Fundraiser benefits Humane Society executive director
Three Rivers Humane Society Executive Director Jerilee Drynan is the "real deal."
That's how Drynan's friend and former dog trainer Monica Rendon describes her.
"I've been in animal welfare for many years, and I have never met anyone so devoted to the welfare and well-being of ALL animals than she has been," Rendon said.
But now, Drynan needs help.
In mid-June, 60-year-old Drynan was at home talking on the phone with her son when she began having trouble making sentences and forming words. She then suffered seizures. Doctors found a brain tumor over one of the speech centers in her brain. She underwent successful brain surgery on Friday, July 3, at St. Charles Bend.
Jerilee and her husband, Steve Drynan, of Madras, run the nonprofit Central Oregon Animal Friends and are co-directors of both the Madras animal shelter and Home At Last Humane Society in The Dalles.
The Drynans do not have medical insurance. They fall into that gray area where they don't qualify for the Affordable Care Act, but the full premiums for the basic plans are just too expensive. At this time, insurance for the employees through the nonprofit is also not affordable for the business.
"You don't get rich in the animal welfare field," Steve said. "You do it because you have a passion for it."
Jerilee's brother Rick Gay started an online GoFundMe fundraiser with a $150,000 goal. Funds will help cover lost wages, ambulance transport, hospital stays, surgery and rehabilitation facilities.
GoFundMe for Jerilee Drynan
Donations may be made online at bit.ly/2YAEibp or search "Jerilee Drynan Surgery Fund."
Jerilee had a career in early childhood education but has volunteered for various shelters over the years.
Rendon, Jerilee's friend who recently moved out of state, first met Jerilee in 2012 at the Prineville shelter.
"She's been passionate about animal welfare since a small child," Rendon said, noting that Jerilee started the Alaska Humane Society at age 17 in Anchorage.
"Being under the age of 18, her father had to sign the paperwork for the nonprofit. The Alaska Humane Society is still up and in business today but deals only with cats," Steve said. "She and her friend lobbied the Alaska State Legislature and were successful in outlawing the euthanization of animals in a decompression chamber, classifying it as inhumane."
Steve and Jerilee ran the shelter in The Dalles before relocating to Central Oregon in 2012.
When he took over as executive director of the Humane Society of the Ochocos in Prineville in December of 2012, Jerilee put in nearly as much time as he did.
"She wasn't a paid employee, but she should have been," Steve said.
They had settled in Madras about a mile from Jefferson County Kennels. Upon visiting it, they found the shelter in dire straits.
"It was 40 outdoor kennels, and the animals were out 24/7," Steve recalled, noting that the county-run shelter did not have much of a budget.
"When Jerilee started volunteering, the dogs were housed in roofless outdoor kennels with zero comforts — no heat, cooling or adequate medical treatment. The dogs' existence was pretty bleak," Rendon said.
So the couple decided to start their own nonprofit and started doing things for the shelter that Jefferson County Kennels couldn't afford to do — such as fixing broken legs and treating the animals.
Rendon said that by the time COAF took over, the dogs had insulated wooden platforms with doghouses for each to provide some shade and protection from heat and snow. Jerilee worked with other volunteers to enhance the dogs' living conditions.
"The county came to us in June of '13 and said, 'Hey, we want out of the dog business. What do you think?'" Steve recalled.
They didn't have to think very long.
They followed their heart, and their Central Oregon Animal Friends nonprofit took over Jefferson County Kennels in December of 2013. They have a contract with the county and lease the land and the existing building. Steve oversees the financial and business aspects, and Jerilee oversees operations.
After a nearly five-year capital campaign, COAF had the funds for a new building, which opened in May 2018. That same year, COAF took over Home At Last Humane Society in The Dalles.
Rendon was a volunteer dog trainer at the Prineville shelter while Steve was the executive director and began volunteering at the Madras shelter when COAF took over.
"I've known her closely and worked under her leadership for eight years," Rendon said. "She has hugely improved the welfare and well-being of all animals within the county."
Jerilee gives pet food to the needy, facilitates low-cost spay and neuter services to county residents, and helps pet owners in crises.
"Her devotion to the animals in the county has been matchless," Rendon said. "I've seen the tears she sheds for the abused, abandoned and hopeless animals and have never, ever in eight years seen her have anything else than a single-minded focus on benefiting animals."
Jerilee came home from the hospital on Tuesday, July 7. Steve will be her main caregiver for the next few months, but he will get some help from their children and her siblings.
Jerilee, he said, is a very strong lady.
"She's going to be really hard to keep down for six to 12 weeks to recover. She'll want to go back to work," Steve said. "Of course, she is sore from having a portion of her skull removed, and she is very tired — completely expected and normal with this type of surgery."
Steve is grateful for the outpouring of community support.
"They have our appreciation and gratitude beyond belief," he said.
Rendon says that now is her time — and perhaps the community's time – to show appreciation for how Jerilee has benefited the animals that everyone holds so dearly.
"I have never, ever lost faith in her heart for the animals nor doubted that she was the 'real deal,'" Rendon said.
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