A private donor has stepped up to help raise money for and help promote what some are calling "forever furry family members" in the Fort Smith area.

Wishing to remain anonymous, the donor has agreed to fund a matching grant program to support the HOPE Humane Society through June 30, said Raina Rodgers, interim executive director for HOPE. The donor will match dollar for dollar the first $30,000 the shelter raises, with the agreement that the donor also will match $2 for every $1 raised after the initial $30,000 is raised.

If the shelter raised $150,000, the donor then will match $3 for every $1 raised, Rodgers said. If more than $500,000 is raised, the donor will match $4 to every $1 raised, she said.

"We are thankful for this wonderful, big-hearted donor who is willing to match our contributions," Rodgers said. "It's an ongoing thing this month where if we can raise more than $500,000, the donor will match $4 per $1 we raise."

The money raised will go to support the HOPE Humane Society and help pay for its costs for the feeding, spaying and neutering, vaccinating and caring for the shelter's animals, she said.

"HOPE Humane Society is a no-kill shelter, but we've hit a little point where it hasn't gotten quite as much attention as we need, so once we gain more attention from the general public and they can see where our money goes, it will be good," Rodgers said. "Since HOPE is a no-kill shelter, there is always going to be money needed for the constant influx of animals."

Those wishing to donate can take their checks and cash to HOPE, which is located at 3800 Kelley Hwy., or they can mail their donations to: HOPE Humane Society, P.O. Box 10953, Fort Smith, AR 72917. Checks and cash both must specify that they are being donated to the matching grant program; checks must have "matching grant program" written on the bottom-left line, and cash can be given in envelopes with "matching grant program" written on them, Rodgers said.

"Our text application also is up so people can text their donations," she said. "Just text the number, (479) 777-4338, and follow the prompts. It will ask you how much to donate, if you want to continue that donation every month — you don't have to continue it — and such."

Donations also can be made via Paypal at HopeHumaneSociety.com, Rodgers said.

"You can write in 'Matching Grant Donation' there at Paypal; there's a pencil icon on there, so you can click that and change the name of your donation," she said. "As long as it says 'Matching Grant Donation,' that money will be matched."

HOPE also is offering a "special" discount for people wishing to adopt pets now, Rodgers said. A cat or dog can be adopted at HOPE for $10.

HOPE officials and volunteers also are needing money for HOPE's transportation program, which takes some of the shelter's animals and places them into other shelters located in Wisconsin and Indiana, among other regions, to be adopted, Rodgers said. They are hoping some of the money raised from the matching grant program will be used for the transportation program, she said.

"For some reason, there aren't as many animals at shelters in the north," Rodgers said. "How many animals we take up there at a time depends on the shelters there. We can take up to 30 animals at one time up there, and that makes room for us to receive 30 animals at a time at our own shelter."

Rodgers said she and others have seen an increase in the number of injured and/or sick animals received by HOPE. Many of these animals have suffered from neglect and/or abuse, she said.

"It can be a stray animal that is hurt and is found by someone, and a lot of animals have medical needs when they come here," Rodgers said.

Having pets spayed or neutered is one way the public can help prevent the overpopulation of animals in the area, she said.

"Every animal that isn't spayed or neutered can produce hundreds of offspring, and they in turn can produce hundreds," Rodgers said. "Spaying and neutering are a big thing."

Terrance Richardson, assistant director for HOPE Humane Society, said the shelter receives an average of 40 to 60 new animals per week. The money being raised "is really needed" at HOPE, he said.

"This matching grant program is a great program," he said. "As a nonprofit, we are always in need of donations and help. We provide for many animals, and we continue to do that on a daily basis.

"I feel confident that we will get donations to get a higher match from the private donor," Richardson added. "For those who haven't donated yet or if they are wondering if the timing is right, now is the time to donate. This the prime opportunity to make a donation and make us get what is needed."

So far, HOPE Humane Society has raised "about $15,000," which is halfway to the campaign's first financial goal, Rodgers said.

"We've had some awesome people who have contributed; I know we've made some progress," she said. "Of course, we would love to raise $500,000; that means our amazing donor would quadruple that money."

The benefits of having a rescue animal from a shelter far outnumber any pre-adoption jitters an individual or family might experience, Richardson said.

"Shortly after I started in 2013, I had never owned a shelter pet," he said. "Six months in here, I adopted my first shelter pet, and it's amazing.

"When a family balances their budget, gets the home they want and live where they want, it's amazing to see them come in and find that forever pet — that forever pet who gives you unconditional love," Richardson added. "Making that connection with people who are looking for a new family member to bring home, that is amazing."