A Downers Grove shelter will have extra funds to care for rescued animals this year thanks to a surprise donation from a Lemont man.
Sylvester Czopek, 84, died in a Joliet hospice in October 2011. He was a Korean war veteran, and the last of five brothers—all of whom never married.
With no living heirs, Czopek set up a trust that directed his $1.5 million estate to five no-kill animal shelters in the Chicago area: Will County Humane Society in Shorewood, the Naperville Area Humane Society, PAWS Chicago Adoption Center, the Animal Welfare League in Chicago Ridge and West Suburban Humane Society in Downers Grove.
The shelters received word of the generous donation in early December, just before the holiday season. Each will receive an equal share, roughly $300,000.
At the West Suburban Humane Society, staff and volunteers were stunned to learn of Czopek's gift.
"We've been lucky to receive some very generous donations over the years, but this one is definitely one of the biggest," said Carolyn Mossberger, executive director of the West Suburban Humane Society.
The shelter, located at 1901 W. Ogden Ave. in Downers Grove, provides full-time housing for up to 25 dogs and 60 cats. Animal care and adoptions are provided by three full-time and six part-time employees, as well as a large group of volunteers.
Mossberger said they plan to use part of the donation toward animal care and adoptions.
"We are a full-service animal shelter, so in addition to rescuing and caring for cats and dogs, we also provide any medical care they need, whether it's surgery or vaccinations," Mossberger said.
With eyes on the future, West Suburban Humane Society will also set aside part of the $300,000 for updates to its current shelter, as well as a new building.
"We've been talking for quite some time about expanding the shelter so we can take in and care for more animals," Mossberger said. "We have limited resources right now, but the donation from Mr. Czopek is a big step forward."
Mossberger said Czopek's gift will make a "huge impact" on the shelter in 2013.
"It was a wonderful surprise," Mossberger said. "For a man to leave behind his entire estate to local animal shelter—it's just so generous and compassionate. We're very grateful."
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