HARLINGEN — It’s been more than 20 years since they’ve reunited for the organization they created from the ground up in 1988.

Humane Society of Harlingen board members, staff and volunteers hosted a ceremony yesterday, along with Mayor Chris Boswell, to honor Susan McCarthy, Marilyn White, Laverne Hill and Dr. Marguerite DeWitt, the founders of the local Humane Society.

The four women will also be recognized at the Wine and Whiskers fundraiser tonight, which is the Humane Society’s biggest event of the year.

Upon entering the building of the Humane Society, the four founders immediately went toward the kennels to look at the adoptable cats, which were meowing one after another.

“They’re making music,” McCarthy said with a smile.

The ceremony began with a round of applause for the founders.

“We want to thank you and show recognition for what you’ve done and started,” said Humane Society of Harlingen Executive Director Lilia Castillo Jones.

Before handing each of the founders their personalized crystal plaques, Boswell expressed his appreciation for their “profound impact.”

“It’s so great to be able to recognize and express appreciation to people who have contributed something important and valuable to our city,” Boswell said. “So, it really makes you feel good to be able to let them know that all of their volunteer effort and hard work they’ve put in has really paid off and made a difference in our community.”

It all began with a lot of groundwork.

After the women found board members, a veterinarian, an accountant and a lawyer, they went before the City Commission.

“They let us take over the city shelter and that’s how we launched,” McCarthy explained. “We were really a hands-on board working in the shelter all of the time.”

From conducting vaccinations, grooming and taking blood tests to organizing fundraisers and collecting aluminum cans the founders always worked toward helping animals.

“It was always overwhelming. No matter how many you help, there were always more and you knew they were unseen,” McCarthy said. “Yet, when you’ve helped an animal in distress it was so gratifying to know you had taken it from its circumstances of neglect and suffering and helped it.”

As a person who was there from the beginning, DeWitt said it’s a wonderful thing to see how the Humane Society has not only continued, but has “grown its own legs.”

“It not only continued with different leadership over the years, but it’s getting better,” she explained. “The vision is getting much more comprehensive, bigger and better. That is a sign in my book.”

DeWitt believes it is important for people to care about animals because “without them, the world wouldn’t be the same.”

“I challenge people to try to close your eyes and imagine what it would be like if no one had any pets,” she said. “Not having pets for companions, I can guarantee you it wouldn’t be the same kind of world.”

IF YOU GO

WHAT — Wine and Whiskers fundraiser

WHEN — Tonight, beginning at 7:30 p.m.

WHERE — TSTC Cultural Arts Center, 1825 North Loop 499, Harlingen

PRESALE — $50

AT THE DOOR — $60

TICKET PURCHASE LOCATIONS — Humane Society of Harlingen, 1106 Markowsky Avenue or Key Mortgage, 2323 North Ed Carey

For more information, call Lilia Castillo Jones at (956) 425-7297.