Julie Edwards wants people to adopt their pets from local shelters.
After five years with the Humane Society of Northeast Georgia, Edwards has been named executive director of the organization.
Edwards served the past eight months as the interim executive director, and said she looks forward to serving in the position’s full capacity.
“Certainly there’s a lot of work to be done, in nonprofits in general,” Edwards said. “There’s always a lot of work and a lot of need. Especially in our area, there are a lot of animals that are in need, so I’m glad that I can officially start the work that we need to do and that we continue to do in fulfilling our mission.”
Edwards has plans for improving or expanding the organization’s services, but one of her biggest objectives is changing the way people think about animals in a shelter.
“I think people don’t always think about adopting shelter animals,” she said. “There are a lot of awesome animals in shelters. That’s one of my things I would really like to address, to get people past the stigma of animals in the shelter, past the idea that there must be something wrong with them.”
Edwards said she adopted both of her dogs from the shelter, and they are both purebred. She said many people don’t consider looking for a purebred dog or cat at a shelter, but nearly 30 percent of shelter animals are purebred.
The board of directors for the humane society also intends to create a strategic plan following last year’s centennial anniversary, according to Edwards.
“We’re starting on our second 100 years, I hope,” she said. “So the board is really interested in sitting down with staff and community members to see how we can really best serve the community going forward.”
The organization has the potential to expand its facility and services, Edwards said, as well as the ability to do more spay and neuter services for the area. Its officials also hope to expand their foster program, which would open more space inside the shelter for more animals.
Legally, the shelter cannot take in strays, though the staff works with the Hall County Animal Shelter and other rescue groups to care for all the animals it can in the area. It also directly takes owner surrenders when necessary.
Edwards said she hopes to continue to work proactively with area animal welfare groups to help the largest number of animals in the region.
“We work with 12-15 different rescue groups ... and all the different counties around us to pull animals to our facility as well,” she said. “And of course we want to continue — with Hall County being a great example — our relationships with regional animal welfare partners.”
Edwards was first hired to the shelter as director of development and marketing in February 2010. The decision to promote her to executive director was made after a national search and selection process.
“We are excited to name Julie to the role of executive director,” said Andy Kalinauskas, chairman of the board, in a news release this week. “... She has the skills, experience and passion to expand and promote the services we provide on behalf of the animals and animal-lovers in our region.”
Edwards has lived in Hall County for more than 30 years, so she knows the area well. She has developed important relationships with regional welfare groups that prepared her for the new position.
“Those relationships are already there and they can only grow stronger,” Edwards said. “I hope to bring that relationship factor to the table so we can continue to grow our services and figure out how to help those pets and people with the greatest need.”
To learn more about the services and opportunities at the Humane Society of Northeast Georgia, call 770-532-6617 or visit www.HSNEGA.org.