VERNON HILLS – Orphans of the Storm has a new spot in Lake County to showcase animals as the demand for adoptions rises.
The shelter recently hosted a grand opening of its new location at Hawthorn Mall in Vernon Hills. Along with adoptions on the weekends, the shelter intends to house volunteer orientations, trainings and future youth programs at the new space.
Orphans of the Storm has a shelter in Riverwoods, an animal clinic and hospital in Libertyville and a spot to showcase animals at Northbrook Court.
The Vernon Hills space provides an additional way for the organization to connect with the community, said Kristen Tump, the organization’s volunteer and event coordinator.
“This place will be slightly different,” she said. “Not only will it be a place for us to showcase animals and find them homes, we will have a separate room in the location for our future youth program. We’re super excited.”
For now, the Hawthorn Mall location will showcase animals from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on weekends. The animals will be brought from the shelter to the space for the day, Tump said.
A start date for the youth program has yet to be determined, she said, but the idea is to host classes on how to properly bathe and groom dogs and other topics.
Representatives of Hawthorn Mall approached Orphans of the Storm about six months ago with an invite, and plans for the new space grew from there, she said.
The organization has had to adjust its adoption procedures as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, requiring appointments, temperature checks, masks and limits on the number of people allowed inside the shelter.
Still, more animals are being adopted than ever, Tump said.
“We’ve seen a big increase with everybody staying at home,” she said. “It’s been great to see how many people want to open their homes to animals. It’s kind of been a little hard to keep up with the demand but we have a lot of partners and help.”
The shelter averages about 70 dogs and six cats, she said, but can house up to 115 dogs and 75 cats.
“The amount of animals we have has been lower because they’ve been getting adopted so quickly,” she said.
Among the animals finding a home during the pandemic was Raven, a 1-year-old German shepherd mix adopted by Dana Fine, her husband, Steven Blitzstein, and their two young girls. Having already adopted a 5-year-old mutt named Scarlett from Orphans of the Storm, the Highland Park family had agreed to foster Raven and another puppy in March.
Fine was about seven months pregnant at the time.
“We were not planning on adopting either one of them,” she said of the puppies.
A friend of the family adopted the male puppy, leaving Raven behind.
“Our daughter, she’s going to be 3 next month, is just so attached to this dog. They’re just inseparable,” Fine said. “We couldn’t take this dog away from her.”
The relationship between Fine’s daughter, Betty, and Raven is so strong that Fine wrote and independently published the children’s book “Quarantine Fosters” in January about it. Fine is donating a portion of the sales from the book, available at Amazon.com, to sponsor another German shepherd mix named Sheldon that is available for adoption through Orphans of the Storm.
Fine grew up near the shelter and would visit the animals there. She always planned to adopt when she got older. The family first met Scarlett at the organization’s Northbrook Court location.
“We think they’re an incredible rescue organization,” Fine said. “One of the things they do is allow the dogs to be social with other dogs. … They come to you socialized, which Is fantastic.
“And they’re always a great resource. Raven is a big girl, and she’s a lot to handle. They have been amazing when we’ve called them and asked about getting help. They’re always there to answer any of our phone calls and make sure we’re the best advocate for our dogs.”
Fine said she feels lucky to be part of the organization’s family.
With its new location at Hawthorn Mall, Orphans of the Storm is hoping for more success stories.
“It’s a beautiful space. It’s absolutely wonderful,” Tump said. “It’s another place to be able to engage with the community and to get the message out there about adoption and how fulfilling and rewarding adoption can be.”