Wishbone House volunteers fight to keep thrift store and cat adoption center alive

DOUGLAS — When Sandra Corsiglia and her fellow volunteers and staff at Wishbone House in Douglas received an email from the nonprofit’s president, requesting an in-person meeting to “give information” in two days, they did not expect what was to follow.

“It made us a little uncomfortable,” Corsiglia, an eight-year-old volunteer, told The Sentinel. “But we didn’t expect the information to be that we were closing.”

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There are just over a dozen staff and volunteers at Wishbone House, home of the Wishbone Pet Rescue Alliance, which also operates the Allegan County Animal Shelter. The establishment is part headquarters, part thrift store, part cat adoption center, housing a maximum of 27 cats year-round.

“We are all volunteers with three staff members,” Corsiglia said. “Staff members have the dirtiest work to do, cleaning, and they are assigned specific hours. The rest of us have more flexible hours. But they get a lot of free labor, which that sets us apart from other animal care facilities.”

Staff and volunteers – those who were able to attend the meeting – felt caught off guard by the news that the facility would close in October.

“They apologized, but it was empty,” Corsiglia said. “When they left and we got together, we talked about how the community needs to know about this. It’s a tight community and it spills over into Fennville and Holland.”

The loss of Wishbone House would be detrimental to the Allegan County Animal Shelter, Corsiglia said.

“If we lose 27 places it will have a huge impact,” she said. “They only have a limited number of places, and the cats we house are cats that just can’t make it to the shelter, with the dogs constantly barking. It stresses them out.”

Located at 165 Blue Star Highway, Wishbone House has been around since 2011. Corsiglia and her co-volunteers hope it will — holding a 7 p.m. town meeting on Wednesday, Sept. 21 at Coral Gables in Saugatuck.

“Do you want us to stay and will you support us?” said Corsiglia. “That’s what we’re looking for.”

Jim Sellman, chairman of Wishbone’s board, said the organization was already reconsidering, based on the reaction from volunteers and staff.

“The Board congratulates the staff and volunteers of (Wishbone House) for their passion and commitment to the organization,” he said. “We need the message to spread throughout Allegan County. Hopefully the publicity generated will do just that.”

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Sellman added that the organization needs “the generosity of the community now more than ever to provide much-needed financial and practical assistance, so we can continue our mission for the animals at the Allegan Shelter operated by Wishbone and Wishbone House.”

He said the board intended to issue a press release announcing the closure of Wishbone House in September, but – after dialogue with staff and volunteers – “we are exploring alternative options to the coming”.

Earlier this year, Wishbone announced it was considering a big expansion of the Allegan County Animal Shelter, hoping to add much-needed space for surgery, assessments and cats.

Contribute to the nonprofit at wishbonepetrescue.org/give. Visit The Wishbone House at facebook.com/thewishbonehouse.

— Contact journalist Cassandra Lybrink at [email protected]. Follow her on Instagram @BizHolland.