As we go about our lives, each of us is faced with making many decisions, and perhaps the most important of these is how we decide to spend our time. Fortunately for Aiken’s homeless pets, there is a group of incredible individuals who choose to give their time in the service of others. I’m talking of course about our dedicated team of volunteers.
Last year, our team of approximately 300 volunteers contributed over 11,400 hours of service to help the SPCA Albrecht Center for Animal Welfare and the animals in our care – this is the hourly equivalent to approximately six full-time positions. With only a small group of paid staff, our volunteers are vital to ensure our animals receive the best quality of care. Whether our volunteers are working onsite at the shelter directly with the animals, or offsite at one of our SPCA Thrift Stores, every second of their generously given time makes a world of difference to our organization.
Volunteers work hard six days a week all year round to raise funds for the SPCA Albrecht Center at our two retail thrift stores. Both stores are run almost entirely by volunteers who sort and organize donations, prepare donations for sale, assist customers, and more. The work done by the retail volunteers provides roughly a quarter of the funds needed to run the shelter each year.
The team also gave their time to help provide pet care and enrichment. Volunteers have many options when working with the shelter pets. They clean and feed the cats, provide socialization, and participate in The Jackson Galaxy Project and GreaterGood.org Cat Pawsitive program.
Volunteers also read to the shelter dogs, walk the dogs, and even work on enrichment activities and training with shelter dogs through our Phideaux University program. These canine “students” are dogs who need a little more help to build new skills and behaviors before going to a loving home.
Our wonderful volunteers also bathe the pets, collect donation bins, transport animals, assist with humane education and community outreach, and help run all of our fundraisers. We truly could not do all that we do without them.
On Sunday, March 31st, the Albrecht Center held our annual Volunteer Appreciation Luncheon to recognize the hard work and dedication of our volunteer team. Since our volunteers are our stars and the backbone of our organization, this year’s event had a movie star theme. Volunteers enjoyed popcorn and viewed a 'Thank You to our Stars' film featuring our staff, Board of Directors, and shelter animals. The celebration continued with a lunch buffet, certificate presentation, and for the sixth year, the Albrecht Center partnered with Steve Briggs to present the 2019 Serena’s Star Award.
Serena’s Star is named after Steve’s dog Serena who was rescued from a shelter, days before facing euthanasia due to space limitations, to lead a life delivering comfort to challenged children, wounded veterans, and shattered souls with intuitive compassion. The Briggs family sponsored two $500 awards to recognize one personal pet and one certified pet who are making amazing contributions in our community.
This year’s certified pet winner is Joe Shaia and his dog Laila. Joe met Laila at the Aiken County Animal Shelter, where she rescued Joe. Laila trained through Veterans K9 Solutions (VK9S), where she learned how to help Joe manage his PTSD. Laila became a trainer to give back to the program. Since 2016, Joe & Laila have helped train dozens of teams for VK9S. Laila goes above & beyond by helping struggling students and does CSRA Community Outreach, teaching about ADA laws. In her off time, she takes Joe on outdoor adventures, giving him back his pre-military life.
This year’s personal pet winner is Adrienne Hobbs and her dog Romina. Adrienne got Romina when Romina was 8 weeks old. For four years, they have been inseparable best friends, as Adrienne struggles with depression and anxiety. Instead of medicine, Adrienne turns to Romina for comfort and Romina knows exactly how to calm her down when she is anxious. Romina also acts as a ‘service dog’ for her brother, Paddington, who has epilepsy. Romina barks whenever she needs to alert their owners that Paddington is having a seizure. Framed photos of both winners will be displayed in our facility.
We are so grateful our volunteers choose to give our organization the gift of their time to help us achieve our mission. We are also thankful to be part of a larger community of volunteers (both human and animal alike) who are making the world a better place each and every day.
Want to be a part of this amazing team? For information about joining our volunteer team, please visit the volunteer portion of our website: https://www.letlovelive.org/volunteer or email Jessica at Jessica@LetLoveLive.org.
Jessica Gladkowski is the Director of Community Relations at the SPCA Albrecht Center for Animal Welfare. Jessica received her Bachelor of Arts in Japanese from The University of Vermont in 2013, and over the next several years she traveled around Asia where she taught English and immersed herself in different cultures. Jessica is inspired to combine her passion for helping animals, teaching, and serving a diverse community through a career in animal welfare. Jessica lives in Aiken with her husband David and their rescue dogs Django and Ollie.