Animal group bids adieu to two founders

Organized in 2019, WAAG persisted through the pandemic


February 1, 2024

Courtesy photo

Anita Orchin

Two volunteers instrumental to the formation of the Wahkiakum Animal Advocates Group, President Rebecca Hompe and Treasurer/Secretary Anita Orchin, stepped down from the group on Jan. 15, and are looking forward to new challenges and experiences their newfound freedom will provide them.

"I'm humbled to have been a part of WAAG and so proud of what we accomplished in our first four years," Orchin said. "The community embraced us, trusted us, and supported WAAG from the beginning. It's been exciting to have been a part of that."

"We started organizing this group in August or September of 2019," Hompe said. "Over four years have gone by very quickly, but there are some things my husband and I have put on hold because of the workload that was required and the dedication to WAAG. I think we came to the conclusion that if we wanted to travel a bit more, have a little bit more freedom in our schedule, that we could hand it off with the help of a couple new board members coming in."

Because the business was started just a few months prior to the pandemic, It required a bit of creativity to hold meetings, get the word out about their organization, and develop their programs.

Finding volunteers was always a problem. Even now, with the shift in leadership and few new members, one board seat sits vacant.

Still, they've had many success in those four years, including developing financial aid for veterinary assistance or their spay/neuter program, finding some fosters, a pet food pantry available to anyone, and the trap/neuter/return program for feral cats.

125 dogs and cats were spayed or neutered as of the end of August 2023, Hompe said, and she and the other volunteers, who rotated an on call schedule every two weeks, took 145 calls for assistance from community members, including the Wahkiakum County Sheriff's Department.

They provided over 1,000 pounds of pet food to people in the community.

"There is so much need for animal assistance," Hompe said. "I think because there are veterinary shortages in this country and techs are few and far between, people are losing housing because of having pets. I feel like it's an ongoing thing. I don't think there is ever not going to be a need, financially or in finding resources. We never felt like building a shelter was a good idea for a variety of reasons, financially it would probably bankrupt us. We would probably do it with our foster home program, which we still need to grow."

If she has any regrets, it's probably not building a bigger volunteer base, or being able to offer the educational classes they had in mind.

"It's hard to get enough people, so the workload fell on a few of us, and burnout is a real thing," she said.

While she is sad to leave, she knows the organization is in good hands, and hopes that more volunteers will step up.

"They'll do a good job," she said. "They'll be there for people and the animals. I hope it continues to have a positive impact."

Wendy Edwards, who has been on the board since it's inception, is now stepping into Hompe's former role as president.

Courtesy photo

Rebecca Hompe and her dog.

Edwards says she will continue WAAG's mission to look for partnerships with other organizations, including with nearby humane societies, though she admit's its unlikely as they are already overwhelmed with animals and their care, continue to grow their trap, neuter, and release program, and continue to look for more volunteers and fosters.

"It's looking really well," she said. "We are looking forward to 2024, and growing, and serving our community. We've got two new board members with a lot of energy and lot of computer and social media skills. They also live in Wahkiakum County, which I think is important. All the board members are now Wahkiakum County residents."

Edwards has been working in animal rescue for over 40 years, she said, working with many organizations in California before moving here nearly six years ago.

"We're looking to move on to bigger and better things," Edwards said.


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