Strictly a labor of love, part 2: Volunteering at the shelter

By Joanna Dunn Samson, Vice President of FOTAS

Caroline Simonson and Sandra Proctor walk dogs at the Aiken County Animal Shelter four times a week, as does Ellie Joos, who works with the shelter’s energetic “pibbles” and organizes FOTAS on-site programs. Karen DeCamp walks dogs every Tuesday. Jerri Wesner and Rita Tregnor walk dogs every Saturday morning. Peggy Babineau does it all: walks dogs, mans the desk and fosters dogs pending transfer. Pat Gilbert, Richard Proctor, Bill Joos, Agnes Bye, Kari and Holly Heiens, Jerri Smith, Wally and Susie Huiett, Ellen Fox, Lanni Brancato, Judy Thompson and Nanci Santos all commit their time to make certain the dogs on the adoption floor experience a little human love and attention at least once a day.

Then there are the devoted folks who man the shelter’s front desk, greet visitors and provide much needed assistance to hard-working and over-worked shelter staff: Kate Bailey, Cathy Palma, Linda Taylor, Neil Welks, Pat Hundertmark, Joyce Egge, Pat Ludwig, Paul Tallent, Bob Purdy, Melanie Oldham, Pricilla Denehy, Richard and Linda Leitner, Belinda Ebert, and Joan Locke. The day-to-day shelter work would not get done without their steadfast commitment.

These are only a few of the many FOTAS volunteers at the shelter that made it possible to save approximately 2950 animals this year: that’s more than 164% increase from 2011 and 10 times more animals saved than in the pre-FOTAS years. These volunteers are responsible and accountable. The volunteers perform duties at the shelter that are performed in private organizations by paid staff: on-site programs, off-site adoptions, fundraisers, special events, public relations, community outreach for spay/neuter programs, animal socialization, and managing the crucial foster and transfer programs, to name a few. The volunteers are the heart and soul of FOTAS.

Why do these volunteers commit themselves day after day, week after week, to a public open admissions shelter where the number of homeless animals exceeds the number that can be adopted locally or transferred to no-kill shelter partners in other parts of the country? Where public resources are strained? Where euthanasia is a profoundly sad fact of life until the day that all animals are fixed and intake numbers come down?

Our volunteers know they make a real and measurable difference in the lives of, and the outcomes for, the County’s homeless animals. It would be easy to get discouraged, but they don’t. They take the long view: they focus on the animals we save, and hands down, FOTAS and the shelter save more animals than any other organization in the County.

But above all, our FOTAS volunteers are caring, generous people who express extraordinary acts of kindness, and scientists now know what the great spiritual masters have known for centuries: that acts of kindness promote happiness and a sense of well-being.

Exercise your kindness muscles this year. Save lives and boost your happiness quotient in the process. Join FOTAS to fight the good fight until every adoptable animal finds a home. Contact us at 803-514-4313 or at

God bless and Happy New Year.

Their lives are in our hands.