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Banking on KC – Kathryn Mahoney of Wayside Waifs

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Kelly Scanlon:

Welcome to Banking on KC. I'm your host, Kelly Scanlon. Thank you for joining us. With us on this episode is Kathryn Mahoney, the President of Wayside Waifs, Kansas City's largest pet adoption campus, and a no kill shelter. Welcome Kathryn.

Kathryn Mahoney:

Thank you, Kelly. I'm very excited.

Kelly Scanlon:

Well, first of all, I want to congratulate you on your recent appointment to President.

Kathryn Mahoney:

Thank you, Kelly.

Kelly Scanlon:

You're the president now of Wayside Waifs, but you are a CPA, you're an accountant by training and you started out at BKD, but eventually you joined the team at the Houston SPCA and then Wayside Waifs in 2015. What drew you personally to this cause?

Kathryn Mahoney:

I've always loved animals and always had a menagerie of them as I was growing up. At BKD, I was auditing nonprofits and realized that I could use my business skills to further a mission that I really cared about. On my first week on the job at Houston SPCA, it was following Hurricane Ike, which had destroyed Galveston Bay and it was all hands on deck at that time. So I was responsible for leading the emergency response call center, I had chickens housed in my office temporarily.

Kelly Scanlon:

Oh my.

Kathryn Mahoney:

It was very chaotic and I loved every minute of it. And from there on out, I was hooked.

Kelly Scanlon:

And now here you are again as President, I believe that happened in May. Wayside Waifs however has a much longer history. In fact, I think it dates back to the 1940s. So walk us through some of the milestones and how the organization has changed over the past 80 some odd years.

Kathryn Mahoney:

Well, we've been on the same campus since 1944, but we've upgraded substantially from that tiny farmhouse that we originally operated out of. We were close to being shut down at one point in the 90s and then a generous and passionate man, Harold Melcher, made it his cause to turn the shelter around. And we've been on an uphill trajectory since then.

Kelly Scanlon:

Going back to 1944, what was the original impetus for creating Wayside Waifs? And was it called Wayside Waifs from the very beginning?

Kathryn Mahoney:

The earliest name was the Kansas City Betterment Association. But in 1944, we were reorganized by Fenby Webster, who is actually the founder. And the original intent was to help homeless animals and children. And there was also a special interest in birds. We don't actually currently adopt out birds. We're focused more on cats, dogs and small mammals.

Kelly Scanlon:

How many animals does Wayside Waifs place each year?

Kathryn Mahoney:

We place around 6,000 pets during a typical year. Of course, that changed a little bit during COVID, but we have since resumed close to our pre-COVID numbers.

Kelly Scanlon:

Sometimes I read some stories or some articles about how people adopted lots of pets during the pandemic, or got new pets, puppies. And now that people are going back to work, that some of these pets, people realize they can't care for them like they did when they were home full time. So are you seeing a resurgence because of that, a need for new homes as a result of people returning to work?

Kathryn Mahoney:

I think what we're seeing is more related to the current economic challenges that people are seeing with inflation. And so we're seeing people look to surrender their pets because of that. Another challenge that we've seen that we're contributing to COVID is the fact that a lot of people did adopt at the beginning of the pandemic and they thought, oh, it's great because we'll be able to spend all of our time with the animals. But what happened was that they weren't then socialized with other people and other pets. And so we're seeing people want to surrender because of those behavioral issues.

Kelly Scanlon:

During the pandemic, you were doing virtual adoptions. Are you still doing that?

Kathryn Mahoney:

No, we did pivot to that just for the safety of our staff and for the customers. But we have since resumed in person adoptions and we're welcoming out really anybody who's interested in coming to see the campus because we have a lot to offer.

Kelly Scanlon:

Sometimes Wayside Waifs is referred to as a "comprehensive animal welfare organization." What does that mean?

Kathryn Mahoney:

It means that we believe in a complete circle of care. While adoptions are a very important service we provide, there's a lot more to it than that. Whether an animal comes in from a rescue, or a hoarding situation, or from an owner surrender, they're given the best care here. They may need to go through foster care before they're ready for adoption. And all of the animals are fully vetted, including spay and neuter surgery. We provide behavior evaluation and behavior modification if needed. We also provide humane education to more than 13,000 students a year in Kansas City. Our nationally recognized anti-violence program, No More Bullying, teaches compassion, respect, and responsibility through positive interactions with animals in the classroom. And the point is to create a kinder next generation and to prevent cruelty to animals and humans. We've also been helping families for generations with compassionate aftercare when it's that time for their pet, through our Pet Memorial Services Program.

Kelly Scanlon:

You actually have a place on your campus, I believe.

Kathryn Mahoney:

The cemetery began probably just a few years after Wayside started and there are over 12,000 pets buried in the cemetery, and we also provide cremation services if that's what a family prefers.

Kelly Scanlon:

Yeah. So you have all kinds of different, it's really a holistic approach to animal welfare, where you have your dogs, or your small mammals that need immediate care because they've been abandoned, or whatever the situation is that found them in your care. But also, you're working to educate, you offer services to current pet owners. So there's all kinds of different things that you're doing there. And you do all that in house, right?

Kathryn Mahoney:

Correct.

Kelly Scanlon:

So I imagine that you have quite a staff and also quite a volunteer effort that allows you to achieve all of those goals and carry out all those programs?

Kathryn Mahoney:

Correct. Do we have about 85 full-time staff. And in a typical year we have between 1,000 and 1,500 volunteers coming through to help us achieve all of our goals.

Kelly Scanlon:

What are some of the things that volunteers can help you with?

Kathryn Mahoney:

We really can utilize volunteers in every area of the shelter. Our biggest need right now I would say is dog socializers. They can do anything from helping feed, to walk, just socializing with the animals, they can take dogs out on field trips so that those dogs are getting some extra enrichment time away from the shelter. And also maybe just that exposure to find that family that's looking for them and they didn't even realize it.

Kelly Scanlon:

In 2020, Wayside Waifs completed a capital campaign. And that allowed you to add 20,000 square feet to what I believe was already nearly 50,000 square feet. So what is that extra space allowing you to do?

Kathryn Mahoney:

About half of the space was an expansion to the existing building for much needed additional staff offices, and also our new education and training center. We call it the ETC and it's three large multipurpose rooms that can be combined into one large room if needed. The rooms can be used for anything from internal staff meetings, to volunteer trainings, corporate rentals for meetings or parties. The space has also been instrumental in expanding our ability to provide behavior training classes for the public. One of the most prevalent reasons we see people looking to rehome their animals is because of behavior issues. So if we can curtail those on the front end, that's a win-win for the public and for Wayside.

Kathryn Mahoney:

The other half of the project was to build a separate building on our campus for dogs who need behavior modification before they're ready for adoption. It was the second purpose built building of its kind in the country. And it's for dogs who are high arousal, so those jumpy mouthy kinds, or shy and fearful so they now have a quiet space where our team can work with them each day to help them learn manners, or come out of their shell to make them more adoptable. While it's very resource intensive, so far, the program has been very successful.

Kelly Scanlon:

Let's talk about the adoption process. What does it entail?

Kathryn Mahoney:

So all of our adoptable animals are listed on our website at waysidewaifs.org. Interested adopters are welcome to walk in at any time during adoption hours to look at the animals. Potential adopters may meet with the animals. And if they're looking to adopt a dog, they can even bring their dog to meet the adoption candidates. There's also an option to take an animal home. Certain animals are available for what we call slumber pawties. So they can come home with you for the weekend to see if it's going to be a good fit. Really, we're just trying to make the best match possible. So there's a conversation with all adopters to make sure that an adoption's going to be a good fit for the whole family and for the pet.

Kathryn Mahoney:

So for example, if you're looking for a running mate, we can direct you to those more high energy dogs. If you're looking for a couch potato, and you know that you're not going to be going on tons of walks every day, we can direct you to those dogs that are lower energy for example. All adoptions are on a first come first serve basis, and I'm very proud of our matchmaking process and how we're able to make families complete every day.

Kelly Scanlon:

Kathryn, as someone who's been President of Wayside Waifs for just two months, but who has for the majority of their career, worked with organizations that promote animal welfare, what is your vision for Wayside Waifs?

Kathryn Mahoney:

My vision is for Wayside to really collaborate with others in our community to end pet homelessness and cruelty in Kansas City. The welfare of animals in our community is dependent on the people. And as people are faced with scarcer economic resources, pets will be impacted. So as we embark on our new strategic plan this year, my hope is that we're able to identify the greatest needs of the community that fall within our mission to determine how we'll be able to help make the biggest impact possible.

Kelly Scanlon:

I know you have a big event coming up here. It's one of your big annual events. Tell us about it.

Kathryn Mahoney:

So Clear the Shelters is a national event, and this event is being sponsored in large part by Hill's Pet Nutrition, and they will be helping us on campus for the month of August. But the last weekend of August, the 26th through the 28th, we're going to be having what they call a Crescendo Event. And so we're going to have reduced price adoptions and really are just hoping to get as many pets adopted into loving forever homes as possible, but also just really creating some excitement around being back in person, and being on campus, and seeing all of the things that we have to offer pet owners in Kansas City.

Kelly Scanlon:

What are some of your more heartwarming adoption success stories that you've witnessed during your time at Wayside Waifs?

Kathryn Mahoney:

I think it, a lot of times just really depends on pet's original story. If they've really had a tough road, if they've come from a hoarding situation, or some other large scale rescue, or if they came in emaciated and then you see them get adopted into this loving family who then just completely turns around their health, and their outlook on life, those are always really the most touching. And we have just such a great community that once they're involved with Wayside, they just stay involved and they give us such great updates on how their pets are doing. So it's always just so nice to be able to get those follow up stories.

Kelly Scanlon:

I've got to ask you about one of your programs and it's the Barn Cat Program. Tell us about that.

Kathryn Mahoney:

So some of the cats that come in, they're a little bit more on the feral side and they're not going to be your typical inside cat. And so if there's a way that we can help continue on the life of that cat, to give them a job really by having them be, we call them working cats. That is usually the best type of outcome for those barn cats and typically place them for no fee. So if a person is coming in and looking for that specific type of animal, we are usually able to help in that regard.

Kelly Scanlon:

A program for so many different things, and as you said, you have a full staff, but you can also use volunteers. For anyone who is interested in donating, volunteering, or in adopting a pet, waysidewaifs.org is the best place to go?

Kathryn Mahoney:

Yes, absolutely.

Kelly Scanlon:

Thank you so much Kathryn, for being with us on this episode of Banking on KC. Congratulations again on your promotion to President and just thank you so much that you are doing for the animals in Kansas City.

Kathryn Mahoney:

Thank you, Kelly.

Joe Close:

This is Joe Close, President of Country Club Bank. Thank you to Kathryn Mahoney for being our guest on this episode of Banking on KC. Many people assume animal shelters operate simply to reunite pets with their owners or to adopt them out. But as Kathryn explained, animal shelters provide broad services that benefit animals, their owners, and the community as a whole. You can show your appreciation by donating, volunteering and spreading awareness of what animal shelters like Wayside Waifs do for the community. Your support will help them improve services and expand their reach. Thanks for tuning in today. We're banking on you Kansas City. Country Club Bank, member FDIC.

 

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