Story by PO2 Anna Van Nuys on 08/25/2017At the crack of dawn, doors to a local animal shelter opened to the sounds of barking dogs and meowing cats waiting to find their forever home. Amidst the sounds, employees manned the service desk, greeting visitors with warm smiles. With coffee in their hands, those employees at the Norfolk Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) were ready for a busy day ahead of them, although this particular morning they had a few volunteers lending a helping hand.
Several of those volunteers were Sailors from the aircraft carrier USS George Washington (CVN 73), ready to dedicate their morning helping the shelter in any way they could. What was needed from these Sailors Aug. 1 were their careful hands in tending to the outside of the building, creating an even more welcoming environment than what was already there.
"The main reason I volunteered here was because I love pets," said Aviation Boatswain's Mate Airman Lavonta Wess, from Muscle Shoals, Alabama. "Today we ended up landscaping the exterior, which made the place look a lot nicer. They needed us to do this and with us out here they're able to concentrate on what they need to do inside."
This wasn't the first time Washington Sailors volunteered at the Norfolk SPCA. As a group, they volunteer at the shelter every two weeks, and each visit they're given different projects to tackle.
"Depending on the size of the groups, we sometimes have volunteers inside helping with our cat rooms, playing with the animals, cleaning kennels or walking the dogs," said Jillian Talley, the volunteer and outreach coordinator for the Norfolk SPCA. "Other projects we typically have the Sailors do are helping in the different exam rooms we have or repainting areas such as our agility course. Today though we had the Sailors help in our beautification process outside and they did a great job with it."
Founded in 1892, the Norfolk SPCA is one of the oldest animal welfare organizations in the country, and in 2002, became the first no-kill shelter in Hampton Roads. In addition to animal adoptions, the Norfolk SPCA offers veterinary examinations, spay and neuter surgeries, and vaccinations. While the veterinary clinic is open Monday through Saturday, the adoption clinic is open Wednesday through Sunday, and according to Talley, the one day the adoption center is closed is the perfect time for Sailors to volunteer.
"Tuesday is really the day we don't see a lot of foot traffic, so we're able to maximize our time doing things like deep cleaning inside and outside where the dogs are and people park," said Talley. "It's the one day we are able to really focus on that area."
Wess said he was proud to spend his day there, and is looking forward to returning, although next time he hopes to see more Sailors come out.
"Now that our ship is in the yards, a lot of people are going to have more free time," said Wess. "I really hope we get more Sailors out here. It's so easy to fill out a special request chit to route through your department so you can give back. Three of us were here today, and I know we can bring that number up. I would love to see that."
While the shelter welcomes anyone willing to apply and go through training, they are especially appreciative of their military volunteers.
"It's so important to us to have the Sailors come out here," said Talley. "So much of our community here is affiliated with and affected by the military. Having them come in to directly help us and give back builds a strong connection with the local community.
We're definitely looking forward to working with the Sailors in the upcoming months and into the fall. As long as they're willing to come in we will always welcome them. There is such a difference when those groups come in and it's so important for our shelter."
To date, the Norfolk SPCA has adopted out 527 animals to new homes, on track to beat the 973 adoptions made in 2016, and will take all the help they can get. They encourage Sailors who are interested in volunteering to visit their website at www.norfolkSPCA.org, or call them at 757-622-3319.