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Charlotte Wolpers Craig: “Southeast Missouri has long been a tremendously underserved area in terms of rescues for animals."

Charlotte Wolpers Craig spoke with the Missouri on Mic team at the Margaret Harwell Art Museum in Poplar Bluff in July.

She spoke about growing up in the area and one of her lifelong passions – helping animals. She helped found the Animal Welfare Alliance of Southeast Missouri, which opened a no-kill shelter earlier this year.

Missouri on Mic is an oral history and journalism project documenting stories from around the state in its 200th year.

Charlotte Wolpers Craig: It was a fun place to grow up. Now, I turned 78 last week, so, you know, I was here in the 50s, in the 60s, and, you know, so on.

And gosh, we did some things growing up that that just makes my hair stand on end now. I can't believe we did them.

I've always been crazy about horses, and my best friend growing up, Barbara Tapp, was, as well, and we would ride our – we would have to ride our horses down Highway 67, and there were transport trucks going by us and everything.

It, you know, it was only by the grace of God, we didn't get killed, but that's the kind of thing – and we, you know, would go swimming in the river, and it was just pretty much a small-town kind of experience.

But Southeast Missouri has long been a tremendously underserved area in terms of rescues for animals or even veterinary care. Of the four counties that that we consider to be our service area, of the group I’m with – being Butler, Carter, Ripley, and Wayne.

I believe I'm correct in saying that two of those counties don't even have a city pound within their borders. One of those counties only has one veterinarian. I think the other two have none. Poplar Bluff has three veterinary clinics, you know. So, it's just, it's crazy down here.

So, after I retired and came back to Poplar Bluff in 2000, I decided that that was the next thing I wanted to do. So, several other people and I started The Animal Welfare Alliance of Southeast Missouri, and we immediately decided that we needed to try to help low-income pet owners with their spay and neuter costs. So, we started doing that right away.

We incorporated as a nonprofit in 2009, and since then we've spent more than $100,000 helping people, but with the other hand, we wanted to start saving money toward establishing a no-kill animal shelter because there just were no options around here for folks.

I mean, the Poplar Bluff Animal Shelter or pound, you know, they can only do so much, and they're pretty much filled with animals from Poplar Bluff, and people who live out in the county or in some of the other counties don't have anywhere to turn.

So, we really wanted to start a shelter, and now – 12 years after we started that drive – we finally were able to open one this spring, and so, we had our grand opening June 17, and we're already full, of course, but at least we exist, and we consider that a great blessing and a great victory.

Rebecca Smith is an award-winning reporter and producer for the KBIA Health & Wealth Desk. Born and raised outside of Rolla, Missouri, she has a passion for diving into often overlooked issues that affect the rural populations of her state – especially stories that broaden people’s perception of “rural” life.
Caoilinn left KBIA in December of 2022.
Caoilinn Goss is the Audio Convergence Editor at KBIA. She trains and oversees student reporters, editors and anchors to produce daily afternoon newscasts. She's also a Missouri Journalism School alum.