What do you get when you combine the Leadership Stephenville class, about 200 animal lovers, a slew of auction items and a common goal of lending a paw to the Erath County Humane Society?

Answer: More than $23,000 that will be used to upgrade facilities for the local animal shelter.

The rewards of Saturday night's Paw Ball at City Hall at City Limits were not just about money, however. Five of the four-legged entrants in the pet parade were adopted at the event, and Vernon and Sara Bewley with Hill Shepherd Marketing donated a web site and its design to the Humane Society, according to Courtney Vanden Berge who is part of the 2011 Leadership class and serves as marketing and events director for the Stephenville Chamber of Commerce.

The pet parade featured dogs housed at the Humane Society and others that are being cared for by locals serving as foster families. Youth from across the county jumped at the opportunity to lead pooches through the parade in hopes of finding their furry friends a new home.

On Monday, members of the Humane Society's board of directors said they are thrilled with the outcome.

"It is almost overwhelming," said treasurer Paula Prater. "Sometimes we ask ourselves if anyone still cares about the animals. The success of the Paw Ball proves that we are providing an important service and the county recognizes that."

The Paw Ball was born following a class member's suggestion that the group work to improve the shelter. Shortly after he signed on with the Stephenville Police Department, Chief Patrick Bridges paid a visit to the Humane Society to meet the organization's staff. The self-proclaimed animal lover immediately saw a "significant need" for improvements.

His fellow class members quickly agreed and signed ECHS on as their pet project.

While the event is set to go down in history as the largest benefit held for the local humane society, Leadership Stephenville is just getting started with putting the funds they collected to use.

Leadership class member Beau Mayo, who operates Erath Capital Investments and has made a business of renovating structures across the county, is spearheading the shelter's improvement campaign. He said renovations will begin immediately.

At the top of the priority list, are repairs to dog pens, fencing and drainage problems, as well as the addition of a new storage facility for feed and supplies.

"The whole facility needs a makeover," Mayo said.

While he is pleased to see a substantial amount of money collected, Mayo said more funds are needed to complete the renovation. He is encouraging individuals who were not able to attend the Paw Ball to ante up.

"We need funds," Mayo said. "We will do the best we can with what we have been given, but it would help to have more to work with."

Donations to the improvement project can be delivered to any Leadership Stephenville member or sent directly to the Erath County Humane Society at P.O. Box 2006 Stephenville, TX 76401.

For more information, call ECHS at 254-965-3247.

Annual ECHS memberships are available for $15 per person, and lifetime memberships are $150.

Other members of the 2011 Leadership Stephenville class include Chris Ary, Kristen Carey, Julie Crouch, Gilbert Hinga, Leticia Jaimes, James Kimbel, Chris Leu, Slaten Miller, Cheryl Patterson, Vickie Swam, Melanie Taylor, Trent Tidwell and Janet Whitley.

Read Wednesday's edition of the Empire-Tribune for a story on the formation of the Erath County Humane Society.