WILTON — Sunday went to the dogs, and cats, at the Wilton Mall during the opening day of the H.O.P.E. Adoption and Education Center.
Homes for Orphaned Pets Exist (H.O.P.E.) is now leasing a space in the center, which will house adoptable cats, provide adoption counseling, a pet-for-the-weekend program and a read-to-the-pets program.
Through the storefront, H.O.P.E. will also host events including dog adoptions, educational programs for pet owners and prospective pet owners, Cat yoga, Cat cafes, pet massage, training workshops and demonstrations, pet enrichment craft and do-it-yourself parties, author readings and signings, art and craft shows and holiday pet photos.
The shop will also provide local volunteer opportunities.
“We are thrilled to have a space that will make our services so much more accessible to the pet-rescue-loving public — volunteers and clients alike. The Wilton Mall space will allow us to present more programs and save more lives through increased adoptions, education and donations.” said H.O.P.E.’s president, Kristina Kline, in a prepared statement.
As a registered 501(c)(3) charitable organization, H.O.P.E. is completely donation-supported, said Wendy Mongillo, H.O.P.E.’s Founder and executive director. Since 2002, the organization has been providing pets to adoptive families and assisting families needing to re-home pets, as well as fostering animals. H.O.P.E. also assists families with keeping pets in their homes by providing pet food to food pantries, advice and occasional emergency medical assistance.
Sunday’s event was split between two parts of the mall — the storefront itself and a dog adoption clinic outside of the store in the mall hallway.
Curious passerby, longtime supporters of H.O.P.E. and clients seeking to adopt flooded into the store on Sunday, many pausing to peruse not only the available cats for adoption in the store, but also to examine the locally made, animal-based art on the walls and to learn about some of the new store’s other amenities, like a free book exchange and a pet supply area.
Mongillo said on Sunday that the brand new storefront, which she and volunteers had worked tirelessly to reorganize and prepare for the opening, was a sign of massive growth for the organization.
H.O.P.E. was established in 2002, Mongillo said, and always had the operational goal of fostering and finding homes for as many pets as possible.
“I decided from day one that’s what I wanted to do,” she said.
Over the years, the organization has functioned out of many places, including the Clifton Park Center Mall, where adoptions used to be held in conjunction with local animal shelters. H.O.P.E. also used to have a small space in Schuylerville, but nothing, Mongillo said, that was conducive to the organization bringing in more animals to adopt out.
That changed, she said, once talks with the Wilton Mall began to progress. Since the lease was signed, she said, the organization will be in operation seven days a week.
The centralized location and the visual storefront, Mongillo said, will definitely be a large boon for how many animals that H.O.P.E. is able to find homes for.
“I think that’ll happen,” she said.
The H.O.P.E. Adoption and Education Center will be open from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Mondays through Fridays, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Saturdays and 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Sundays. H.O.P.E. has brought on two full-time employees to work at the store, along with a large staff of volunteers.
Mongillo pointed out that despite the new chapter, for the almost two decades H.O.P.E. has been in operation, it has always come down to the support of volunteers as well as clients whose main goal is to care for animals.
“It’s really been a group effort,” she said.