The gold ceremonial groundbreaking shovels hardly loosened the dry rock-hard caliche at the site where in less than five months the expanded, larger and greatly improved Corinne T. Smith Animal Center will stand.

The hard ground might have been symbolic of the efforts to get the “Woof” raised on the new center. And as happy a day as it was for many, that at last construction would be starting on the center, board members were cautious to say that beginning the construction was only the beginning of a project that will be ongoing.

“Corinne Smith would be so glad to know that after many years of planning, the new building is finally becoming a reality,” said the Brown County Humane Society president, Betty Cass.

Cass said that in July 2006, The Brown County Humane Society changed its operating name to the Corinne T. Smith Animal Center, “in memory of this dedicated woman who, with many, many volunteers, spent their time working to create a humane society in Brownwood in 1974 and get a building constructed.

“This old facility was opened in 1978, built totally with donations of money, materials and time,” Cass said. “Now we are starting this new facility with money donated by a wonderful lady from Goldthwaite, Norma Lee Robertson.”

Robertson left the shelter a bequest to help the Brown County Humane Society have improved facilities to care for the animals in the shelter. Her close friends, Toby and Martha Bryant attended the groundbreaking Monday, Martha carrying a portrait of Robertson.

“Norma Lee was kind of like family to us,” Martha said. “She was a rancher. She liked animals and wanted them to be cared for.”

“She’d be pleased they’re doing this today,” Toby said. “We wished it could have all happened sooner.”

Smith’s son, Jeff Smith said he knew his mother was smiling down from heaven above.

“This means quite a bit to our family,” he said. “Mother started a shelter out of our home, really, and held it together on a shoestring. We’re very happy, but we know the building is just a start.

“There will be costs that continue, operating costs and other expenses, so we’re not finished. We understand that, but we’ve made a wonderful start.”

During the 2007 year, the shelter took in over 4,300 animals, Cass said.

Many are to be thanked for continuing the efforts to have an improved and better animal shelter.

“I would like to thank Cheryl Campbell, who started as Corinne’s office manager at the shelter and has developed the position of executive director over the past five years,” Cass said. “Cheryl has brought many positive ideas and improvements to our facility from other shelter operations.

“I would also like to thank both the past and present shelter staff, both the past and present board members and for all of the people throughout the years who have spent thousands of volunteer hours bringing us to where we are today.

But especially, Cass said, she wanted to thank Johnnie Golden and Randee Green, who got a group of dedicated volunteers inspired to help begin the “Raise the Woof” capital campaign.

The funds the “Raise the Woof” committee is raising will help go toward completing the interior of the building, Cass said. There are still many needs to make the building ready to use.

“We appreciate so much the help that we have received so far. We still need to community’s help and many more contributions are needed.”

More than 50 people attended the groundbreaking on Monday. Those present included Cass and board members Ed Golden, vice president, Vita Weehunt, treasurer, Don Benedict, parliamentarian, and Allan Cass, M.D., Nick Ferguson and Kitt Kittelberger; past board of directors, Johnnie Golden, Leona Berry and Cary Perrin; shelter staff, Cheryl Campbell, executive director,

Jimmie Robinson, kennel manager, Dan Kelly, receptionist, Diane Blevins, Deena Greene and Laura Cottle; Brownwood City Councilman Carl McMillan; Don Hatcher, representative from the City of Brownwood; Raise the Woof committee members,

Randee Green, committee chairperson, Barbara Barrera, Sue Byrd, Nancy Byler, Laura Heinrich and children, Kate and Nelson, and Smokey Tormolen; Jeff Smith, son of Corinne T. Smith; and Toby and Martha Bryant, representing the estate of Norma Lee Robertson; Brownwood Area Chamber of Commerce Representatives, Laura Terhune, Tammi Elliott,

Joyce Coffey, Donna Wilhelm, Melanie Jackson, Autumn Hood, Michael Richardson, Traci Richards,

Wayne McCrane, Ronnie Lappe and Ada Turner; and builder/contractor, Kirby Rasco.