A group of Gilbert residents is working to create an animal rescue center and is gearing up for its first major fundraiser to support the project.

According to Victoria Surber, who is spearheading the effort, the volunteer organization is making inroads to seeing a dream become reality.

“The Town of Gilbert has a building that they are going to allow us to use,” she said. “Also, we are in the process of getting our 501c3 tax-exempt status.”

Surber said the group believes obtaining 501c3 status will make the organization more legitimate and will ease the minds of people who want to make donations because it means the Gilbert Happy Tails rescue group is formally recognized by the government.

“This will mean any donations people make to the rescue will be tax-exempt,” she continued.

The location where the rescue will be housed is the old C&P Building that was previously used as a store and a

gymnastics studio.

“It is a really big space and has cinder block walls and concrete floors that will make it easy to keep clean and to keep down the sounds of the animals,” Surber said. “There is a lot of work that needs to be done to the building. There is one section of the roof that has fallen in and needs to be repaired.”

Surber said with the complexities of the 501c3 process and the repair work needed for the building it will take some time for the rescue to officially open. However, she and other volunteers are currently taking care of stray and abandoned animals in their homes.

“Last year a trail rider brought five kittens he found set out on the trail into city hall,” Surber said. “It broke my heart.

Since then, Surber has been on a mission to help her community rescue animals.

“I kept animals all of last year at my home and even built kennels on my carport,” she said. “I helped to re-home 75 cats and dogs that had been put out on the side of the road.”

It was not long until other people heard of what she was doing and began contacting her about animals needing help. Slowly, other people starting taking in animals to foster, she said.

“We were able to make contacts with larger rescue groups up north who came and took the animal to give the permanent homes,” Surber said. “Margie Perry in Delbarton has been a life safer for us. She has helped so much.

“Our goal is to become bigger and to have a center the community can be proud of and to help educate people about how important it is to spay and neuter their pets,” she continued.

However, the group is being faced with expenses for filing fees, building repairs, vetting services as well as food and supplies for the animals they are taking in privately. To help offset the costs, Surber said a Happy Tails Fur Ball will be held on Saturday, Feb. 15, at the Larry Joe Harless Community Center.

“It is the day after Valentine’s Day and we hope people will use it for their Valentine celebrations. It will allow them to do something for the holiday and to help animals at the same times,” Surber said. “Dressing up is not required but we hope people will take advantage of the opportunity to wear an evening gown. Most people will probably wear business or church clothes. It should be a really fun evening.”

She added it will be an adults-only event, not because of alcohol consumption — which is not allowed in the community center, but because organizers thought with the event being scheduled during the holiday, it would afford couples with a night out.

Tickets for the ball are $30 per person or $50 per couple. Tickets may be purchased from Surber at the Gilbert Town Hall, the Gilbert Branch of BB&T, from Surber’s Facebook page and or by PayPal at victorialsurber@hotmail.com with notations that it is for Fur Ball tickets and the number of people per party.

Ticket sales will end Saturday, Feb. 8, in order to obtain an accurate number for the caterers. A limited number of tickets may be available after that date but that is not guaranteed.

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