It has certainly been an exciting month! The media coverage, volunteers, and support have been flooding in. If all goes as planned, we will be doubling Hand2Paw’s impact on February 7th when we expand to the PSPCA! Of course, we will continue to have frequent sessions at PAWS on Grays Ferry Ave, and are looking to develop even more structure and activities that will benefit the youth and the animals at their Wellness Clinic.
When I first drew out the faint sketch of this program, formerly known as the “Covenant House and PAWS Volunteer Initiative,” I never could have envisioned what Hand2Paw has become, complete with a logo, website, professional dog trainer, and internships. What began as a mere trial project has become a citywide organization that has the potential to reach hundreds of youth and thousands of animals over the next calendar year.
Before Hand2Paw, back in 2009, I was putting together my thoughts on how to begin this program. I spent hours talking to a woman in Mendocino County, CA, who had started a program called the Dogs and Youth Job (DAY JOB) program. This program paid homeless youths for their work at a local animal shelter. She provided me with dozens of suggestions and insight into how to start my own program. The photos of her program were especially inspiring to me. I kept one photo as my computer background for months. It was a reminder of my goal: to create a similar program for Philadelphia’s homeless teens and shelter animals. This is that photo:
Photo: Abbey Kauffman
In November 2010, as I was looking through the photos I had taken at Hand2Paw sessions, I was struck by one in particular. By pure chance, I had snapped a photo of a Hand2Paw pair that was strikingly similar to the one from December 2009:
If this is what we can accomplish in one year, imagine what can happen in two? Five? Ten?! I am so excited about Hand2Paw’s future. This program is about to reach hundreds more youths and thousands more animals that deserve a chance to love and be loved.
On behalf of Philadelphia’s homeless youths and shelter animals, I thank you.
Director, Hand2Paw: A Brighter Future for Homeless Teens and Shelter Animals