Rehabbing rescues gives Jill Sullivan Grueter a sense of purpose
By Wendy Wollenberg
For anyone who thinks that an animal can’t change your life, consider Jill Sullivan Grueter and her dog, Molly. A Chocolate Labrador rescued by Sullivan Grueter in 2001, Molly’s life was cut short by lupus in 2004. Four months later, Sullivan Grueter’s father passed away from brain cancer. These two life-changing events inspired Sullivan Grueter, a writer, to donate her services to local animal rescue groups. While working with these shelters, she saw first-hand the repairs some of them so desperately needed. “I thought of doing an Extreme Makeover for shelters,” Sullivan Grueter says.
Instead, she recruited a high school buddy, JB Byrne, a carpenter and builder who has constructed multi-million dollar homes all along the Seacoast of New Hampshire. Byrne brought on a talented and ambitious crew consisting of Drew Davis, a stonemason, and Simon MacAlister, an electrician, and in 2009 the Project Pawsitive Foundation was born. The group restores, renovates, and rebuilds animal shelters on the verge of collapse and is currently undertaking its third project. “The guys get their hands dirty, and I do whatever is in my power,” Sullivan Grueter says.
Which means a lot of fundraising. Sullivan Grueter raises all of the money for Project Pawsitive herself, a “16- to 18-hour a day job,” she estimates. Corporate sponsors such as Home Depot and Lindt Swiss Chocolatier help fund Project Pawsitive’s initiative. Also in the group’s innovative fundraising mix is an ongoing online auction with such covetable items as dinner with Boston Bruins players, VIP concert tickets, and signed sports memorabilia that have been donated by fans of the organization.
Sullivan Grueter films every renovation project for a podcast and has also used a reality show-style video to help promote Project Pawsitive’s cause. Working with an LA-based production company, Sullivan Grueter created a compelling video outlining Project Pawsitive’s mission. The video, which can be seen on You Tube and has been shopped to networks, features a horse rescue organization, the group’s first renovation project. The Project Pawsitive team built a new roof and added power and water. “The building was not going to make it through another winter,” Sullivan Grueter recalls. The video shows the commitment the Project Pawsitive team brings to each project and the change that can come when people pay attention and band together. “I want to bring awareness to small rescues that aren’t necessarily in big, shiny buildings,” Sullivan Grueter emphasizes. “I want to start a revolution.”
Project Pawsitive began its biggest and most challenging project yet last month, Greyhound Adoption Services, a rescue in Salisbury, MA. The building, which has been in operation since the 1980s, will be a total tear-down. The four-week plan consists of a complete rehab of the interior and exterior of the building, including roofing and flooring, new kennels and office areas, and a state-approved section for housing new rescues to screen for illness.
While Project Pawsitive currently operates solely in New England, Sullivan Grueter has heard from shelters all over the world requesting their services. “I even got a call from a rescue group in Australia,” she reports. “I guess the word is getting out there.”
For more information about Project Pawsitive, visit ProjectPawsitive.com.