Lifestyle & Human Interest

Animal Shelter Gets Makeover 3 Years After Fire Destroys Yard and Building


Many people love watching design shows, where a couple or an industrious individual with a team of trusted contractors takes a dilapidated structure and flips it into something new and wonderful.

There’s an element of catharsis in watching other people do the work and spend the money and yet still getting to appreciate the artistry. One of those shows is “George to the Rescue” — but instead of following the transformation of a home for paying owners or to sell the property, George Oliphant renovates for a cause.

“Design and build tips, web extras, and a behind-the-scenes look at NBC’s George to the Rescue,” his Facebook “About” page reads. “We pair George up with contractors and designers to Rescue the homes of deserving people.”

“The word ‘rescue’ doesn’t just have to be about helping somebody’s home and family,” he told People. “I said, ‘Why can’t we do something for this animal shelter?’”

While the project took place in 2019, Oliphant had had his eye on a particular location for years. The Montclair Township Animal Shelter was close to Oliphant’s heart, not only because his family had a history with the area but because he, too, is the loving owner of a rescue dog.

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“We came to look at the animal shelter a number years ago to see if there was something we could do on the inside, like a family play room, renovate the offices or some other project,” Oliphant said, according to Baristanet. “The fire put that on hold.”

The fire Oliphant referenced took place in 2016, and while it created major damages for the location, thankfully all 73 animals were rescued after a call for help was sent out, according to People.

“Because the Montclair Animal Shelter participates in ‘Clear the Shelters,’ and it’s my local Shelter, I knew about the fire,” Oliphant said. “The fire at the Shelter showed who the people of Montclair really are when every animal was accounted for and had a home and a place to go during that time.”

“We are a municipally-run shelter providing animal care, pet education and community outreach, animal control, pet adoption services for Montclair Township,” the shelter wrote on its Facebook page. As such, it didn’t have extensive funds to update its location.

The courtyard, which is generally a place for the dogs to run off some pent-up energy and meet potential adopters, was uninviting, to put it politely. Oliphant referred to it as a “prison yard” — and it did resemble one with its concrete slabs and barbed wire.

“Clearly it was far from ideal as an area to exercise our dogs,” Liz Morgan, the shelter director, told Baristanet. “And it certainly wasn’t a place conducive for potential adopters and families to meet the dogs.”

So Oliphant and his people came in, and over the course of six weeks, they put in time, love and over $150,000 into making the area not only functional and safe but inviting, as well.

The result was a lovely, green space complete with running water and a freshly-painted fire hydrant for the dogs. The staff was impressed, especially with the quality of the fake grass — which stands up much better than real grass when used heavily by a number of pups.

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“It’s truly an act of love and pure generosity,” Morgan told People, “Just unbelievable. I didn’t think it was possible.”

“We cannot even begin to express our gratitude to George, Franka and the rest of the community who generously pitched in materials, time and labor to complete this project for our dogs,” the shelter wrote in an Aug. 8 Facebook post. “This oasis has been life-changing for exercise, playgroups and meet and greets. They are a truly genuine team!”

“To come in and do something meaningful in my town has always appealed to me,” Oliphant said. “And to do it to help the animals … It is so gratifying to help others. I am so blessed to have the opportunity to do what I do.”

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