Roice-Hurst commemorates 60 yearsJun 23, 2023 02:04PM ● By Jenna Kretschman
1963 was a pivotal year in U.S. history. Among headlines were events like the start of Beatlemania, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s resonant “I Have a Dream” speech, and President John F. Kennedy’s assassination. Meanwhile, in Grand Junction, the humble beginnings of Roice-Hurst Humane Society took root.
Sixty years ago, there was very little help available for pets found on the streets in Western Colorado. A local vet clinic spared a few kennels for pets in need, but there was no humane society or government-run animal services at the time. Lost and abandoned pets depended entirely on caring citizens to open their hearts and homes to survive. Among these citizens were the families of Joe Roice and Pat Hurst.
The initial goal was to simply provide care for stray, unwanted animals with whatever funds the two families and their friends could spare. A few years later, a compassionate young girl stumbled upon a heartbreaking sight—an abandoned mother dog, later named Lady, huddled with her newborn puppies underneath an old mattress. The publicity of Lady’s rescue sparked a community-wide movement to help more pets, and in 1967, retired nurse Ida Kruckenberg formally incorporated Mesa County Humane Society alongside the Roice and Hurst families.
The first official shelter was Joe Roice’s chicken coop, where Mesa County Humane Society grew steadily until moving into a building on D 1/2 Road in Clifton in 1973. Nearly 30 years later, the organization became Roice-Hurst Humane Society to honor the late founding members, and it expanded to its current building at 362 28 Road, Grand Junction, sometime around 2012 or 2013.
SAVING THE SHELTER
Sixty years did not pass without major challenges. Over the decades, the organization faced scandalous allegations of embezzlement and mismanagement. Maintaining a well-run, financially stable nonprofit was a recurring struggle. At many points, closing down seemed not just possible, but inevitable.
Following years of financial hardship, in 2008, Roice-Hurst announced that it would close down permanently, and the entire board of directors resigned. This announcement sparked a wave of community support to save the shelter and resulted in more than $200,000 in donations in just two weeks. Needing new leadership in order to move forward, a group of determined community members formed a new board of directors.
“We just decided that we needed to become the board. We wanted to save the shelter,” Julie Butherus, former Roice-Hurst board member, said. “We were all pretty much novices learning on the ground. It was like jumping into a lake and not knowing how to swim.”
The board worked diligently to raise funds, learn systems and continue serving local pets. After years of hard work, the organization was stable enough to hire an interim executive director, appointing Anna Stout in 2015.
“When I took the job initially, the plan was just to stay for a year and get the place organized and on the right track to hand off to a permanent director,” said Stout.
After a couple of months, Stout realized it would take much more than a year for the organization to meet its baseline. Not only that, but she saw so much potential for things the nonprofit could be doing in the community beyond just sheltering animals.
“If I left in a year, I would be leaving so much potential unrealized,” Stout added.
Under Stout’s leadership, Roice-Hurst has transformed into a successful, industry-leading nonprofit. Today, the shelter provides individualized care to more than 1,000 pets each year, in addition to a variety of support programs for owned pets to keep them happy, healthy and united with the people who love them.
“I wanted to be part of the group that made sure we had enough resources and the right people to do amazing things we never could have dreamed of,” said Elaine Johnson-Craig, a Roice-Hurst board member and longtime supporter. She was on the board that led Roice-Hurst off of the brink of closure. “We’re light years away from where we were 14 years ago.”
FOR THE LOVE OF PETS
Because of Roice-Hurst and other organizations, local pets no longer needlessly suffer. Zero healthy, adoptable pets have been euthanized due to lack of shelter space in Mesa County in over a decade—a reality that its founders tirelessly worked toward but didn’t live to see.
In 2021, Roice-Hurst expanded services to Delta County. So far this year, they’ve welcomed more than 140 lost pets into the safety of the Delta Satellite Facility at 720 W. 4th St.
The Roice-Hurst Humane Society of today is a stark contrast to its humble beginnings in a chicken coop. Today, the nonprofit is undoubtedly stronger and more impactful than ever before—a powerful testament to the love this community holds for its pets.