
In explaining to the group what the mail had brought — “When the checks come in with a comma, you notice that.” — Archer saved the biggest for last. Like an excited student at show-and-tell, she displayed Anderson’s picture around the impromptu circle before saying aloud the numbers on the check Knight had delivered.
Her employees reacted with indrawn breath and mouths shaped like capital Os, while Archer gleefully commanded “Wet food for everyone tonight!”
It goes to show that by treating everyone they come across with kindness, people will remember and honor that, Archer added.
Friday’s surprises capped a month of financial sunshine. Last weekend, the humane society’s annual fundraiser, the Furr Ball, brought in about $70,000, surpassing last year’s $47,000.
“It was so affirming,” the director said. “I told the staff Monday morning, ‘They like us. They really, really like us.’ It just shows we’re doing something right.”
For more information about Blue Mountain Humane Society, including adoptable animals at the shelter, go to www.bluemountainhumane.org.