News From Terre Haute, Indiana

April 5, 2013

Ellen in The Haute?

Effort seeks to entice DeGeneres to support animal shelter fundraising

Sue Loughlin
The Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — A community letterwriting campaign is under way to bring talk show host-comedian Ellen DeGeneres to town to help raise money for a new Terre Haute Humane Society animal shelter.

The intent is to move the shelter to the Ivy Tech TechLAB building located in the Vigo County Industrial Park, part of a collaborative effort between the Humane Society and Ivy Tech.

Last month, Ivy Tech and THHS officials  announced they are in the early planning stages of a capital campaign to raise money for renovation of part of the TechLAB building.

Those planning the capital campaign would like to attract DeGeneres for a fundraising event to launch the campaign, which Ivy Tech chancellor Ann Valentine hopes could start within six months.

The letterwriting effort “is still in the very early stages,” Valentine said this week. “We have extended the deadline [to submit letters] to May 1.”

A letter form can be found on page A8 of today’s Tribune-Star. The newspaper also has a link on its website: A letter form also can be downloaded from

Letterheads also are being placed on tables at Vigo County School Corp. schools, similar to what is done for other organizations’ fliers. Students who choose, on their own time, can write letters and then return them to Ivy Tech.

Letters have been written by Ivy Tech regional board members and humane society board members, as well as Mayor Duke Bennett.  “Now, we’re asking for the community to say, ‘Please come to Terre Haute and help us raise funds for a new animal shelter,’” Valentine said.

Debbie Floyd, humane society board president, also hopes the community will get on board. “If we unite as a community, she might listen,” Floyd said.

Valentine is working to set up an appointment with a DeGeneres staff member, and Valentine’s intent would be to go to Los Angeles to hand deliver the letters.

As an incentive, if DeGeneres does come to town, there will be a drawing for students in grades eight and under. “We’ll give away tickets to five students,” who would be able to take three other family members to see DeGeneres (up to 20 people).

Even if the entertainer does not come to Terre Haute, the letterwriting effort will raise community awareness about the need for a new animal shelter, Valentine said.

Completed letters should be sent by May 1 to the Ivy Tech Foundation, 8000 S. Education Drive, Terre Haute, IN 47802.

They also can be emailed to

Valentine also been negotiating to bring Cesar Millan, of the famous “Dog Whisperer” TV show, to town as part of the fundraising campaign. “We’re pretty close to having a contract,” she said.

The tentative campaign goal is to raise $2.5 million to $3.5 million, although those numbers will be finalized as planning continues.

Most of the funding will go to renovate part of the TechLAB building to house the shelter, which also would need a separate air-handling system and additional kennels and cages.

The humane society will lease space at the Ivy Tech TechLAB building; it is not a merger.

Ivy Tech would need about $250,000 worth of equipment to offer programming that includes veterinary technician, veterinary assisting, kennel management and grooming. The college is targeting fall 2014 to begin offering the programs, which require state approval

The shelter is in desperate need of a new building, Floyd has said. The current building has ventilation, electrical and plumbing problems. Poor ventilation lends itself to airborne diseases affecting the animals, a serious issue.

The facility is poorly laid out, which also lends itself to spread of disease among animals. Drains are inadequate for the amount of water flow needed to hose down kennels and operate washers. The shelter has no isolation area for sick animals.

“It is just not conducive to healthy living for animals, employees or volunteers,” Floyd said.

The partnership with Ivy Tech “is a wonderful thing for the Humane Society,” Floyd has said previously. “Who ever is going to give us that kind of a break ever again? It’s just what we needed. We operate on donations, and we would never be able to do this on our own.”

Sue Loughlin can be reached at 812-231-4235 or