Australian shepherd dog gives woman a paw.

Special P.A.W.S. – Achieving More Together

As a charitable animal welfare organization, people may think of AWA as assisting only animals, but many of the programs we create are meant to benefit not only the pets in our community, but people too. AWA’s Special P.A.W.S. program, which formally began the Fall of 2017, is a great testament to our tag line, “Caring for animals, benefiting people.” P.A.W.S. stands for People Achieving With Support, and that’s exactly what this program is all about. AWA has teamed up with community and service-based organizations, including Yale School,  Bancroft of Burlington County, Kingsway Learning Center, Division of Children and Families School and more, to provide valuable life and job skills to developmentally disabled teens and adults, while they help to improve the lives of the homeless pets at AWA.

Achieving More Together

  With the help of job coaches, our Special P.A.W.S. volunteer groups spend their time at AWA completing a variety of tasks that help enrich the lives of the dogs, cats and bunnies that are currently awaiting forever homes. Some of these tasks include:
  • Create enrichment for the animals at the Adoption Center
  • Assist with cleaning the Pet Clinic
  • Maintenance on AWA’s Training Trails
  • Help with laundry
  • Wash food bowls
  • Help maintain AWA’s Bunny Garden
  • Administrative Duties
  • Adoption Greeter
  • Pet Pantry help
Not only are these volunteer helping animals, they are also learning necessary life and job skills, including customer service, time management, problem solving, organizational skills, social interactions in the work place, safety skills and more.

The Future of Special P.A.W.S.

While this program is still in it’s infancy, it’s impact on each Special P.A.W.S. volunteer has been immediate. For example, here is a story from AWA’s Volunteer and Outreach Coordinator, who oversees the program: “I bring my therapy dog, Flash, in to visit the Special P.A.W.S. volunteers once a week. One particular young man, ‘Jack’, would hang back while the others pet Flash. With every passing visit, Jack seemed a little more at ease with Flash, but still didn’t want to pet him. Each time I’d asked him if he wanted to try, he’d reply ‘next week.’ One day, his instructor took me aside to tell me that Jack’s mom said that Jack had always been terrified of dogs, but seems to be letting his guard down. If he was outside and the neighbor’s dog came out, he would run inside hysterically. She noticed that instead of running away, Jack has started to calmly watch the dog from a distance. She expressed her gratitude and said how much it meant for her to see the fear of dogs fade from her son.” AWA has high hopes for the future of the Special P.A.W.S. volunteer program. We would love to someday be able to provide one on one support for all individuals wanting to volunteer with our organization. AWA has always been more than a shelter. We will continue delivering community-centered programs to better the lives of pets and people. If you have questions about AWA’s Special P.A.W.S. Program, please contact Katie Ritter, AWA’s Volunteer and Outreach Coordinator, at [email protected].