It is a moment which has been a long time coming for ASTRO Foundation co-founding Board Members Jaydeen Vicente, Scott Hicks and an army of volunteers, and in early December, the ASTRO Foundation Adoption Center was opened for business.

It is a feat made possible due to tireless fundraising, a partnership with a helpful contracting team, as well as a lot of sweat equity, but the 157 N. Fifth Ave., Oakdale location is ready to roll.

New to the ASTRO team, and on hand Tuesday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., is Director of Adoption Services, Megan Schoullar. She joined the team after applying for the position and brings with her an extensive background with the Humane Society, as well as a passion for both dogs and cats.

The organization can house cats at the North Fifth location and will bring dogs in only for adoption events.

The corner location just a block north of the city’s main F Street thoroughfare was gutted and rebuilt on the inside to better suit the needs of the animals as well as the Foundation. Due largely in part to a fundraising campaign, the non-profit was able to purchase the building earlier this year. 

“We conducted a capital campaign and raised over $300,000 in pledges,” Vicente shared. “So people could pledge to sponsor like, the dog room or the reception area, or the cat room or cat cage over a five year period.”

It was a strategy which proved to be both beneficial as well as equitable, allowing donors to donate, in some cases, larger amounts with a five-year span of time to contribute. 

“So for example, someone that did a $25,000 pledge could donate $5,000 a year over the next five years. That’s when we raised the money to purchase the building,” Vicente continued.

As a non-profit the ASTRO Foundation is completely privately funded, so all private donations, either one time donations or recurring donations, as well as revenue from the ASTRO Gift Shop goes directly to maintaining and operating the Foundations services. 

“When we first incorporated back in 2012, we did a fundraising feasibility study,” Vicente shared. “We hired a consultant and basically what we learned was, you can’t just start a company and then ask for money. You have to build a reputation first; you have to go out and do the work first. So that’s what we did.” 

And that work has now not only paid off for ASTRO pets, but for the City of Oakdale as well, as the Foundation has partnered with the City to help with finding homes for the animals in the local shelter.

“We do want to work in partnership with the City of Oakdale and support them because their shelter is so dated and so small and the amount of cats and kittens especially that comes in from the Oakdale/Riverbank area is overwhelming. Some puppies but there’s more cats because there’s so many homeless cats,” Vicente said of helping fill the need. “Part of our goal here is to relieve some of the pressure off the shelter and be able to take their excess pets and help them out and the city has been very supportive to us.”

Currently ASTRO Foundation has close to 250 cats and kittens in inventory. Many are with fosters, however a variety of ages and breeds may also be found at the newly opened location. 

“We have some amazing fosters,” she continued of those helping care for one or more cats. “So that’s really where we’re starting to pull from and get them homes here. That’s kind of the goal, I think, is this to be the center point where people can come in and get to know the pet that’s right for them.”

The founding member also shared they are desperate for more fosters to aid with the large number of cats they try and save. 

“We have so many cats and kittens that need, you know, they’re not quite ready for adoption, so they need to be held. And rather than being held in a small space like this, it’d be nice for them to be in a home and socialize,” Schoullar stated. 

The newly opened location hosts a variety of spaces including: an open adoption area, a vaccination/examination room, a quarantine room, as well as a large room with cats for viewing.

Yet one of the most unique and special rooms in the building might just be the “Cat Community Room,” also known as the Cat Café. Equipped with shelves, hammocks and boxes, resident cats are able to roam and rest freely outside of a caged environment. Community members, as well as volunteers are invited to come and “hang out” with the felines to help them with socialization. 

“One of our volunteer positions is cat socializer, because it’s so important,” Schoullar shared. “I mean, we have some cats that are a little more on the shy side. Somebody coming and sitting with them is going to make the difference between finding a home or not. It seems simple, but it’s so important.” 

To date the team shared they have placed over 750 pets into forever homes, 90 of which were dogs. So with 250 cats in current inventory, everything about the adoption center is important to helping place them with loving families. 

Partnerships with longtime veterinarian Wendi Dudley, as well at Oakdale Veterinary Group, has been helpful in keeping the animals healthy as well as fulfilling all their needs to make them adoptable. 

No longer driving the famous bus around for adoption events, both Vicente and Hicks shared equal gratitude to the community for its support, as well as the volunteers who have supported them for so long. 

“I drove that thing to Petco every Sunday for five years. I was so happy to sell it,” Vicente admitted of the signature van.

“I think we had some good subcontractors that got to us maybe a little faster than they might have had we not been a nonprofit which that was a blessing,” Hicks said. “Obviously things took a little longer than we had hoped. But you know, it’s still only been about eight months.”

Both founding members shared that while the doors are open, there is still opportunity for community members who may want to make a contribution, sponsor a room, or even purchase a paver for the front entry way. Information on all of these opportunities can be found on their website: www.astrofoundation.org.

Persons interested in fostering or volunteering may also find this information and applications on the website or may email info@astrofoundation.org for more information or call/text (209)-604-2649.