Lee shelter to honor foundation

Photo by Laura Williams

Photo by Laura Williams

LEESBURG, Ga. -- While humanitarian gestures are not usually made for recognition, the chairman of the Lee County Commission decided a local doctor and the foundation he represents deserve more than a passing mention for their help in building the county's recently completed animal shelter.

So Ed Duffy recommended, and commission members gave their initial blessing to, a measure that would name the shelter the Fifth Friday Foundation Animal Shelter in honor of the charitable organization founded by Dr. Phillip Hajek.

Hajek's Fifth Friday Foundation contributed $215,606.48 to complete the construction of the shelter.

"I certainly appreciate this gesture, not so much for any personal recognition but for the positive attention it will bring to the foundation," Hajek said Wednesday. "Getting involved in this particular project was so much fun to all of us, and we feel that anything we give is going to come back to us manyfold times over."

In addition to the Fifth Friday Foundation, through which Hajek and his associates -- Ki-Hon Lin, Benjamin Thomas and Steven Ganzel -- at Musculoskeletal Associates of Albany donate office proceeds from any fifth Friday that falls in a given month to deserving charitable organizations, another anonymous doner gave $50,000 to the Lee animal shelter project.

In all, an additional $114, 558.59 was donated by groups and individuals toward the building fund. The county also utilized around $70,000 in special-purpose local-option sales tax funding to complete the project.

"The recommendation (to name the shelter for the Fifth Friday Foundation) came from the chairman," Duffy said. "I can't imagine anyone deserving an honor more.

"When I initially visited Dr. Hajek's office and our conversation turned to the foundation, he said he had around $80,000 in funds to use for special projects. By the time the animal shelter was finished, the foundation's contributions had surpassed $215,000. I have a suspicion Dr. Hajek and his associates put some of their own money into this project, and I really wanted to see them recognized."

Public Works officials said Wednesday the facility, which includes 38 dog kennels, 30 permanent cat pens and other temporary pens, has remained at full capacity since it opened.

"We're being overwhelmed with animals and animal-related calls," Public Works Director Mike Sistrunk said. "We're averaging around 20 animal calls a day with at least 10 or so more each weekend. What that's done is put us in a bind as far as financing health care of the animals. We have to de-flea and give shots to any animal we take in, and that usually runs from $25 to $30.

"But we're getting this kind of response because there has always been a need for this facility in Lee County. I would certainly be proud to put (the Fifth Friday Foundation) sign up on this building. If it weren't for Dr. Hajek and the foundation, this building would not be open today."

Sistrunk said animal lovers in the community are still welcome to donate supplies or make monetary contributions to the shelter. And Hajek said he is still looking for more businesses to get involved with the Fifth Friday Foundation.

"People are talking about the economy, but really businesses should get involved because of the economy," Hajek said. "You're going to get back what you put in several-fold just out of customer loyalty."

In addition to the Lee shelter, Hajek said the Fifth Friday Foundation is involved in charities such as Shoes That Fit and is putting aside funds to build a noneuthanasia animal shelter.