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New Ken native takes up cause for animals

| Friday, April 15, 2005

New Kensington native Beverly Swearingen's love and concern for animals has led to the formation of an animal shelter in Cheatham, Tenn., that recently received a $500,000 grant.

New Kensington native Beverly Swearingen's love and concern for animals has led to the formation of an animal shelter in Cheatham, Tenn., that recently received a $500,000 grant.

When Swearingen moved to Tennessee 11 years ago, she noticed there was a problem with abandoned animals. She soon discovered there was no established place to call to get the animals placed in homes.

In 1997, Swearingen formed the nonprofit Cheatham County Animal Awareness Foundation.

"Since the formation of the foundation, we have taken 1,500 animals off the streets and placed them into permanent, loving homes," Swearingen says. "It is not uncommon to buy a house and gain two or three dogs because the family has left them behind."

When residents of Cheatham County knew that she was able to successfully place animals in homes, she became better known as the person to call when a house pet had become a burden.

"When I would return home from work at Hospital Corporation of America I would find an abandoned dog or two in my back yard," she says. "If not the animals, at least 10 to 20 phone calls on my answering machine asking me if I would come to get their animal."

In January, Swearingen was laid off from her job.

Stunned and unsure where to go next, the county mayor asked her whether she could go to work for the animal shelter that was in the process of being developed.

She agreed.

"It is cool to do something that I absolutely adore," she says. "Maybe there is a reason that I was laid off."

When Swearingen spoke at monthly county commission meetings, her cause always was the animals. After the six years that she voiced her cause for the animals and the need of a county animal shelter, Swearingen convinced the county to approve almost $500,000 to establish animal-control authority.

The shelter will house 50 animals at a time, with the ability to house 250,000 in a year.

Swearingen has relied on donations to outfit the shelter and was offered a refurbished ambulance as a way to transport animals.

"We have received most of our appliances through donations," she said. "But we are in need of Wal-Mart gift cards to purchase animal food and cleaning supplies."

She was able to incorporate a program into the shelter with a trained staff, clerk and two animal-control officers.

Through Swearingen's efforts, the Cheatham County Animal Control Shelter is slated to open at the end of the month.

Swearingen's mother, Joan Stochr-Simon of New Kensington, knew her daughter had a heart of gold, but never imagined she would pour it out for the love of animals.

Swearingen's efforts have saved the lives of countless dogs and changed a community for the better.

With the help of the county and support of her husband, John, Swearingen has stepped forward and made her self heard through a voice the residents of Cheatham County will never forget.

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