A number of Carbon County residents are opening their hearts and helping the county animal shelter.

During a meeting of a group of concerned citizens about the shelter on Monday evening, many spoke out about changes that already have been made at the animal shelter, which is located on the Broad Mountain in Nesquehoning.

Carbon County Commissioner Thomas J. Gerhard, who was present at the meeting, said that since the county announced that the shelter was having problems and finances were getting tight, as well as employment issues at the shelter; many people have stepped forward to volunteer their time, make monetary donations and provide cleaning supplies.

"Right now, we're giving the volunteers a chance to run the shelter," Gerhard said.

Debbie Craver, county animal warden, said that things have been going well with the volunteers at the shelter. Currently, the only county employees at the shelter include Craver and a part-time worker.

She recently implemented the Buddy Program, which pairs dogs with volunteers to help socialize them before they are adopted. She also has began bringing awareness to the shelter through various festivals, like Rockin' Rescue; as well as registered all dogs on websites like www.petfinder.com or www.adoptapet.com.

Donna Crum, a county animal cruelty officer, said that the changes have helped significantly but there are still a few more things that need to be ironed out yet, including getting Craver certified as the animal warden.

She asked about the operations of the shelter when it comes to housing dogs and also about spaying and neutering.

Craver explained that the male dogs are getting neutered a few at a time, when finances are available.

Crum provided some directions on where Craver can check to see if they could get more assistance to be able to spay and neuter all dogs that come into the shelter.

State Rep. Doyle Heffley, who was also present at the meeting, said that if there was anything his office could do, he would help, including setting up meetings with the Department of Agriculture or other state agencies.

The group also discussed the community outreach that has been taking place recently.

The program has helped a number of dogs get adopted; as well as alleviate a little strain on the finances and supplies needed to keep the shelter operating without a problem.

Tom Zimmerman IV, who is spearheading a fundraising committee for the shelter, said that they are looking into asking county residents for $2 a person to help offset the costs. If everyone in the county gave $2, the funds raised would exceed the amount needed to run the shelter annually.

Zimmerman also said the shelter is collecting empty aluminum beer and soda cans. They can be dropped off at the shelter at any time.

The current wish list of shelter items is also continually updated on the group's Facebook site. Items needed include dry dog food, squeaky dog toys, treats, tennis balls, dish detergent, fabric softener, bleach, paper towels, dog flea shampoo, flea spray/treatments, brillo pads, old towels and blankets, large bones and Pinesol. Donations can be dropped off either at the shelter or at Zimmerman's Dairy, 808 Bridge St., Lehighton.

Craver said that volunteers are still welcome because there are a number of chores and need to be done on a daily basis, including feeding and walking the dogs, cleaning the kennels, doing maintenance and more. High school students looking for community service hours are welcome to work at the shelter but must be 18 years old before they can handle the dogs.

The shelter is open Monday through Fridays, from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., but Craver said she usually stays until 6 p.m.

To find out what animals are available for adoption or for ways to help the shelter, Craver said you can contact the shelter at (570) 325-4828; her at (570) 730-0847; through email at carboncountyanimalshelter@live.com; via their Facebook page "Carboncounty Animalshelter;" or on petfinder.com.

The Carbon County Animal Shelter has been at the forefront of much discussion lately after the county commissioners mentioned that they would possibly like to see another group, such as a non-profit organization take over operations of the facility. It takes $92,000 annually to cover all expenses at the shelter.

Since then, volunteers and concerned citizens have worked to help the county care for the animals that are waiting to be adopted.

Gerhard said that currently, the operations are going well and the shelter is moving forward.