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Humane Society Thrift Store In Limbo No More: Open for Business & Taking Donations

Lake City Humane Society thrift store with caption: Chief Judge Vernon Douglas wants you to know, humane society thrift store open for business
Photo: Columbia County Observer

COLUMBIA COUNTY, FL – Recent news in the County's mainstream media and reportedly on social media had the Humane Society’s Lake City thrift store in survival limbo. “The Thrift store is operating, taking donations, and will be around for a long time,” said Keith Williams, President of the Humane Society Board.

Humane Society's adoption specialist Roy Armstrong with a little dog, that without the Humane Society would have ended up in the land fill.

During the February 11, 2022, animal control hearing in front of legendary former circuit court chief judge Vernon Douglas, the Humane Society Thrift Store topic came up.

Justice Douglas asked Chief Animal Control Officer Amber Everhart, "I've been taking things to the [Humane Society] thrift store, and I have another pick-up load that my wife wants out of the house. Is your consignment store going to stay open because I refer people there? Is it still open?"

Ms. Everhart answered, "Yes, sir."

The Chief Judge continued, "I'm embarrassed because I told people to go there, and then I saw an article in the paper. Maybe somebody could clear it up because I just learned here today that people can still go there."

Judge Douglas looked at your reporter and added, "Maybe you could do that. It's important."

This story is that.

Background: More than meets the eye.

Glenn and Laura Hunter had a mortgage with Columbia Bank for the former home of Hunter Printing. A combination of the decline in demand for printed material and COVID put the Hunter’s in a bad spot, not unlike hundreds of thousands of small business persons across America and throughout the world.

Glenn and Laura Hunter at the Truck Stop 75 benefit.

For decades, Laura Hunter has been a Lake City Humane Society board member. Glenn Hunter worked in the background. Both worked tirelessly and for no pay to help support the needs of Columbia County's Humane Society.

Decades of work were capped off in April 2019 with the largest fundraiser in the history of the Humane Society. A benefit that at times seemed to be attended by everyone in the County.

See: Super Columbia County Success on Saturday Night Truck Stop 75 Sponsored Humane Society Benefit

Columbia Bank was known for decades as the “Hometown” bank. Columbia Bank was taken over by Millennium Bank.

Suzanne Norris presiding over the IDA in 2009.
Suzanne Norris presiding over the IDA in 2009. She was with TD Bank.

Suzanne Norris, former Columbia County IDA Chairperson, TD Bank executive, and Florida Gateway College board member, became president of Millennium Bank.

The Hunter’s rented the Hunter Printing Building to the Humane Society for a big discount on the going rate.

The Hunter's took no shortcuts and invested thousands in upgrading the building to meet ADA and other requirements.

The Hunter’s got behind on their mortgage payments.

On May 11, 2021, Millennium's attorneys sent a letter to the Humane Society advising them to pay the rent directly to the bank, to the attention of Suzanne Norris.

Beginning with the June rent, the Humane Society began forwarding the rent directly to Millennium. Their payments to the bank were $3,300.

The Hunter's mortgage payment was $1,650 a month. The Humane Society was doubling up on the mortgage payments to Millennium.

On November 18, 2021, Suzanne Norris, the former "Hometown Bank president," filed suit against the Hunters and the LC-Columbia County Humane Society.

According to Glenn Hunter, he was trying to work out a solution with Millennium when the Bank went to court.

Humane Society President Keith Williams Weighs In

Humane Society president Keith WilliamsLast Saturday, your reporter spoke with Humane Society President Keith Williams. He said Ms. Norris told him, "All we want is our money.”

Mr. Williams added, "The mortgage issue with the bank was cleared up." The building is now under an LLC. It's now out of Millennium Bank's hands.

Your reporter asked, “Are you open for business?”

link to letter in support of Glenn & Laura Hunter.Mr. Williams answered, "We are open six days a week, Monday through Saturday. All profits go to the Humane Society. We probably would have gone under many months ago without the thrift store. We very much depend on the thrift store, and there was an all-out attack on the thrift store to affect the Humane Society."

Mr. Williams continued, “We are open; we are taking care of the animals; we are doing what we are supposed to do.”

Mr. Williams said that he had issued a signed letter of support to County Manager David Kraus for Glenn and Laura Hunter. He said, “Every board signed the letter except for one person, Linda Johns.”

The letter concludes: “Many unforeseen circumstances have led to financial challenges within the Lake City/Columbia County Humane Society and without the revenue generated by the thrift store; we would likely have had to close our doors and no longer serve the citizens of Columbia County.”

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