COLUMBIA — When Second Chance Executive Director Valerie Chaffin received a call Tuesday morning about storm damage to the organization's warehouse roof, she asked the important questions first.
Was anyone hurt? No.
Were the cats living in the warehouse safe? Yes.
Chaffin assumed the damage would just be a small hole, an easy fix. But what she found at the warehouse at 24687 Highway 179, west of Columbia, was the left side of the roof lying in the yard and the garage door hanging from the side of the building.
The power was out, parts of the roof were gone, an estimated 70 percent of the warehouse's pet food was ruined, and the 55 cats were shaken up — but they were alive.
"It could have been so much worse," Chaffin said. "I was no longer talking about pet food or roofs. I was talking about lives. No lives were lost."
Monday night's storm caused about $100,000 in damage at Second Chance, she said. The construction company on the job, Enrich Construction & Remodeling, predicted that the whole roof will need to be replaced.
"We've always been comfortable with the support we have from the community," Chaffin said. "They always rise to the occasion, but this is different. We've never needed them like this before."
Second Chance is a privately funded animal rescue organization. Close to 11 a.m. Tuesday, Chaffin posted to its Facebook page calling for help from the community. About 40 to 45 volunteers came throughout the day to help in whatever way they could, she said.
This involved separating wet dog food from dry dog food, moving supplies from inside the warehouse to outside, picking up debris, washing wet linens, power-washing dog crates, and comforting felines who were rattled by the noises.
"There was an outpour of affection from the community," Chaffin said.
Lynn Hurd, who has been fostering dogs for Second Chance since September, heard the news through the Facebook page. She arrived about 4 p.m. Tuesday when she got off work. Her supervisor even allowed her to take Wednesday off to lend a hand at the warehouse.
"Second Chance means a lot to me," Hurd said. "I love animals, so when it needs help, I never hesitate to respond."
A Columbia Boy Scout troop responded to Second Chance's plea, as well. The Scouts got involved through 13-year-old Caleb Riley, who is renovating the dog-jumping dock for his Eagle Scout project.
Riley said Chaffin sent his father a text early Wednesday morning with a picture of a fallen willow tree blocking the dock. Riley, his father and several Scouts arrived to move the tree and chop up the lumber.
"We knew the project was going to take a lot longer now, but surprisingly we got the tree out of the way fast," Riley said.
Second Chance's adoption event planned for 5 to 8 p.m. Friday at PetSmart, 229 N. Stadium Blvd., will still take place, Chaffin said.
"Animal intake is on hold and application review is being affected," Chaffin said. "It's yet to be seen how much, but in turn, the number of pet adoptions will be affected. We could really use families that are willing to foster."
As volunteers hustled around the warehouse premises, moving crates and answering numerous phone calls, 55 pairs of eyes peered at them from their perches in the warehouse's "cat condos." The cats purred, swatting one another with their paws.
"When they watch us like that, it's a constant reminder it wasn't them who were hurt," Chaffin said as she stroked a tabby sitting close to her. "I'm grateful for a lot more than I'm sorry for. When we asked for help, people showed up, and I know we have the support."
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