Animal Shelter’s Focus on Community is Key to Success

Animal shelters and rescues rely on their communities to help them survive. But the Society for the Improvement of Conditions for Stray Animals in Kettering, Ohio has found a unique mix of programs for the community and volunteer opportunities to help SICSA re-home nearly 1,500 animals each year.

SICSA has about 300 volunteers who help with daily duties and special programs. “It’s very much community-based,” says Nora Vondrell, executive director for SICSA. “We’ve never lost that volunteerism that’s crucial to our beginnings. … That volunteerism (permeates) our entire organization.”

Five days a week, volunteers take shelter dogs to local nursing homes and senior centers, where they spread the joy of unconditional love.

This past spring, runners looking to help exercise the rescue dogs lined up in droves to take a companion along on their daily runs.

“It stimulates (the dogs) mentally and physically,” Vondrell says, noting that SICSA has a lot of larger dogs that do better with regular exercise. “It makes them much more adoptable. They present better.”

Vondrell says much emphasis is placed on finding the right fit for a pet and a new family.”We go above and beyond to not only find a home, but the perfect home,” she says.

One way SICSA does this is through outreach, getting members of the community to spend time at the shelter. Last year the organization hosted 30 birthday parties for people, combining fun and games with humane education and interaction with the animals — and cute pet-themed cupcakes served in brand new dog bowls.

Opening the doors for children of all ages through numerous camps is another way SICSA cements itself and its mission in the minds of the community and the next generation. Ninety-minute mini-camps, geared toward groups of children from schools or organizations, and the weeklong Animal Adventure Summer Camps focus on the facility, animals, humane education, and animal welfare. Last year, more than 850 children participated.

“They walk away with information about the importance of spay and neuter, and why we promote adoption over shopping,” Vondrell says. “We are finding a whole branch of young philanthropists coming out of our camps. Folks have their birthday parties here, then become a junior volunteer, then become an employee. Some people just grow up through SICSA.”

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