History of BAHS

On a Belleville back porch in 1959, two neighbors, Georgianna Frick and Rene Brandenburger, sat sipping sweet tea, when a frail pup wandered into the yard. “I can’t stand it,” one said to the other. “That poor dog has to forage to survive.” “There are homeless dogs and cats everywhere,” her friend responded. So they put down their tea, picked up the pup, and set about helping community animals in need.

The formation of the board took place on January 30, 1959,
and BAHS officially became a 501(c)(3) on February 18, 1959.

“The ladies put an ad in the paper looking for volunteers,” recalls Carol Lesko, who was a girl at the time. “Only two people responded. One of them was my father, John Bodenburg, and the other was a school teacher named Inez Uphoff.” Lesko, who grew up to serve as the organization’s president, says she will never forget those early days. “Back when the Belleville Area Humane Society started, we kept the animals in our homes. We held bake sales and garage sales to make money to feed and take care of them.” Animal welfare wasn’t even a blip on the radar in St. Clair County 63 years ago. But things were about to change.

The mission has grown from a few community organizers serving together into a board-led, multi-faceted non-profit shelter. BAHS is located on several donated acres in unincorporated Belleville. These days, BAHS often partners with organizations, especially our government run

St. Clair County Animal Control (located just across the street from BAHS), to find homes for over 800 animals per year. We’ve earned a county-wide 98% save rate with a lot of dedication from local animal welfare stakeholders. In addition to saving animals, BAHS also hosts a community pet food pantry, educates the public on animal care, provides low-cost spay/neuter and vaccine clinics to community pets, and works with domestic violence shelters to assist those fleeing danger by temporarily housing their pets. There is also a a pets to the vet program providing financial assistance for vet services to families in the community who need it most.

Today, just like back in 1959, BAHS relies on devoted volunteers and fosters to keep everything running smoothly. And now we also have a highly trained animal welfare staff to meet the community’s needs. We spend hundreds of thousands of dollars each year to operate the shelter and we are 100% donor funded.

To make ends meet, we hold annual fundraisers such as Howl’oween Pet Photo Contest & Parade, Glo-bingo, Bags for Wags, and Wine for Whiskers. We also have a robust membership program, a corporate membership club, and we rely heavily on grants and will bequests – and of course direct gifts from donors such as you.