Late couple inspires cooperation, helps local animals forever
What began as one man's dream has snowballed into a community-wide effort to control Summit County's cat population. In 2007, Cecil Smith consulted his financial advisor about using a large part of his savings to spay and neuter local cats. His advisor, Steven Wise, suggested he establish a fund at Akron Community Foundation.
"I said, 'You made your money here, why not keep it here?'" Wise said, confident in the foundation’s ability to carry out his client’s wishes. "I was aware over the years of the foundation's excellent reputation for investment management and vetting nonprofit organizations."
Smith agreed and established a field-of-interest fund at the community foundation. The Rosalie and Cecil Smith Fund’s first grant of $15,950 went to the Summit Animal Coalition, a consortium of rescue and welfare groups aimed at improving lives of local animals. The grant funded the sterilization of untamed stray, or feral, cats. Shortly after seeing the grant awarded, Smith died at the age of 99.
However, his vision and passion for Summit County's animals did not end with his passing. The grant prompted an anonymous donor to give $50,000 to expand the spaying and neutering program to all cats in the county. More than $65,000 in grants went to fix 1,042 cats through the "No More Fat Cats" initiative. The free program was coordinated by the Summit Animal Coalition and facilitated primarily by One of a Kind Pets, which operated mobile clinics throughout the county. The sterilizations were free, but many residents reached into their wallets to support the program, said Sarah Aitken, One of a Kind Pets spay and neuter director. Gifts totaling more than $1,843 extended the reach of the original grants and made additional surgeries possible. Aitken was understandably pleased.
"As long as there is money, we will continue to help," she said. Without the combined effort of multiple donors and organizations, such a large impact would not have been possible, said Karen Conklin, Summit County Humane Society executive director and Summit Animal Coalition spokesperson. "Without Akron Community Foundation, such a project could not even begin until 2010 or beyond," Conklin said. "It proves that when you unite, you can build capacity."
Today, the Rosalie and Cecil Smith Fund has awarded more than $110,000 to organizations that spay and neuter feral cats, as well as those that spay and neuter cats and dogs of low-income individuals. It will continue to support Smith’s passion forever, carrying out his dream of controlling the county’s stray animal population.