As owner of the Century 21 Alliance Group and the founder and executive director of Lakeshore PAWS animal rescue, Jeanne Sommer finds homes for everyone. That includes a furry friend who found his perfect home with Pam and Ken Snow – a connection that would later spur the development of the unique juniorPAWS program.
The juniorPAWS program provides children the opportunity to volunteer with Lakeshore PAWS – a valuable chance for those who are considered too young to volunteer elsewhere. The young volunteers do all sorts of fun stuff – and they get to bond with the dogs while they're at it! Giving back is the key to the juniorPAWS program. When Pam and Ken Snow adopted their border collie mix Bailey from a rescue in Chicago in 2011, they fell in love and wanted to find a way to give back. That's when they discovered Lakeshore PAWS.
"We went to an open house and thought it looked like something we wanted to be involved in," Pam said.
Since then, they've added Darcy, a lab-shepherd-border-collie mix from Lakeshore PAWS to their family, and Sommer asked them to start the juniorPAWS program as well. They have developed a great team.
"The volunteers get to help dogs who don’t have homes, make their lives better while they wait for their forever families, and hang out with kids and adults who love dogs just as much as they do," she said.
During monthly volunteer meetings, kids learn about safe dog interaction and put those teachings into practice by performing tasks around the center. They decorate kennels, fold laundry, and help make dog treats. The best part, of course, is that they always have a chance to safely play with the dogs and give them the love and attention they deserve.
"They're already kindhearted, compassionate kids, so we give them an opportunity to grow that," Pam said. "They love animals, and we want to nurture that. When we learn how to apply kindness to animals, it spills over into interactions with humans, too."
The kids are involved outside of the center, too. They are encouraged to attend and help at events, and to be ambassadors in their schools.
"A lot of these kids are involved in their own school service projects, so they collect supplies and are always excited to bring their friends to drop them off," Pam said.
Some of the kids even use their birthdays and Christmas to collect donations for the center.
"It's amazing they're willing to do that, but they love getting gifts for the dogs for their birthdays and holidays," Pam said.
If you are interested in joining the team, volunteering with Lakeshore PAWS, of if you know a younger volunteer who would love to be involved in the juniorPAWS program, fill out an application at lakeshorepaws.org.