Victory Christian School children, Bank Forward team up to help James River Humane Society

They collected money and items to donate to the animal shelter.

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Jo Biloff, president of the James River Humane Society, introduces pre-K kids from Victory Christian School on Monday, May 15, to Marcus, a cat at the shelter waiting for a permanent home. The children and other grades at the school collected items for the human society in a friendly competition with Bank Forward.
Kathy Steiner / The Jamestown Sun

JAMESTOWN — A friendly competition to help the James River Humane Society paid off earlier this week in more ways than one.

Children at Victory Christian School and Bank Forward competed with each other and together donated $850 and 416 items including cat and dog toys and treats to the humane society.

Heather Tomlin-Rohr and husband Jason Rohr have conducted the friendly competition for 21 years through their respective jobs. Tomlin-Rohr, who taught for many years at Louis L’Amour Elementary School, is now a pre-K teacher at Victory Christian School. Her husband is a crop insurance specialist at Bank Forward.

“We thought that would be a neat thing to do wherever he was working at the time against where I was working,” she said. “And Jason has changed jobs more than I have so each workplace has been on board with doing this competition …”

The competition is also about children learning they can have an impact, she said.


“We just feel that this is a way we can have community involvement and in my classrooms I’ve always felt it’s important to let children know that they are a part of the community and that they can do something, whether it’s bringing in one dollar, one penny, it all goes to help something in our community, and in this case, the James River Humane Society,” she said.

The pre-K class visited Bank Forward on Monday wearing visors with dangling “puppy ears” to learn about the bank and collect the “loot” from the competition.

“Last year when we did this, we came as little bandits,” Tomlin-Rohr said, “and this year (as) the Puppy Bandits, and we came to ‘steal’ all the stuff Bank Forward collected to take to James River Humane Society.”

The contest began the last week in April and ran through May 15. There were periodic phone calls in good-natured sneaky attempts between the two groups to learn which one was collecting the most items, Tomlin-Rohr said. While the children were declared the winners with 291 items and $400 collected to the bank’s 125 items and $450, the cats and dogs at the humane society were the real winners, she said.

“The whole … Victory Christian School (pre-K through grade 6) worked against Bank Forward to see who could bring in the most donated items for the James River Humane Society,” she said.

If you’re going to have “Puppy Bandits,” you probably need a sheriff, too, and Penny Steckler, personal banking officer/assistant vice president at Bank Forward, had that designated job, wearing a “sheriff” badge and cowgirl hat as she gave the children a tour of the bank departments.

“It’s nice to be able to do this with Victory Christian School now after 20 years with Louis L’Amour,’ Rohr said. “So we’re just always looking for opportunities to, first of all, to get children in the bank to help educate them, but also to contribute to the community and give back where we can.”

At the humane society, the children got to see the cats and dogs and learn about the services the nonprofit provides.


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Heather Tomlin-Rohr, left, pre-K teacher at Victory Christian School, and her students visited the James River Humane Society on Monday, May 15, to deliver donations of food and items that were collected by students at the school. At right is Kris Meidinger, dog manager at the humane society.
Kathy Steiner / The Jamestown Sun

Jo Biloff, president of the James River Humane Society Board, said the donation from the children and Bank Forward is needed and appreciated.

“It is absolutely huge,” she said. “We go through a ton of cleaning supply. We have just recently switched over to using Rescue cleaner for all of our sanitizing and disinfecting and it’s very expensive. … It costs us on average over $200 a month to use but it has been deemed safest to prevent the disease that the dogs and cats can get inside kennels.”

She said the humane society also uses a lot of products such as paper towels, sanitary wipes, Dawn dish soap and gloves and it would be overwhelming to have to pay for all of those items.

“We are a 501(c)(3),” she said. “We rely heavily on fundraising and donations to keep our operation going.”

The animal shelter receives a half mill as a separate Animal Shelter Fund, said Sarah Hellekson, city administrator. The mill levy, approved by more than 60% of voters in 2010, is in effect through the taxable 2024 year. The Jamestown City Council approved the James River Humane Society’s request earlier this month to replace the half-mill levy that is expected to sunset at the end of that year.

On the day of the visit, there were nine cats and four kittens being sheltered and the space for dogs was full.

“Our kennels will not remain empty for very long,” Biloff said. “We usually try to keep about 15 to 17 dogs on site. We had a litter of puppies that were dumped off here, probably over a month ago. They were 6-week-old puppies.”

Kris Meidinger, dog manager, said the shelter had three surrender calls on Monday, which is when people want to surrender their dogs.


“And yes, we’re very full with waiting lists for dogs,” she said. “... So right now we have puppies and adults and we have dogs in foster care. We have quite a few in foster-to-adopt homes where they’re fostering and then when the medical work is done and stuff they’ll adopt them.”

The humane society charges $200 to adopt a dog or a cat. Meidinger noted that it costs more than $200 to spay/neuter and vaccinate the dog.

“A lot of our pets coming in do not have the best start in life so some of them require a lot more vet care,” Biloff said. “Some need specialized vet care. We’ve had some cats that have needed a leg amputation. We’ve had other dogs that have other complications that have required an emergency trip to the Red River Animal Hospital Emergency Hospital in Fargo. We work with all three of our vets here in town.”

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Penny Steckler, right, personal banking officer/assistant vice president at Bank Forward, in cowgirl hat and wearing a "sheriff" badge, tells the "Puppy Bandits" from Victory Christian School about different banking departments. Bank Forward and the pre-K children competed to collect the most items to donate at the James River Humane Society.
Kathy Steiner / The Jamestown Sun

June is Adopt a Shelter Cat Month so that month people who adopt a cat would pay a reduced price of $150 for the first cat and $125 for the second, Biloff said.

Biloff said there is a great need for foster families.

“There is such a need for fostering just because we can only have so many (animals) on site and some cats and dogs just do not do well in a shelter situation,” she said.

Volunteers are also needed, primarily from 5 to 7 p.m. every day of the week, she said. Children who volunteer must be accompanied by an adult.


The humane society participates in several programs, including the spay and neuter program with local veterinarians, helping pay part of the cost for the public.

The humane society is open from 1 to 3 p.m. Sundays and by appointment with the dog manager, Meidinger, and cat manager, Sheila Marsalek. The humane society hopes to expand its hours in the future, Biloff said. The James River Humane Society has a wish list of needed items on Amazon. Bleach and Mr. Clean are no longer used at the animal shelter.

For more information and to view animals up for adoption, visit .

Kathy Steiner has been the editor of The Jamestown Sun since 1995. She graduated from Valley City State College with a bachelor's degree in English and studied mass communications at North Dakota State University, Fargo. She reports on business, government and community topics in the Jamestown area. Reach her at 701-952-8449 or
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