Teens lend a hand, learn at shelter

Clarissa Kell | Daily Press Maddie Wilson, Anna Hileerg and Whitney Massie prepare dog food by adding wet dog food to the bowls of dry dog food at the Delta Animal Shelter Friday. The Kids Care Friday program, which is funded through a grant from YAC of the Community Foundationfor elta County, allows kids 12 and older to volunteer without a parent every Friday morning during the summer.

ESCANABA — The Delta Animal Shelter is no stranger to volunteers, however a new program established last summer brings teens to the shelter every Friday to teach them the value of volunteering.

Tonya Gartland, the event coordinator at the shelter, explained the free program occurs every Friday from 9 to 11:30 a.m. in the summer and allows kids 12 and older to volunteer without a parent. Normally, teens have to be 16 or older to volunteer without a parent.

“We think it’s very important to get youth involved in the shelter,” Tonya said.

She explained having the teens at the shelter allows them to experience what the shelter is all about, so when they’re older they can continue to support the shelter in what it does for the community.

“Kids are our future so they’re going to be the ones taking over,” she said.

Sue Gartland, the director of the shelter, said the program gives the youth an opportunity to give back and learn the importance of volunteering in their community.

“We also have a lot of youth that … think they want to be a veterinarian or a medical doctor or go into some medical field and we’ll have them job shadow and we’ll teach them how to do vaccines — we’ll bring them into the surgery room and they can watch surgeries. So it’s a great exposure to the medical field, as well,” she said.

The program began last summer with funds provided by a grant the shelter received from the Youth Advisory Council of the Community Foundation.

Tonya said the program is free for the youths to participate in. The grant covers the cost of the extra supplies needed at the shelter with more volunteers, snacks for the teens and volunteer shirts for the teens to wear.

She explained parents have to call the shelter to sign their kids up for the program and the kids can volunteer one Friday or every Friday of the summer.

When it comes to the actual volunteer work at the shelter, the teens are providing complete animal care with feeding, watering, cleaning and socializing with the animals.

“So it’s actually work-work. Of course we give them time to hang out with the animals, but most of the time is focused on the animal care and getting them ready for the day,” Tonya said.

Once the kids learn the ropes at the shelter through the program, the teens can come back and volunteer during the school year without a parent, as well.

Tian and Tacey Weber both started volunteering at the shelter this summer. They were cleaning the cats kennels in one of the cat rooms at the Delta Animal Shelter Friday.

Tian, 12, said she felt the program is important because she is able to have an impact in the animals’ happiness.

“We get to help all these kitties be happy. And they don’t have to live in poop, because if we clean their cages they can have clean cages,” she said.

Tacey, 13, said she felt the program is important because she is able to help the animals become adoptable.

“Well, I think it’s important because someone needs to help them — because they need to be adopted,” she said.