Big Cat Rescue Expands
Word of mouth advertising has always been our most valuable resource. From donations, to our fabulous volunteer force, to the good will in the community it has been the power of social networking that has enabled us to save so many great cats and to make their plight known around the world. Every year we have been able to make the world an incrementally better place for exotic cats and for the rest of us who share similar needs for a more compassionate and sustainable environment.
As word about the work we do has spread, more people have been dropping by, but we are not open like a zoo. The only way to see the cats is on a guided tour because we want to insure the safety and tranquility of our animals and we want to be sure that people know a whole lot more about the plight of cats and what they can do about it before they go. All day, every day, we would have to turn people away at the gate who arrived at times other than our regularly scheduled tour times. Every person who was turned away was a missed opportunity to engage them with our mission.
Another huge mistake has been that we have always been closed on Sundays. Week ends are the time that most people are free from work and they or their children are out of school. We have not only missed half of the potential tour opportunities but have also shut our gates to half of the volunteerism hours that our supporters could offer if there was something they could do on Sundays.
We won’t be missing these opportunities any more.
Thanks to our generous donors who have contributed to a Wall Fund and a reduced price given to us by Bravo Fence and Expert Gate we have fenced off the parking area. Now we can leave the main gate open every day from 9 till 5 and on Sunday from 11 till 5. At this time we still are not able to offer tours on Sunday, but the gift shop will be open and our Partner Volunteers can help share the cats’ stories until our Sunday crew grows to the point where tours could be feasible.
In times past we would have to have all hands on deck to man the parking area during tour times because with 20-30 car loads of people all pouring out of their vehicles we had to make sure no one wandered off. The guests were corralled by staff and volunteers to direct them into the Trading Post where they would sign in, hear the rules and then leave out with a guide on their tour. Now that the parking lot is surrounded by high, impenetrable fencing, there is only one place visitors can go and that is into the Trading Post.
By leaving the main gate open every day we are able to have guests come into the Trading Post where they can shop, watch videos about our sanctuary, pick up literature, pre pay for a later tour, buy gift certificates and see photos of the many cats who call Big Cat Rescue home. This gives guests a much better understanding of what they can expect to see on a tour in a relaxed environment. It is a lot better than shouting to them through a locked gate, over the roar of their motor, that they missed the last tour and will have to come back later.
As people have discovered our gift shop and the fact that sales not only help provide for the cats at the sanctuary, but also help save cats, like the Snow Leopards, in the wild, they have come to do a lot more of their discretionary shopping here. Now they can do it any time and not just at tour times AND they will have a much larger selection because we just renovated the Trading Post.
We were able to increase the shopping floor area from 466 sf to 862 sf by moving our offices and Admin staff to the E Center. The new expansion opened up two more bathrooms to guests that had been in our private office area. This almost doubled our shopping area and the new space and daily access should really increase our bottom line as we head into the holiday season.
Our staff benefited as well; moving from 180 sf of space into the E-Center’s newly renovated 418 sf of space. The only one to really get the short end of the stick was our President, Jamie Veronica, who lost her office with its window view of Windstar the bobcat (one of her favorite cats) to the gift shop personnel. There was no room in the E-Center for her either, so she ended up in the Lion’s Lair Party Pavilion. Her office there is much larger and nicer than the one she had, but summer camp and party events are held in the Lion’s Lair, so it can be pretty hard to concentrate and it is about a 15 minute walk from there to the main area of the sanctuary. Most of her work can be done remotely, so she isn’t complaining.
All of the new expansion and accessibility has come at a cost. The 732 feet of fence with three gates cost right at $30,000. We have had to add more security cameras, display stands, improvements to the septic system and other costs which bring the total up to around $36,000. For us that is a lot of money, but we believe it has been a prudent investment that will allow us to reach more people and increase our revenues which in turn support the cats. You can help pave the way for the future of the big cats and get some great naming opportunities by helping us pay for these expansions:
Your Name on a Sign on Tour Path and on a Ceramic Tile at Gift Shop
$500 and up. Your Name or other inscription on a sign on our tour path and on a ceramic tile at our Trading Post for a year and then permanently installed in a building at the sanctuary. Details/Donate
or Simply donate any Amount $10 and up
Your donation is used however it is most needed at the time.