"Volunteers do not necessarily have the time; they just have the heart.” — Elizabeth Andrew
I am proud to say that the volunteers at the SPCA Albrecht Center for Animal Welfare have plenty of heart, and happily give thousands of hours of their time. To the animals in our care and to the entire organization by helping in our Thrift Shops, at special events, with administrative duties and so much more.
On Sunday, we honored our volunteers with our annual Volunteer Appreciation Luncheon, put together by Volunteer Coordinator, Jessica Titterton, and Community Outreach Director, Claire Roberson. Volunteers were treated to a meal of grilled burgers, hot dogs and sides, presented with gifts and raffle tickets to win gift baskets courtesy of Target, Bone-i-Fied Bakery, Downtown Dog, Starbucks, Carolina ScreenPrint, Kroger, Books-A-Million and volunteer Jennifer Richardson.
Our annual appreciation luncheon is a small tribute to the support our volunteers provide all year long. Last year, they contributed over 8,800 hours of their time to the SPCA Albrecht Center. The SPCA staff and Board of Directors are grateful for every one of those hours and look forward to each volunteer's continued support.
Immediately following the volunteer luncheon, the award for Serena's Star 2017 was presented by Serena's owner, Steve Briggs.
As in past years, a number of very worthy nominations were received, making selecting a winner a difficult task once again. In the end though, the award was presented to GG, a very special lab-looking mix with a floppy tongue, who was nominated by Vikki Scott, president of Animal Advocates Friends for Life Center. Vikki had this to say about GG:
"GG was among the first dogs brought to the Animal Advocates Center in 2013 from the Barnwell county shelter. She was heartworm positive, needing treatment and missing most of her teeth on the left side of her mouth, causing her tongue to noticeably hang out. However, this made everyone smile when they met her and was just a small part of what made GG so special.
Sometime after her rescue, GG became the very first dog housed at the Allendale Correctional Institution (ACI) as part of the Animal Advocate’s Meowmate/Muttmate fostering program. Her energy and enthusiasm were contagious and she quickly won the hearts of many depressed, broken men – several of whom had not touched a dog in twenty years. They taught her basic obedience, and GG was gladly a friend to all.
At the same time, GG was selected to play Sandy in the local theater’s production of Annie. The children in the show absolutely loved GG and began flocking to the Friends for Life Center to volunteer and learn more about animals.
At the Center, GG helped raise many litters of puppies and motherless kittens. She would lick and gently nudge them, making sure they were all safe. GG was eventually adopted, but sadly returned after two years. She was suffering from confusion and loneliness, so it was decided to foster her again at ACI. It was like going home for her. By then, the three-year-old program had grown to accommodate twenty-five dogs and twenty-five cats at the prison.
Around that same time, Nicholas Eichman, an autistic child and long-time volunteer at the Friends for Life Center, lost his beloved dog, Hank. Nick was inconsolable. It was a very difficult time for the Eichmans, not only because they had lost their pup, but also because the father, Bryan, was going through chemotherapy for sarcoma. Realizing it was time for a new furry friend, Susan and Bryan Eichman decided to adopt GG as a Christmas present to their family.
GG went right to work caring for her new family.
To this day, she makes rounds every night to make sure everyone is home and safe, including her fur sister, Sandy, and their family of kitties. GG never leaves her family’s side – especially when Bryan is sick from chemotherapy.
GG's kindness even extended to Nicolas’ best friend, also a special needs child, to help him overcome his fear of dogs. Now, Nicholas and his friend take GG for walks through the neighborhood. Currently, Nicholas and GG visit local nursing homes, and he plans to have GG certified as a therapy dog. She will soon accompany Nicholas as he delivers gifts made by the inmates at ACI to special needs, terminally ill and indigent children. GG may not be considered a hero by definition, but she has certainly changed and improved many lives just by being the amazing dog that she is."
On behalf of the SPCA Albrecht Center staff members and Board of Directors - thank you to each and every one of our volunteers, and congratulations to GG, the Eichman family, and to Vikki Scott.
Sarah Neikam is the Communications & 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 family which includes three adopted cats: Bastian, Luna and Grady, who are all living happy, loved lives thanks to the efforts of the SPCA.