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Beline Obeid

Shelter-ing a million dollars

Thomas Mackey looked to his head and his heart and donated $1 million to the Michigan Humane Society to replace its aged Detroit facility.

April 07, 2011
It's not often a charity receives a $1 million donation.

That's exactly what happened recently at the Michigan Humane Society, thanks to Grosse Pointe Farms resident Thomas Mackey. The avowed animal lover recently donated $1 million to the society to build a new Detroit facility.

Grosse Pointe Farms resident Thomas Mackey and his wire-haired terrier, Scruffy. Mackey recently donated $1 million to the Michigan Humane Society to help build a new Detroit facility. The retired stockbroker, a former society board member and current member of its honorary board, took a business-minded approach to his heartfelt contribution. ďI study their annual reports and form 990s (non profit tax returns). I donít have a lot of money and to give that kind of gift you want to make sure itís going to work,Ē Mackey explained. ďIím not going to give a lot of money to something thatís not efficient. Theyíre a very efficient organization. Your money works pretty hard for you there.Ē Photo courtesy of the Michigan Humane Society.
"I've always kept quite close to the Michigan Humane Society. I was on the board of directors for many years and am now an honorary board member," Mackey said.

His donation is specifically earmarked for building a new Detroit facility.

"Their Detroit shelter is over a hundred years old," Mackey explained. "It's strictly duct tape and wire holding it together and they needed a new one (facility) very badly and this is just the Detroit shelter. They've got other shelters."

The society was eyeing a piece of property across the street from the current location, but "we just couldn't get them (the owner) to sell it at a price we could afford," Mackey said.

Another parcel a few blocks down the street became available. "We could buy it at an attractive price and that's why I gave them the money to buy the property and get the plans and the campaign started," he said.

The $1 million is enough to purchase the property, hire the architect, do some site planning, pay city permit fees and start the fundraising campaign to fund building the facility.

The new location will contain special amenities for an animal shelter. "The architect specializes in animal shelters. There's a lot of different stuff," Mackey said. "They have to have different heating and air conditioning and the things they need to clean out the cages and other stuff like that."

Mackey's love of animals and involvement with the society goes back to his youth. Mackey remembers a childhood photo of him and his mother feeding a carrot to a horse. The photo was taken at the society's annual horse Christmas party.

"My whole life we always had cats and dogs. We, just as a family, always loved animals. Growing up I don't think there was ever a time we didn't have a couple of cats and a dog," Mackey explained.

Over his lifetime, Mackey counts having owned 20 to 25 cats and dogs. "One of my favorite dogs appeared at our front door and wanted to come in."

His current companion is Scruffy, a wire-haired terrier.

The native Grosse Pointer graduated from Detroit University School, Brown University in Rhode Island and was an investment banker for 50 years. "That's a fancy name for stockbroker." He retired "eight or nine years ago."

He continues to trade in the stock market, but when asked to name other interests, Mackey demurred; "I must do something because I'm busy all the time."

He mentions sailing in numerous Detroit to Mackinac races and membership in local clubs, but quickly moves the conversation back to his involvement with animals, whether it's attending fundraisers for the humane society or Grosse Pointe Animal Adoption Society or simply enjoying the camaraderie with fellow owners walking their dogs at the Country Club of Detroit.

"There's a whole group of people, 30 to 35 people, who walk their dogs at the club and the dogs all know each other. The dogs know the cars when people drive up," Mackey said. "It's like the people who know each other because their kids play hockey. It's the same thing here. We all know each other."

And it seems everyone who knows the single Mackey — "I was engaged a few times" — knows about his love of animals. It was a friend who suggested him to the humane society for the board so many years ago. He often receives calls from acquaintances to help with their adoptions and even to rescue cats from trees. "People that know me know that I'm close to the humane society.

"I tell you, all you have to do is go to an animal shelter and look at the dogs and cats," Mackey said. "They all look at you with their big round eyes that say 'pick me, pick me' and you fall in love with them pretty fast."

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