Tuesday, February 3, 2009

I'm All In

I was raised in a family where volunteering was just a part of our daily life.

My mother was not only the Girl Scout Leader for my troop and my sister's troop for 13 years (maybe more than that). Then long after we graduated from high school and went to college, my mom remained very active, managing the largest Girl Scout membership area in Middle Georgia. She organized cool events like Father/Daughter Dances, Mother/Daughter Teas and Cookie Donations for more than 800 people at a time.

My father, even though he was disabled from the time I was three,
was the neighborhood handyman. He fixed washers, dryers, refrigerators, lawn mowers, weed eaters, etc., all for free. Did I mention he also would drive any kid home from any school event, no matter how far out of the way it might have been? And as far as I know, no gas money was ever accepted and I rarely rode in another carpool in exchange. Dad was always the first to raise his hand. He never said no.

My sister and I were both organized (Girl Scouts, 4-H, Beta Club, etc.) and ad hock (neighborhood lawn mowing, cat sitting, animal search and rescue, etc.) volunteers during our formative years. My mother and father set a great example of finding something you know how to do and give it away to others. Well, I wasn't great at mowing yards, but I don't know anyone who complains about a free lawn mowing every now and again, even if it isn't perfect.

Maybe I found myself at this point in my life because I was just volunteered out at a young age? Maybe it was because I had worked for a non-profit as my first job right out of college? Maybe it was because I hadn't found the right cause to spend my time with (there have been several)? Maybe it was because I was just too far away from where all the action took place (a two hour min drive one way doesn't make you feel very connected, even in the technology age)? But, whatever the reason, I wasn't satisfied with my volunteering life. It just wasn't fulfilling in many different ways and I couldn't find a way to make it be what I wanted it to be.

In college I had read a lot about prison rehabilitation programs that involve dogs, mostly seeing eye dogs. I even did a paper for a sociology class on the impact that live-in animals have on inmates. I always wanted to work with one of these programs, but when you live in a rural part of the world, you have to start one, if you want to make it happen. It
seemed like an ideal program, mixing my desire to help people while working with animals. And it just so happens that South Georgia houses 75 percent of the state prisons.

But I did what a lot of people do, I let my thoughts get the best of me and just ignored my goal for a long time. I wrote that sociology paper so long ago that the findings probably no longer apply and my previous grade would suddenly become failing. As time went by I let excuses like, "I'm just one person here in the middle-of-no-where, in the worst economy ever...," get in the way.

But something (to this day I have no idea what it was) made me send an email to
Beverly Sebastian, director of Second Chance at Life Greyhounds, on January 3, 2009. After an hour and a half on the phone with her a few days later, I was hooked. The energy and passion Beverly brings to her cause is contagious and she has seen first hand the impact the rescued greyhounds, who need a second chance, have on people who are looking for a second chance.

So, I made a commitment right then and there. I was all in. How I was going to do this, I didn't know. But then a cool thing happened. Pretty much anyone I told about the effort wanted to jump on board too. So, after we found out for sure that prisons in our state were interested in working with us, a few of us who are committed to this cause for different reasons, resigned from the SEGA Board of Directors and jumped in head first into a Choose Your Own Adventure that hopefully has a successful and rewarding ending.

The result is Second Chance Greyhounds.

We've only been working on this venture for one month today, but as you can see by the progress on the website and branding alone, the passion of our small team of volunteers runs deep. We've accomplished a great deal, but still have miles to go before we sleep. Essential things like filing for 501(c)3 status is underway, which is expensive but necessary. Outfitting the first prison with crates, beds, toys and food is more fun to raise money for because it's tangible. The cost of dog vetting and transportation is expensive for a start up, but hopefully a few contributors will come through with some seed money for us. We've been burning up the phone lines day and night over the last week and I hope that the conversations we've been having turn into dollars soon enough.

So, if you're reading this and you want to help out by throwing a few bills our way (that's what all the cool middle school kids say these days), simply click on the donate button on our website. Any donation, no matter how small will help our cause. Our lawyer hopes to have our not-for-profit, tax deductible
number for us before the end of the year (good vibes for our nice lawyer go here).

If you're in the Atlanta area, check out the calendar on our website. We have a couple of fundraisers scheduled, including a wine tasting and microchipping clinic in March. Can't make it to the ATL? You can always show your support by shopping on our Cafe Press site. Even buying a sticker, note cards, or t-shirt is a great way to support our efforts and promote greyhound rescue at the same time.

If giving money isn't your thing, you can always help us spread the word about our cause by blogging about us, joining our group and cause on Facebook or linking your greyhound site or blog to our site. We're hoping our first class of greyhounds will enter our facility no later than June and there will be plenty of updates between now and then.

My mom is excited about this effort. She's helping me plan a yard sale to raise money locally. In true family fashion, she's organizing all the little ladies in the neighborhood to pile all their donated wares in a corner and schedule a time for me to come over and get them for the big sale. She's even sewing dog scarves and toys for us to sell at various greyhound events we're scheduled to attend.

And while my dad isn't alive to help physically, I know he's here and helping in ways I don't even know of. Maybe he was the one that made me send that email that day. Who knows? But ready or not, I'm jumping in and for the first time in a long time, it feels really good.


Necessary said...

GO HEATHER!!! maybe i can come down and donate some documentary photography once you get rolling...

pattysea said...

Hoooooooray to YOU!!! You're truly an unbelievable young woman!!

BrittBeah said...

Scary big leap there! Good luck with everything.

Marcos said...

Sounds like a great cause, please keep us updated on y'alls progress.


Zan said...

What a great cause!! I can't wait to see this new group grow and prosper.

IHateToast said...

excellent. i just got a birthday check from my dad and i'll only get $5 after the overseas banking fees are taken out. i'm going to send the check back (oh geez, where is it) and ask that he donate the amount to SCG instead.


Michelle and Mitch said...

Best of luck! What a greyt cause! =)

Trina said...

Good luck! Jason and I are sending a donation you way. It is a great cause.

Bethanie and Chris said...

This is great. I am a fundraiser for a large nonprofit let me know if you want any tips.

Angel said...

Great cause, Heather. Congrats on getting this group up and running. When you have 501c3 status let me know. I'd love to help write funding grants for you. Let me know what I can do to help!

xracermom said...

Best wishes on your new venture! I hope you are able to place hundreds and hundreds of the greyhounds! You are off to an awesome beginning!

Denise- LessIsMore17 said...

Good luck in the new venture... you'll be missed from SEGA though!
I'm eager to hear more bout the prisoner/ foster program!

Amy said...

You go, girl!