Wendy Alexander/The Madera Tribune
Lifetime Achievement recipient Kay Rhoads takes a break with some of her fostered dogs.
Two wooden planks, with toy animals, and a thank you note attached, hang among several prestigious plaques awarded to her local business, Peck’s Printery.
The homemade awards, were given to her and her late husband by the Madera County Animal Shelter for their dedication to serve animals in need.
Kay Rhoads, co-founder of Friends of the Madera Animal Shelter and owner of Peck’s Printery, will be recognized once more.
Rhoads, along with Dr. Mohammad Ashraf, Dale Evans of Evans Feed and Livestock Supply, Steve Copland of Seabury, Copland and Anderson and memorial recipient Sal Perlongo of Perlongo’s Bakery, will be honored Thursday at the Madera District Fairgrounds during the Lifetime Achievement Awards and Installation dinner. The dinner begins at 6 p.m. and tickets are $50 per person. For reservations, contact the Madera Chamber of Commerce at 673-3563.
“It was a shock because I can think of dozens of people off hand that deserve the award more than I do, and it’s very flattering, but you don’t do it to get an award. Whatever you do, you do because you love it, because it’s just part of you,” Rhoads said.
Rhoads moved to Madera from the Bay Area 44 years ago. After living in Madera for a year, she moved back to the bay for her husband Gary’s work. However, after staying in Palo Alto for a year, the Rhoads family knew Madera was where they wanted to call home.
“It’s the people, that’s what it always is — the people. And once you get to know the people, you like living in any place. And there’s this old saying, you can’t eat the scenery,” Rhoads said.
When she returned to the valley, Rhoads worked at an office supply store and did a lot of business with Peck’s Printery. When the Peck family retired 31 years ago, she and her family bought the business.
“None of us knew anything about printing itself, but I could sell it,” Rhoads said. “And my husband, he was one of those exceptional people that thought women could do anything, so he never thought there was anything I couldn’t do.”
Rhoads was married to husband Gary for 50 years until he passed away in 2011. The couple has two daughters — Scarlet, who lives in Chico; and Velvet, who has worked at Peck’s Printery for more than 30 years.
Rhoads also joined the Madera Rotary Club upon returning to Madera. Over the years, Rhoads has served as the club’s assistant governor, Rotary relays planner, and club president.
However, Rhoads did not want to simply be in the Rotary Club. She aspired to be the definition of a Rotarian.
“Rotary’s motto is ‘service above self’ and so if you’re a Rotarian you’re involved in your club, your community, your country, and the world,” Rhoads said. “You could be a member of the Rotary Club but that doesn’t make you a Rotarian, that’s what we say. You have to be involved. So I jumped in and got involved.”
Rhoads and her daughter, Velvet Rhoads, involved themselves, specifically, with the Madera animal shelter, founding an entirely volunteer-based support group for it.
“All of us are volunteers, which is highly unusual in any kind of a nonprofit our size, but none of us have received wages. So consequently you give a dollar to us and 99 cents goes to animals one way or another,” said Rhoads, who has kept the books for the nonprofit for the past 13 years.
In 2013, the Friends of the Animal Shelter were given a $1.5 million grant in which they were able to spay and neuter 18,000 animals in Madera County.
They also purchased four vehicles that are used day and night to pick up stray dogs and deliver animals to Oregon, where they are adopted. According to Rhoads, 100 to 150 dogs are sent to Oregon each month because the Madera shelter is too full.
“The shelter is full right now, and that’s unbelievable, as many animals as we have spayed and neutered — its full again. We need a new shelter, and that was something my husband and I would have done together,” Rhoads said.
In 2007, Rhoads and her husband were able to push Madera County to build the Robert A. Wells Pet Adoption Center.
“The county had the money for 20-some odd years and didn’t do anything, and he and I took on the project of ‘Why isn’t it being built?’” said Rhoads.
The adoption center has saved many animals; however, the shelter itself is outdated, Rhoads said.
In order to alleviate the problem, Rhoads and many others foster animals until they are placed in a permanent home.
Rhoads and her daughter are what she calls “foster failures,” someone who fosters a dog and does not let it go. Currently they foster 24 animals, including six horses, on their five-acre property.
In many ways, Rhoads has given her life to helping the county’s animals. Her daughter is now the president of Friends of the Madera Animal shelter and her business donates roughly 40 percent of their time and effort into supporting the nonprofit.
“It’s just great living here really. There is a lot of satisfaction in working with people in your community,” said Rhoads.
Although taking care of animals and a business takes a lot of effort, Rhoads does not consider it work. She views it as her passion.
“There was a need and no one was filling it. And if you see a need and always have loved animals, always loved dogs, well my daughter and I have a place where we can foster and take care of animals,” Rhoads said.
Rhoads encouraged everyone to visit the shelter and see for themselves the need for an updated shelter.
According to Rhoads, volunteers must be at least 18 years of age. However, for those who do not wish to go to the shelter, Rhoads said there are plenty of other ways to support animals.
“I just think your community is a great thing to be involved in. If you’re going to live there, you should do something for it,” Rhoads said. “ And you can do something other than the animal shelter, but I don’t know what. What better thing is there?”