MANATEE — Weeds are overgrown. And it will need some paint and repairs.
But Cindy Morton sees past all that and envisions a place where abused and abandoned animals will be happy.
"This is absolutely tremendous," said Morton, president of Honor Sanctuary. "We're going to work hard to make this the first-rate facility the county expects and needs."
The Manatee County Commission this week approved the temporary use of a vacant county building for sheltering abandoned and abused animals.
Commissioner Carol Whitmore said the county board OK'd her plan Tuesday to allow Honor Sanctuary, an animal welfare organization, to fix up and use a building on Buckeye Road.
"There's more to government than just land-use issues," Whitmore said. "These are very hard times now, and people are stressed out.
"This is when government can lend a helping hand."
The nonprofit organization Morton co-founded with Mary Lupi has relied on volunteers to provide foster homes for neglected and abused pets.
"We're going to have one, big cleanup party in this joint," Lupi said as she toured the abandoned home Wednesday with Morton and other Honor Sanctuary board members.
"It needs a lot of work," she said, looking at the broken glass and debris scattered across the tile floors. "But it has a lot of potential. I can see offices, rooms for the animals, a classroom."
Board member Kathy Simes said the group has a lot of work ahead of it, but with the help of the community, she said, the building would make a good interim shelter.
The organization's treasurer, Jolene Shindler, said, "It will take a lot of money to start up and a lot of volunteers."
But the Honor Sanctuary has a great following in the Lakewood Ranch area and she expects the community to step up with volunteers and donations.
The group hopes local businesses also will be donating their services to repair the plumbing, electrical and air conditioning.
Morton knew the building was the answer to her prayers when she found a poster with a picture of a puppy with its dropping cheeks laying on a couple of dumbbells.
The words on the poster said it all: "If it can't be easier, Lord, then help me be stronger."
"We're so grateful to the county commission for caring about the animals in the community," Morton said.
She said her group has been overwhelmed with animal rescue cases since the economy has slowed.
In a Bradenton Herald story last week, she said Honor Sanctuary has about 100 volunteers who foster 70 to 80 pets in need of permanent homes.
"What we're seeing are stories of people who can no longer afford their animals," Morton said. "We need somebody to donate a place or help us with a long-term lease."
The Buckeye Road facility will help bridge that time until a permanent facility is found.
The county purchased the 3.5 acres and former home as part of its land-acquisition program for a road-widening project.
Want to help? To volunteer with the Honor Sanctuary animal rescue group, go to www.honorsanctuary.org or call 302-0933.