Spotlight On … Support Dogs, Inc.

What gets two thumbs up from Mike and a big smile from Ginny? Their volunteer job at Support Dogs, Inc. where they make no-bake dog treats, prepare kong balls and stuff take-home bags for individuals receiving a therapy dog.

Kim Kaesser, Support Coordinator at the Lonning Center, one of the four Support Services for Adults centers, did a Google search for volunteer opportunities and Support Dogs, Inc. popped up. It seemed to have great potential for the Support Services for Adults participants.

After making contact with Stephanie McCreary, Volunteer Coordinator and Office Administrator for Support Dogs, Kim and Mary Reilly, Support Coordinator, toured the facility and talked about possible volunteer jobs. “It sounded like a great agency,” Kim said. “I have been looking for new volunteer opportunities to get our participants out in their community.”

When Stephanie received the inquiry from Kim, she knew she wanted to make this partnership happen. “With having a special needs son myself, I know finding volunteer opportunities that are meaningful can be challenging,” Stephanie said. “It’s so wonderful because this partnership gives the people that we serve ourselves the chance to give back, because we actually provide dogs for people with physical disabilities.”

Lonning Center staff has been taking different participants to Support Dogs to see who is a good match. “We try to find participants that we know will be able to participate in the job and who will also enjoy it,” Kim said. “It’s always good when a client can work on an activity, but it’s even better when they can enjoy it.”

And, it’s not just Mike and Ginny who are enjoying it. Aimee, who has been looking for a new volunteer job, has a great time making the no-bake treats. The no-bake treat recipes were being implemented when Kim reached out to Stephanie. “The timing was perfect,” Stephanie said. “Our dogs love the treats made by your volunteers. It’s a meaningful task and it’s great to provide them an opportunity that is helpful and meaningful to someone.”

For Aimee, when she sees the dogs in training and the trainers giving them the treats, she knows she is making a difference in the lives of the dogs. Not only do the participants find meaning in what they are doing, but the staff does too. “It’s exciting to watch the trainers give the treats that we made to the therapy dogs,” Monica Taylor, Direct Support Professional, said. “Our participants are getting to see their work used for good.”

The participants put their all into the work they do for Support Dogs and are really making the most of the partnership. “We are giving to them and they are giving to us,” Kim said. “Our clients are helping them and in the long run their dogs are helping our clients. It’s a really cool partnership.”

Support Dogs, Inc. is a national not-for-profit organization providing highly-skilled service dogs to individuals with disabilities, and uniquely trained therapy teams in the community, offering dignity, hope and independence to those served. To learn more, go to www.supportdogs.org.

Photo: Mike pours ear drop medication into a to-go container, which goes in the take-home bags for individuals receiving a therapy dog. Click here for more photos.