A visit to the Riverhead Town Animal Shelter in 2011 motivated Denise Lucas to get involved in creating a better shelter for the town’s homeless dogs.
“I was disappointed with what I saw and I realized something needed to be done,” she said at the time.
What she did was spearhead the establishment of a nonprofit group called Riverhead Move the Animal Shelter, which went on to hold more than 50 fundraisers for the cause.
This Friday, Aug. 4, RMTAS will hold its final fundraiser at 7 p.m. at Polish Hall in Riverhead.
Called “The Last Bow Wow,” the event will feature a disc jockey and offer kielbasa or cheeseburgers for a $12 entry fee.
After that, RMTAS will turn over the remaining money it has raised — about $80,000 — to the town and distribute about $3,000 among other agencies. After that, the group will disband.
Two years ago, RMTAS announced that it would begin raising funds for non-shelter-related causes as well, and changed its name to Riverhead Making Towns a Success. Other groups to which it plans to donate before shutting down include East End Hospice, Maureen’s Haven, Riverhead Veterans of Foreign Wars, Riverhead K-9 Police, RSVP Rescue Group and Spirits Promise Horse Rescue.
More than $200,000 RMTAS previously spent went to fund the creation of dog parks in Riverhead and Calverton, along with other projects.
“I originally said I would give it two years,” Ms. Lucas said. “That got extended to six years. I’m not doing it anymore.”
In addition to raising money for charities, Ms. Lucas also recently started a new job as an auto salesperson at Riverhead Buick-GMC.
The RMTAS board also includes Fred McLaughlin, who owns a local funeral home in town, and Lindsay Reeve, a retired town employee who’s probably best known as a member of the band “Who Are Those Guys.”
The money raised by RMTAS will be used to renovate the sparsely used Henry Pfeifer Community Center on Grumman Boulevard in Calverton as a welcoming center for the shelter, with indoor kennels, a cattery, veterinary services and meet-and-greet rooms, according to Ms. Lucas.
A condition of turning the money over to the town is that the facility be named the Duke Lucas Welcoming Center, after Ms. Lucas’ 11-year-old husky/shepherd mix, who takes insulin shots and thyroid pills.
“My goal was to keep this dog alive so he can see that shelter get built,” Ms. Lucas said.
The dog park at the Enterprise Park at Calverton is also named after Duke, as is a small road at St. Isidore’s School on Marcy Avenue, Ms. Lucas said.
Meanwhile, the North Fork Animal Welfare League, which is under contract with the town, plans to build a new shelter at the Calverton site using funds it has raised — including a $300,000 bequest from a Mattituck family specifically for that purpose. It will be located on town land adjacent to the Henry Pfeifer Community Center.
That facility is expected to cost about $650,000, according to NFAWL, which will pay the full amount.
Riverhead Supervisor Sean Walter said the main issue in moving that project forward is getting Suffolk County health department approval for the septic system.
“I think we’re very close,” Mr. Walter said.
Mr. Walter said he’s not certain what the town will do with its current animal shelter on Youngs Avenue, across from the former landfill, once the new shelter is completed.
Courtesy photo: Riverhead MTAS president Denise Lucas with Duke. A condition of turning the money over to the town is that the facility be named the Duke Lucas Welcoming Center.