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Capital Humane Society

In June 2011, the Capital Humane Society announced plans to build a new adoption center near 70th Street and Nebraska 2. (Courtesy image)

It never hurts to ask -- as Capital Humane Society Director Bob Downey discovered.

In search of a benefactor to give a kick-start to the "Celebrate Me Home" campaign to fund construction of a new animal adoption center, Downey called long-time friend and Nebraska businessman Mark Pieloch.

On Nov. 4, Downey asked Pieloch for 40 to 50 minutes to talk about the proposed $2.9 million state-of-the art adoption and education facility being built at the southeast corner of Nebraska 2 and South 70th Street.

As the owner of Pharma Chemie, an international animal supplement company based in Syracuse, Pieloch doesn't have a lot of spare time. So he cut to the chase and asked Downey how much he was looking for.

"I'd be more than happy with a donation of $1 million, but a half a million will do," he told Pieloch.

Three days later -- at 8:16 a.m. Nov. 7, Pieloch called Downey.

"I'm going to make your day," he told the Humane Society director. "I'm giving you $1.5 million."

"He didn't make my day," Downey recalled. "He made my lifetime."

"I don't know if Mark understands what he has done for this organization. This means everything to us," he said, overcome with emotion.

The building will be named the Pieloch Animal Adoption Center. Its dog rescue area will be named for his four children: Rachel, 20; Katherine, 19; Alexander, 17; and Nicholas, 15.

Pieloch's donation puts the Celebrate Me Home campaign at $3.7 million -- far more than the $2.9 million goal for the project.

Construction on the 2.5 acres of land on the corner adjacent to The Home Depot and the People's Credit Union will begin in March or April "or as soon as the ground thaws," Downey said.

The animals and staff could be in the building as early as February 2012.

The 15,000-square-foot adoption center will have room for 45 dogs and 50 cats. Using state-of-the-art animal shelter design, cats will be housed in colonies, dogs will have fenced outdoor exercise areas and home-like rooms for people to visit them. The building will use green building standards and have a new kennel cleansing system designed to reduce water consumption and enhance the cleaning and disinfecting of kennels, Downey said.

Land for the facility was sold at less than half its $1 million appraised value by Lincoln developers and animal lovers Dave and Mary Jo Livingston, who serve as honorary chairs of the capital campaign.

The location, along a busy Lincoln corridor, is ideal, Downey said. On an average day 70,000 vehicles drive through that intersection.

"If we can capture one-quarter of one percent, that is 180 visitors coming to the facility," Downey said.

"We don't come close to that at this particular location," he said, referring to the Humane Society's current building at 2320 Park Blvd.

For Pieloch, who currently faces a felony charge in Lancaster County for failing to pay sales tax on a pickup purchased in 2009, the donation is not about money. It's about doing what's best for the community and its animals, he said.

Once he and his wife, Sheri, learned that the new facility could increase adoptions 80 or 90 percent in three years and save an estimated 5,000 to 6,000 animal lives, they were all in.

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Reach Erin Andersen at 402-473-7217 or eandersen@journalstar.com.

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