Feb. 24, 2006 – The Humane Society of St. Thomas is losing its first executive director next month.
Joe Elmore announced Thursday that he has been summoned to help out with the recovery effort in the flood-ravaged Mississippi gulf coast. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals contacted Elmore to supervise the recovery.
Elmore expressed mixed feelings Friday morning. "I really feel honored to contribute to that recovery," he said.
"I went up there in December," Elmore said. "You should see the looks on those people, the fatigue. The storm destroyed more than 200,000 homes, leaving hundreds of thousands of people and animals homeless."
He added, "I've been in St. Thomas longer than anywhere. It's my home; my best friends are here. And there are many things initiatives here I still want to do."
Elmore served in management positions at the American Red Cross for about 15 years. He was manager of the St. Thomas-St. John chapter from 1997 through 2000.
"I saw the aftermath of Hurricane Marilyn," Elmore said. "Can you picture anybody that went through that, only 10 times worse?"
He said the Humane Society of Southern Mississippi is in need. "The director resigned the day before the storm and left. So many people were affected; they had 32 employees and only eight were able to return to help afterward. What they have done is a massive evacuation of animals, and there are so many people still living on casino barges."
Elmore said the new shelter is "six times our size." He said he will be "mentoring" the Mississippi Society's new director, in a two-year position. "Oh, my title? It's really long," he said. Elmore will be Director of Strategic Development for the ASPCA National Outreach Team.
"In my 20 years in disaster experience," Elmore said. "This is the worst I have ever seen. It is the most costly disaster in American history.
"While there are a number of initiatives needing to be accomplished here, their needs are great. This is so much worse than Hurricane Marilyn."
Fundraising in Mississippi is complicated, Elmore said, "because so much of it was raised from pledges, and now those people are gone. They don't exist. We are putting together a game plan. The shelter covers 25 percent of the state."
Elmore became the local Humane Society director in the summer of 2004, and he hit the ground running here, as he is expected to in his new post.
He and shelter manager Hubert Brumant shepherded the anti-animal cruelty bill to its final passage last year, a major step forward in the island's care for animals. The bill had been tossed around the Senate for almost five years.
Joe Aubain, Society board president, said he is sorry to see Elmore leave, though he understands his reasons for leaving. "He has been a tremendous asset to the Society. He has greatly furthered the cause of animal welfare issues in the territory."
Under Elmore's watch, the Humane Society's membership increased from 400 in 2004 to more than 2,300 today in meeting the second of two $500,000 membership challenges issued by businessman Randy Knight. "And we have had the two most successful Doggie Balls ever," Elmore said.
He is particularly happy with the Society's summer youth intern program. "We hired 21 interns and we brought about 400 schoolchildren in to learn about animals. Many of the interns are considering a career.
"In fact," Elmore continued, "last night one of the interns came by just to say hello. She didn't know I was leaving. The kids keep in touch with us. They love animals. Some of them are in school in the states."
Elmore said he may return to St. Thomas after his two-year post in the gulf coast. "What we need is a community center for the youth. It's one of the things I've always been interested in. We need a safe haven for teenagers. Last year in the summer program, they would come at 7:30 a.m. and stay until 6 p.m. They would have stayed until midnight, if we had asked. They were working the whole time. It was structured and disciplined, and they were having fun."
Aubain said the Society has launched a search for a new director.
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