BROOKSVILLE — The Humane Society of the Nature Coast didn't win the big bucks in Zoo Too's $1 million animal shelter makeover, but the shelter will receive $10,000 to help pay for needed improvements.
"There are no losers in this contest," said Nature Coast executive director Joanne Schoch. "This community and friends and relatives all over the country pitched in. To come in fourth in the U.S. is phenomenal."
About 2,300 shelters competed.
Central Missouri Humane Society tallied the most points in online voting among 10 finalists and will receive up to $1 million for a redo of its aging facility, according to Zoo Too chairman Richard Thompson.
The Missouri facility is in the university town of Columbia, where students rallied to the cause in a big way, Schoch noted. The second-place award of $50,000 went to a facility in Chico, Calif. The third-place winner, in Watertown, N.Y., will receive $25,000.
The feedback from Nature Coast's postings on the Web site, which promotes pet care and products, have buoyed the local society.
"We got an e-mail from an executive of another Top 10 finalist," Schoch said. "She was so impressed with what we did with so little, she split her votes between her own shelter and ours." The woman asked to remain anonymous.
Another out-of-state participant wrote that she was so impressed with the journals posted by Schoch and her husband, Dennis Schoch, manager of the local shelter, that she has pledged a monthly donation.
"We've had offers from across the country, from out of state, (saying) they will support us as a participating organization if we do this next year," Joanne Schoch added. "We definitely will.
"The kind of respect we've gathered across the country means a lot to us," said the director. "That's one of the highest compliments."
The $10,000 prize will go for building improvements and expansion plans, likely for architectural drawings or connections to municipal sewer and water services. Talks are under way with an engineer on the latter.
Schoch singled out Jeff Webb, former editor of editorials for the Hernando Times, and Vince Vanni, a public relations professional in Brooksville, for their contribution in getting the word out about the contest.
She also praised Christine Ryman and Bill Pierson of Computer Technology Solutions for their contributions, and Pasco-Hernando Community College for voting online.
"While we did not come in No. 1, we will find another way to make (upgrades and extension) happen," Schoch said. "We're going to get everybody together and make it happen. We're not quitters."
Beth Gray can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.