Suncoast Humane Society recognized as Business of the Year by local chambers of commerce

November 6, 2020
By Olivia Cameron

BY OLIVIA CAMERON- Throughout this year of pandemic, every business has had to overcome many tribulations while seeking to contribute to the growth of its community. One business in particular has been recognized for its dedication to local animals that have nowhere to go.
The Charlotte County Chamber of Commerce, the Englewood Chamber of Commerce and the Punta Gorda Chamber of Commerce have elected the Suncoast Humane Society as the 2020 Business of the Year.
Maureen O’Nell, CEO of Suncoast Humane Society, was ecstatic that the shelter received the recognition. The business has been recognized for progressing and evolving through a difficult shift in operations. On behalf of the shelter, O’Nell accepted the recognition with gratitude. 
“There is no part of our operations, shelter, clinic, pet therapy, and even our thrift stores and fundraising that has been unchanged by the virus,” said O’Nell. “After fifty years of dedication to our community’s pets and the people who love them, we have had to evaluate how we best make an impact with all of our efforts.”
As a business, Suncoast operates on a simple mantra: There is a solution to every problem. But the thrift stores needed more attention than they were able to receive. Soon after the year began, they had no choice but to shut the stores down. 
“Facing the loss of income from the stores was terrifying. Without the generous support from Peter and Elsa Soderberg and those who helped us meet their match of $300,000, we would never have been able to rise to the myriad challenges we faced.”
O’Nell attributes the success of their business through the unpredictable year to the support of the staff and community. 
“The involvement that has been triumphant has been in the numbers of people who have stepped up to help us with our foster program,” she said. The care of the shelter animals couldn’t halt with the rest of the community. 
“There was very little we knew or could predict when the pandemic required businesses to close. One thing was crystal clear: We needed to get every animal into a comfortable, loving environment while everyone watched to see what would happen.
The community stepped in and took these guys into their homes to love and protect them. It has meant the world to all of them.” 
As the local business of the year, the shelter is thriving off love and gratitude. “How do we feel? Truly honored. Wow, just wow! This team has indeed shown tremendous tenacity to serve our mission and our community during exceptionally challenging times,” said O’Nell.
She believes they owe a great deal to the animals. “During a time when we could have lost sight of our end goal, to help those who cannot help themselves, we never did. The animals were unshakably central to our decision-making. I couldn’t be more proud of them and am thrilled they received this tremendous honor. They deserve it and we will continue to strive to offer our very best to those with no voice.”
Looking forward, the shelter will continue to provide support to the animals, each deserving of care. “Any day that you talk to us, there will be an animal that is at the top of our minds who is struggling to overcome extraordinary odds against them,” said O’Nell. In particular, O’Nell recognized four animals that have been on her mind. “Today, we actually have four such animals that tug at our hearts just a little bit extra,” she said. First there is Titan, who had a 1.5 lb tumor removed from his leg. “We are praying it isn’t cancer, but if it is, we will ensure his comfort and let him know that he is now very much loved.” 
Then there’s Bella, a pup who was turned into a county facility with her mouth tied shut with hair ties. Luckily, she was adopted by the foster family that aided her postoperative recovery. Of course there’s Nutmeg, a little guinea pig who had stopped eating because his molars had become grossly overgrown. And Betty, a gorgeous, lovable cat who had to have a feeding tube inserted because she had stopped eating. 
“These are all animals who need our love and care today, but when we plan for our future, it is for the animals who will follow in their paw prints, whose needs will be just as important.”
For more information, visit humane.org.