Sarah Davis – Our first President
Our long journey began many years ago while I was a volunteer with Mid-Florida Golden Retriever Club (MFGRC) and the formation of the rescue committee after Charlie’s arrival. We started writing guidelines for accepting dogs, planning for foster homes, formulating an adoption contract, and follow-up procedures. Each month I wrote an article for the MFGRC newsletter updating our membership on goldens coming into rescue. We sent mailings to vets about our rescue efforts and had volunteers going to shelters looking for dogs, which increased our rescue count to 29 in 1992. We found a mentor in Delaware Valley Golden Retriever Rescue (DVGRR) who shared their “bible” and we discovered that their guidelines and mission statement mirrored our efforts and helped us formulate our infrastructure. DVGRR also sent golden t-shirts and goods on a consignment basis, giving us inventory without a large outlay of cash. We sold golden goods from the newsletter, at educational events, and eventually from the web page (hosted by Tim Guy) to raise funds. Educational days are a passion of mine and I have always felt that educating the public is key to changing people’s perceptions of dogs, especially goldens. We did educational days at state and county fairs, festivals, Highland games, dog shows, and Disney Dog Gone Days. Volunteers were interviewed on radio shows and for newspaper articles, plus some of our dogs appeared on Universal Studios’ “Ask the Vet” and Disney’s “Pets-burg USA.” Betty Wyatt came on board as adoption coordinator, foster coordinator, vet contact, handled home screening and also training of new volunteers. By 1996, we had accepted 249 dogs into our program and 168 had been fostered by Betty Wyatt. Our vets got behind us offering discounted services and we received donations of shampoo, dog food and other dog supplies. In January 1997, Golden Retriever Rescue of Mid-Florida, Inc (GRRMF) separated from MFGRC and we were granted our 501 (c) 3 tax deferred status, which increased our donations dramatically. Over the years, one thing remains consistent – it’s always about the dog, first and foremost. For thirty years, GRRMF has at its heart the pure intent that we ask ourselves – “What can we do to make this dog’s life better?” Our teams work together seamlessly and our wonderful volunteers have made all the difference in helping us be the premiere rescue organization that we are today. Special thanks to everyone for helping our goldens and retrievers in need.
Barbara Durham – the Middle 20
Hard to believe it’s been twenty years – where did the time go? I came on the scene shortly before 1997 when the organization filed for 501 (c) 3 status with the IRS. The lawyer that prepared the initial filing didn’t complete it correctly and we were not approved. I had been doing a few education events with Sarah; I didn’t have any other experience with rescue, just that I rescued my first golden Rocky on my own and was totally smitten with him. It was perfect timing because, as an accountant, I was able to rectify the filing paperwork and we were approved by the IRS. In that moment, I realized a volunteer with a business background could be a very important resource for a group like GRRMF, which has been my main contribution over the years. When the first board was formed, I was asked to join, and the rest is history. In 1999, Sarah announced she was moving to St. Louis and, as a relative newbie to rescue, I became President. It was soon apparent there was a lot of work still to be done – with our increased visibility the leadership team focused on how to take GRRMF from a small volume rescue to a much higher level of activity. There were so many dogs to rescue and I remember writing the first home visit process, developing the application screening criteria, creating tracking systems. We built teams, trained volunteers, raised money – it was an amazing lightning fast progression where we all learned as we went. Luckily, we attracted many incredibly talented volunteers to our cause. While we have many new volunteers, you would be surprised how many volunteers from the early 2000s are still with us today. The combined rescue experience in GRRMF is impressive, and it shows in the work we do and the successes we have in helping dogs and people improve their lives. Having our founder Sarah still in our leadership is amazing. She is our guardian angel, making sure we fulfill the promises we made to our cause in the early days. We come from all walks of life, all professions, all levels of wealth, education, even politics but those differences do not matter because we all share the same common bond of love for the dogs and act in their best interest. Personal demands have made it hard for me to continue as president; but to be honest, sometimes you need a fresh face with new ideas and energy to take over. Our mission has broadened, only increasing the value of GRRMF to the community we serve. The leadership team of GRRMF is intent on evolving as needed to meet the demands of the future and I’m thrilled to still be a part of that team.
Carol Forsberg, 2019 – current
In 2004, I spotted our Golden Retriever rescue bumper sticker on a car parked next to me. That sweet golden face captured my heart and was my first introduction to GRRMF. Transport was my first volunteer role, then a foster, events, media and additional responsibilities within administration. Joining the board as a director in 2014, I accepted the secretary position in 2017 and president in 2019. Cumulatively, our board members have over 140 years of rescue experience and we are all blessed that both Sarah and Barbara are still very active board members. Our rescue started our Hearts of Gold therapy team in 2019, led by Ginger Vincent. We are so proud of our volunteers and adopters who participate in this community service and support their pup who loves to bring comfort to all humans in need. While 2020 brought so many challenges to everyone, it highlighted opportunities to better serve our communities by improving what we currently do. During the fourth quarter of 2020, our board voted to spread our wings by including all retrievers in our mission and begin rescuing golden cousins in different suits who are in need. As we enter 2021, we will continue to save, protect and rehome goldens and all retrievers. Additionally, our teams are finding creative ways to expand our Hearts of Gold therapy opportunities throughout mid-Florida and participate in community outreach and education events to grow our rescue in the years ahead. Throughout the thirty years, our focus has been the same. It is all about the dogs… our focus on ensuring their wellness needs are met, either medically, behaviorally or simply with unconditional nurturing love their foster family and their treasured adopter provide. Each dog has so much to teach us and we continue to learn how to improve the quality of their lives with each new arrival.