This past Sunday, staff, board members, volunteers and guests gathered together in the SPCA Albrecht Center’s Marr Training & Education Center for a luncheon and ceremony to show our appreciation for our outstanding group of volunteers as well as present the third annual Serena's Star Award.
Nominations for volunteer awards were received from fellow volunteers and from SPCA staff. We appreciate each one of our volunteers and wish we could award them all, but decided to stick to a few popular categories to recognize a few of our best and brightest. Here are the award recipients followed by a few words from their nomination form:
Cat Socialization: Kit Frick - "The cats at the SPCA have plenty of room to stretch and play, but they don't always receive the amount of attention that the dogs do. Kit is a consistent human presence for the cats and that helps them learn to be social and trust people, making them better candidates for adoption."
Development/Marketing: Debra Thomas - "Debra takes pictures of the animals to be posted online so that people browsing the website will see faces to go with the names and descriptions. A face is what animal lovers fall in love with first!"
Humane Education: Joanne Dunsmuir & Cooper - "Joanne is caring, dedicated and loyal to the Paws for Reading program. She is a great asset and advocate to the education of our children."
Jr. SPCA: Jason Emrich - "Jason has stepped up to volunteer at nearly every event this past year despite being a busy student. He has done a fantastic job as elected president to the Jr. SPCA. He brings lots of humor, has a positive attitude, is very welcoming to new members, and is willing to share his ideas."
Off-site Adoptions: MaryLee Koester. "MaryLee goes above and beyond to come out to every adoption event that she can. She is always friendly with the potential adopters and the dogs love her. She is so positive and great to be around."
Phideaux University: Mark Elvington - "Mark has been an excellent addition to our team of dog trainers. He has provided much-needed attention and enrichment to a very special dog in our care, even taking her home for weekend visits, all in an effort to keep her engaged, focused and on the path toward adoption."
Retail Operations: Geziena "Honey" Morse - "Honey has a bright personality and is a very dependable volunteer. She's positive, energetic, works well with the other volunteers and is great with the customers."
CEO Award for Outstanding Volunteerism: Kim Coleman - "Kim has been volunteering with the SPCA for years and can be counted on to help whenever she is able in lots of different areas. She is professional, friendly and keeps a positive attitude. Kim is a big advocate for the organization and an excellent facilitator between the SPCA and the City of Aiken."
We received more nominations than ever for this year's Serena's Star Award. Narrowing down the nominations to one winner was so difficult that our selection committee decided to award two, very worthy nominees:
Benji is a rescued lab-mix who works as a service dog to Bill Mosley, retired Master Sergeant of the U.S. Air Force. Bill, like many veterans, battles with PTSD and depression resulting from his deployment experiences and Benji helps him cope in difficult moments and alerts Bill when his stress level rises. Bill says "Benji saves my life every day. It's not just having a dog to help you cope in public, it's having him to help me get through the day. He doesn't judge me and I can talk to him about things I won't even tell my doctor." Benji was rescued from a high-intake animal shelter by Jerry Lyda and Veteran’s K9 Solutions, Inc.
Frodo is a race horse turned war horse helping heal wounded warriors suffering from the effects of PTSD through the Saratoga WarHorse program. Frodo is a large, grey thoroughbred who was bred to race, but soon learned his life had a greater calling. His disinterest in racing lead to a quiet life at Aiken Equine Rescue, where his personality showed exceptional compassion, human connection and healing that was evident to everyone with whom he came into contact.
From the staff, board members, and animals of the SPCA Albrecht Center: thank you, volunteers and congratulations to all of the winners!
Sarah Neikam is the Marketing Director for the SPCA Albrecht Center for Animal Welfare. She is an Aiken native and has been with the SPCA since 2012. Sarah lives in Graniteville with her husband, Tom, mother, Cheryl and three adopted cats: Bastian, Luna and Grady.