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VIProfile: Lorri Hare

By Emily Robertson

More than 25 years ago, Lorri Hare first walked into the Bowling Green/Warren County Humane Society and she knew when she walked in the doors she wanted to help. Now, two and a half decades later, Lorri proudly serves as the director at BGWCHS and has made it her life’s mission to work for the safety and health of every animal in Kentucky.

Growing up moving around with her parent’s work in the restaurant and hotel management business, Lorri learned early on the importance of engaging with patrons and those who support you.

“My parents owned their own restaurant, so my dad would pay me $10 a day to stand at the door and greet people as they came in and out of the restaurant,” Lorri says. “He taught me at a very early age to engage with your community and take time to connect with those around you.”

She followed her parents into the restaurant business, traveling extensively and helping to open restaurants in several different states. She met her husband, Bill, in 1989, but she was working so much that even after they got engaged, the couple pushed their wedding off several times. Lorri’s life and priorities changed in 1997 when she lost her beloved father suddenly to a heart attack.

“My mom and dad worked so much throughout their lives, but then he was gone and it was so eye-opening to me and it helped me to see that there is more to life than work,” Lorri says. “That year, Bill and I got married and my priorities in my work started to shift.”

Around the same time, Lorri visited the BGWCHS for the first time with a friend wanting to adopt a dog and she quickly decided to get involved.

“At the time, so many animals were not getting adopted, the save rate was less than 10% and they were getting in 3,000 animals a year, so, many animals were being euthanized,” Lorri says. “The organization needed a lot from the business standpoint, too. When I left the shelter after that first visit, I couldn’t stop thinking about the place.”

Lorri and her friend met one of the board members and decided to plan a 5k walk to benefit the organization and it became the largest fundraiser they had ever had. Lorri joined the BGWCHS board soon after and she knew there needed to be big changes, but that they weren’t going to happen overnight. As her dedicated work with the shelter continued, Lorri accepted the position as director and quickly got to work to lead the organization she loved in a new direction.

“I realized that you can’t be in this position with just your heart, you have to be in it with your head, too,” Lorri says. “If you run the organization with only your heart, the business side will suffer, but if you run it all with your head, the work you do won’t be heartfelt, so I learned there has to be a balance of both to really work well.”

In the beginning, Lorri started to try and move the organization past its public reputation at the time, but she had little support. She would take five animals and stand outside local grocery stores on the weekends and try to get adoptions and hand out information about the shelter. She knew that in order to save more animals, she had to change how and what people thought about the shelter.

“In the beginning, the shelter had such little support, but I remember walking though the kennels and seeing highlighted marks on each animal’s paper,” Lorri says. “I later learned that the highlighted marks indicated that the animal was on the euthanasia list and I wanted to work to ensure that we didn’t have to have those highlighted marks anymore.”

In her time as director, Lorri grew the shelter staff to 63 employees, and worked along side them, as well as dedicated board members and a tremendous amount of volunteers to build a community-involved shelter that no longer has a reputation as a sad place. It is now the highest intake shelter in both Kentucky and Tennessee, with nearly 11,000 intakes a year and it continually assists surrounding counties’ shelters as well. Last year, BGWCHS offered 6,505 free vaccinations, spayed or neutered 5,400 animals, found foster homes for more than 1,200 animals, found forever homes for 4,530 animals through adoptions, had 1,090 animals reclaimed and 3,784 animals rescued.

Lorri knows that none of her work through the shelter would be possible without the support of her family. Her husband, Bill, a retired firefighter and her daughter, Katlyn, have supported her every step of the way, even on days when it was overwhelming and emotional. Bill worked with Lorri extensively in the early days of her work with the shelter and is always willing to help out in any way needed. Katlyn is now involved with the shelter work and hopes to follow in her mom’s footsteps in her career.

“Seeing how passionate Katlyn is, where she now changed her major because she wants to make a difference with her life is so rewarding,” Lorri says. “I get so many compliments from people she helps and I know her focus is helping people.”

Lorri knows that support from her family, her staff, the volunteers and the community has been essential to growing and changing the shelter. BGWCHS is able to do the work it accomplishes largely because of funds raised to support the shelter and adoption center. Their biggest fundraiser of the year, Fur Ball, is coming up April 22, 2023. Lorri says that the event, which typically sells out, is a fun night for those who love animals and want to help save lives.

“None of the work we do, including the Fur Ball, is accomplished without the people involved,” Lorri says. “Without the people, we wouldn’t have donations, adoptions or support. When my dad paid me to stand at the entrance of his restaurant, he was teaching me how important your community is and we are so fortunate that Bowling Green and Warren County is by far, the most giving and most thoughtful community that I have ever been a part of. It is such a beautiful area and it is filled with the very best people I’ve ever known.”

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