PITTSBURG — Mary Kay Caldwell and Joanne Wenzl, together, have a combined 85 volunteer years at the SEK Humane Society.

Their last day of service was Oct. 23, when they turned in their resignations during the shelter’s board meeting.

“It’s giving other people a chance,” Caldwell said. “Joanne and I are getting older, there are a lot of young people and they are energetic and have new ideas and I think it’s just time for change.”

Caldwell was the president of the SEK Humane Society for over 40 years and Wenzl was also on the board for over 40 years.

Jennifer Girth and Kim Watson have taken their place as interim president and treasurer, respectively. During the next board meeting there will be a vote for new president and treasurer.

Wenzl agreed.

“I think both of us made this decision at a time when the Humane Society is at a good place financially, we have our new building, our new dogs runs, fencing — it’s time,” Wenzl said.

Caldwell and Wenzl said they still plan to continue to be on Pawprints on the Heartland board, where they serve as president and treasurer. They also said they plan to continue to be supportive members of the Humane Society.

The two “pet-lovers” met many years ago, when Wenzl brought in an ill stray cat that had been stuck under her house. Wenzl brought the cat to the vet, where she met Caldwell.

The two have been friends since then and share the love of animals.

“We’re just wired that way,” Caldwell said.

Wenzl agreed.

“We are animal people,” she said.

Caldwell said she tried to run the shelter “as a business with a heart.”
“I was always frugal in spending and closely monitored spending — had some difficult times when we had to borrow money to keep the gates open, but when we were down, something always positive happened or someone came through,” she said.
Animals were always put first, Caldwell said.
“The Lord has blest this organization with great boards, staffs, volunteers, and donors throughout the years,” she said.
Caldwell said they tried to never let a call go unanswered. Although funds were limited, they would always find a way, she said.
Over the years, there were a few bumps along the way, Caldwell said.
“When dealing with people there are a lot of different ideas, motivations, and points of view,” she said. “We’ve had ups and downs but have always continued to move forward.”

Wenzl is a retired Cherokee and St. Mary’s Schools teacher of 41 years. She started two businesses which she simultaneously ran over the years, one was a tutoring business and the other was pet watching.

Caldwell also operates her own business, which she said allowed her the flexibility to volunteer at the shelter.

The community is invited to Caldwell and Wenzl’s “Celebration of Dedication” which will be from 2 to 4 p.m. on Sunday at the Frisco Event Center. Cake and punch will be served while supplies lasts.

SEK Humane Society since 1973
According to a release, in 1973 — the year that Society was organized —  the shelter consisted of eight dog runs and an office building that also served as a cat room. In 1983 eight more dog runs were built.  

The Society does not receive government money and has operated on donations, fundraisers, memorials and grants, the release said.

“The first major fundraiser which continues to this day is the chili dinner,” Caldwell said in the release. “Other fundraisers through the years were bake sales, watermelon feeds, mailers, bowl, Bark in Park, Santa pictures, donation cans, raffles, and pizza and food sales.”

In 1987, the the Doggie Bag Resale Shop at 1310 N. Broadway opened.  

“It was a huge success,” Caldwell said.  

The Doggie Bag moved multiple times as it grew and is now at 816 N. Broadway. The store recently celebrated its 31st anniversary, one of the oldest downtown businesses, Caldwell said.
Then, in 2000 Pawprints on the Heartland opened.

“The low-cost mobile spay/neuter program that has alleviated the birth of millions of unwanted pets was started,” Caldwell said. “It is a separate entity and is the sister organization of the Humane Society.”

“To date, over 80,000 animals have been surgically altered. The old office/cat building has been renovated into a fully-equipped surgical clinic.”
In 2004, a 43,000 square foot building was constructed. This has been followed by many other shelter improvements through the years: pet cemetery, cat and puppy exercise pens, new 10-run climate-controlled dog building, walking trail, dog park/play area, sidewalks, perimeter fencing, electronic gate, drainage system, new technology with security cameras, and shelter software.  

The Society has also been able to set up a substantial endowment fund and a 400-plus membership and always met State standards, Caldwell said.