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For Immediate Release


Barb Geno; 231-250-0610,

Dani Merrill; 231-924-9230,

Bellwether Harbor Animal Shelter Announces Changes

The newly formed Board of Directors of Bellwether Harbor Animal Shelter, Inc. announced several key changes for their regional animal shelter, ensuring it will continue to grow and serve the community for years to come.

Bellwether Harbor Animal Shelter was the vision of Dani Merrill, built in 2002 with over $1 million in construction and equipment costs donated by Merrill, and Peggy Stone contributing $50,000 for additional equipment dedicated to dogs. Since then, Merrill has served as the volunteer Executive Director and primary benefactor, with many donors and granting organizations contributing as well.

Merrill has recently decided to retire as the Executive Director. Her target date is December 1, 2023, but will remain until the best possible replacement for her leadership is found and solidly in place to maintain the mission and expand the programs of Bellwether. “I have realized it is time for me to step back and let this amazing organization grow and expand to its best capabilities. Bellwether is my gift to our community, and region, with the hope that everyone that has relied on our services will continue to embrace and support our shelter work in protecting and nurturing abandoned, abused and neglected homeless animals, educating the people looking to adopt our dogs and cats for their forever homes. As the saying goes, it takes a village, and I have great hopes ‘our village’ will continue to support financially the work our shelter is doing, and possibly more, for it to continue to serve our homeless animal population.”

“We are incredibly appreciative of Dani Merrill,” said Barb Geno, Board Chair. “Her vision to see the need, use her own personal money to purchase the land, build and equip the building, and substantially support the operation of the shelter for the last 21 years, have been an incredible launching pad from which the new Bellwether Harbor Animal Shelter can emerge, grow, and thrive under new leadership. We are grateful for her gift to our community and region and hope our community will continue to help with their advocacy and financial support.”

The Board of Directors is launching a search to fill its first paid Executive Director position and is seeking an experienced animal shelter leader with significant fundraising abilities for its leadership role. To view the job description, go to Interested candidates should submit a cover letter and resume, no more than four pages, in one PDF to Barb Geno at

The reason for establishing a new 501c(3) nonprofit, as a public charity, rather than leaving it as a supported program of the private Bellwether Foundation, is that this new IRS recognition will make it easier for the organization to receive contributions from individuals, foundations, small businesses, large corporations, and civic groups looking to support the mission of Bellwether Harbor Animal Shelter. Merrill hopes that the community will embrace Bellwether with support and donations as it becomes more independent.  The mission of the shelter is, ‘Helping animals and people make a connection through education, training, and adoption.’

The new nonprofit Board of Directors currently includes Barb Geno, Chair; Jane Thompson, Vice Chair; Loretta Towne, Secretary/Treasurer, Marji Derks, Vonni Leaver and Amy Moore.  “We are excited to build on this history of success, by hiring our first paid Executive Director, expanding our Board, and fundraising to support the current and future needs of the shelter,” said Geno.  Geno and her fellow Board Members hope the community will rally behind the new shelter board and welcome a new leader when Merrill’s retirement is finalized.

About Bellwether Harbor Animal Shelter

Bellwether Harbor, located at 7645 W. 48th Street, Fremont, MI 49412, has been in operations since the facility was built in 2002 when the land and facility were donated by Dani Merrill. Since then, the program operating costs have largely been covered by donations by Dani Merrill, the Bellwether Foundation (established by Merrill in 1994), the Dogwood Foundation, along with grants from the Fremont Area Community Foundation, the Gerber Foundation, and other individual, corporate and foundation donors. It sits on 18 acres of land and can accommodate 12 dogs and approximately 30 cats in its shelter. Bellwether provides counseling and adoption services, training of dogs with their owners, and has a small retail store with needed supplies to help pet owners. Volunteers are always needed. For more information see




Bellwether Harbor