Young FOTAS Volunteers Making a Difference at County Animal Shelter

By Bob Gordon, FOTAS Communications Director and Volunteer

On Diana Haltiwanger‘s tenth birthday, she did something unusual to celebrate the big day. She took her birthday money as well as food, leashes, toys and other treats to the Aiken County Animal Shelter and personally delivered the generous donation to FOTAS.

“I just love animals,” Diana said, “and I thought it might help make a difference in their lives.”

Diana’s selfless gesture is just one example of children steadily becoming a force in fulfilling the altruistic goals of FOTAS and the County Shelter.

Although the majority of community members who support the shelter are retirees and other adults, more kids are getting involved in assisting the orphaned dogs and cats at 333 Wire Road. Some children donate their time by participating in FOTAS events like the Dog Ears Reading Program, Dog Day Crafternoons, Woofstock, and other fundraisers. Others get involved through clubs, Scouts, and their schools (prime examples are the South Aiken High School Chapter of the Serteen Club and the Aiken High NJROTC). And some kids just decide to become FOTAS volunteers on their own.

Volunteer Holly Heiens became a volunteer after she did a report on shelter animals for school last year. Ever since learning more about their hardships, the driven 10-year-old has donated her time to animals in need.

“When Holly wants something, she goes after it,” said her mother, Kari, who volunteers with her daughter every Saturday. Kari said that even though there are lots of social events and parties on Saturdays, they work around them so she and her daughter can meet their weekly commitment to the shelter animals.

“It isn’t really hard work when you are there to help the animals and brighten their day,” Holly said. “It’s more like fun work.”

Noah Jacobs is another junior volunteer who juggles a number of responsibilities. Sports, school and hanging out with his friends are important to the 10-year-old, but he spends as much time as he can at the shelter with his mom, Kathy. The Jacobs family also fosters shelter animals at their home, helping them get prepped for adoption.

“I talk to my friends about it. I think more kids should volunteer,” Noah said. “Some of my friends are nervous about volunteering but they shouldn’t be. Even the big dogs are nice.”

Alex Robinson helps out at the shelter every weekend with his father, William, and sometimes his grandfather, Charles. One of the reasons the 12-year-old volunteers at the shelter is because he loves dogs but can’t own one where he lives.

“It has taught Alex responsibility,” William said. “I am impressed how quickly he picked up on what to do at the shelter. Overall, it’s been a very positive experience for him and we’ve met a lot of great people there.”

The County Shelter is always looking for more young volunteers to help out and work with the animals. Volunteers under 18 must be accompanied by an adult. If you are interested in volunteering and making a difference, please contact FOTAS at (803) 514-4313 or

Their lives are in our hands.