Officials and well-wishers warmly dedicate the Jane Bernard Animal Adoption Center


Photos by WNLP’s Bob Wellinski, story by WNLP’s Beth Boardman

(Click photos to enlarge)

Jane Bernard stands in front of the just-unveiled Jane Bernard Animal Adoption Center sign on west Ind. 2, La Porte.

Retired shelter Executive Director Bernard and her successor, Eric Hayes, share a moment at the rededication event. Hayes was a longtime member of Bernard’s staff, and now she is a volunteer at the shelter he oversees.

La Porte County Commissioner Richard Mrozinski (right) speaks to the crowd at the rededication.

Hayes and Mrozinski unveil the new sign.

Jane speaks to the crowd.

A cake celebrates the “pawty.” (This photo courtesy of Amy Boyd)

The new sign that greets visitors at the door.

Perhaps the most appropriate moment at the celebration rededicating the La Porte County Small Animal Shelter as the Jane Bernard Animal Adoption Center occurred quietly in a corner amidst the crowd of well-wishers. Two young girls shyly approached Bernard and presented a crumpled handful of cash: $50 they wanted to give the shelter in Jane’s name. She hugged the two and thanked them.

Nearby in a spotless, spacious cage, a surrogate mother cat patiently nursed a passel of kittens, unfazed by the folks enjoying cake and cookies in her midst – another fitting scene for the day.

Few retired directors of any kind of facility draw such affection and appreciation, but those were the sentiments of the day Thursday, July 8, 2021. More than 60 gathered to congratulate Bernard, who – soon after leaving in January following a 31-year career – returned as a volunteer.

“There’s a reason that her name is going to be on this sign,” La Porte County Commissioner Richard Mrozinski told the crowd. “Jane doesn’t ask anyone to do anything that she doesn’t do herself.” He called Bernard and fellow longtime shelter workers “a special breed; the most dedicated, hard working. They’re like married to this place.”

Mrozinski said while he dreaded the moment that Bernard would retire, he was happy she’d be able to enjoy life in other ways. “So what’s she doing? She’s volunteering here!”

Jane’s successor, Eric Hayes, noted that he was already a member of the shelter’s staff when she came on board as a coworker. He said she quickly became “part of our family” and praised her for her years of “compassion and dedication” that inspired the facility’s renaming.

Bernard told the crowd she vividly remembered that when she started at the shelter, cockroaches were falling from the ceiling and the place was not fit for human nor beast. “And I thought, is there still time to run?” But she stuck with it and under her leadership, the Jane Bernard Animal Adoption Center is now a clean and inviting facility that houses a state-of-the-art veterinary clinic, thanks to a $1.4 million donation from the late Del and Virginia Stevens. A million went into a Unity Foundation fund and $400,000 immediately went to the shelter. (The facility still depends upon community donors of pet food, supplies and funding for day-to-day operations.)

“We’ve had veterinarians come in and say, ‘This is nicer than my clinic,'” Bernard said.

But she said the crowning achievement was transforming the shelter from a place where unclaimed, unadopted pets were commonly euthanized after 7 days, into a no-kill facility.

As for the renaming, “I will cherish this forever,” she said.

To learn more about the Jane Bernard Animal Adoption Center and view pets available for adoption, visit the (currently named) La Porte County Small Animal Shelter page on Facebook.

3 Responses to “Officials and well-wishers warmly dedicate the Jane Bernard Animal Adoption Center”

  1. Lynn E. Lisarelli

    Jul 09. 2021

    Good for you, Jane! Thank you for all you have done for the shelter and again, congratulations on such an honor.

    Reply to this comment
  2. Vern D Sams

    Jul 09. 2021

    Congratulations Jane! Enjoy your retirement.

    Reply to this comment
  3. Michael Kessler

    Jul 11. 2021

    What an amazing legacy! Jane helped my parents and family adopt beloved pups over many decades and I was, even as a small kid, struck by her gentle and caring manner. She helped out on so many occasions when we found lost or injured animals. I’m long gone from LaPorte but Jane has always been in my mind the model public servant working for the good of her community. Thank you.

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