Patron’s donation buys new door for animal hospital

Amy Olson

University faculty, staff and visitors gathered at the Small Animal Hospital on the St. Paul campus to celebrate the addition of a disability accessible door Monday.
But the addition of that door would not have been possible without a $5,000 donation from one patron: Geraldine Gage.
Gage, who brings her dogs Bear and Little Sister to the hospital for care, told onlookers she hoped the door would become a symbol of the hospital’s spirit. She added that this spirit provides the best care for sick and injured animals that come through the door.
Evelyn Pickert, assistant to the hospital’s administrator, said the door cost about $40,000 to install the opening mechanism and replace the old glass doors.
Pickert said Gage’s contribution prompted her to look into getting Facilities Management to install the door.
Gage said she decided the hospital needed an automatic door after struggling to hold the door open long enough for one of her dogs, who became a paraplegic, to walk through.
“This is a wonderful example of the University working together,” said Donald Plumb, hospital director. Plumb added that the project might not have been accomplished if Gage had not donated the money.
But hospital representatives expect the door will benefit everyone.
Plumb said the door will help owners who come in carrying small children while trying to hold a dog on a leash or a cat carrier. In the past, those people had to put their children down to open the double doors or wait for someone to open it for them.
Pickert said she greeted Gage one afternoon last February when she approached her about getting the hospital to install a disability accessible door. Gage handed Pickert a check, and Pickert thanked her, promising to look into it.
But when Pickert said she looked at the $5,000 check, she gasped.
“I couldn’t believe it,” Pickert said.
Although she said she was elated at the donation, she worried about the overall expense, wondering where the hospital could find the money to complete the project. Her husband, Robert Pickert, a professor in the kinesiology department, suggested she call Disability Services. The office recommends how Facilities Management uses funds provided by the government under the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Pickert worked with Sue Lasoff, an accessibility specialist at Disability Services, to oversee the project after it was approved by Facilities Management. The two also worked to get a handicap parking space just outside the entrance.
The hospital was built in 1982, before the disabilities act required buildings to have accessible entrances. Although the law provides money each year to upgrade buildings, Pickert said the amount is diminishing each year.
“We were very lucky,” Pickert said.