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A quarter of a million guests visit the Zoo each year, including approximately 122,000 tourists traveling in from around the region, bringing in essential dollars for the organization through park admission and concession fees - which contributes to the operational costs of the Zoo and care for over 1,000 animals.
Some of their heaviest foot traffic is in March during the spring break period. As the Zoo prepared for what they anticipated would be another busy season, the COVID-19 pandemic was ramping up.
They joined the rest of the nation and shut their doors for two months to stifle the spread of the novel Coronavirus. The Zoo made the decision to close during what would have been peak guest attendance for their season.
Decreased visitors and canceled fundraising events made a significant impact on Zoo financials, resulting in a budget deficit of $800,000. They dipped into their emergency funds to ensure the care of their animals, but a substantial loss in revenue was still concerning for Pottebaum.
Then came Abilene Gives.
“We were down revenue because of closures, and donors knocked it out of the park.” When $50,000 came through, that was a weight off of Jesse’s shoulders and his staff to provide additional financial support to get through the difficult time. “Once we got those funds, it was a huge relief,” says Pottebaum. They knew they had the funds to offset the operational cost to provide care for the animals. “If I didn’t have that, I don’t know what I would have done.”