PAWS for People moves to larger space
— For the past 11 years, Lynne Robinson has run PAWS for People out of her home in Elkton, but just as the need for pet therapy has grown since then, so has the need for a bigger space.
PAWS recently moved to Newark, Del., and is settling into a new 3,400-squarefoot facility at 703 Dawson Drive in the Delaware Industrial Park off South Chapel Street. Robinson said the extra space will allow the nonprofit to expand its paw print, train more pet therapy teams and, in turn, help more people.
“We have so many requests from sites that are asking for our services and we have so much potential that we can offer to the community that staying where we were, we didn’t have enough room to expand,” she said. “In my home, there wasn’t a whole lot of room to be able to train.”
Founded by Robinson in 2005, PAWS provides therapeutic visits with dogs, cats and rabbits in places where people need a furry friend the most, such as schools, hospitals, nursing homes and addiction centers. Over time, the organization has grown from 21 therapy teams — each consisting of one volunteer and one pet who have both completed training and testing — visiting 10 different sites, to roughly 500 teams visiting 165 sites in Delaware and surrounding states. Today, PAWS works with eight cats, two rabbits and more than 500 dogs.
Robinson said moving to Newark allows her employees to train more volunteers at once and gives them the flexibility of using the space in the evening, unlike when PAWS was located in her home. She said the offices themselves are also nicer and she thinks the staff is much happier.
“To be perfectly honest, I was quite concerned myself moving from a familiar space that we all knew,” Robinson said. “In the transition, I was concerned it would be bumpy and we would have to
figure out a lot of things, but it has been very smooth.”
“I was told that it would feel different and I didn’t believe it, but now that I’m here, it’s for real,” she added. “It just feels more established. It feels like we’re real.”
Sue Soder, of Middletown, Del., has been volunteering with PAWS ever since her mother died. She recalled seeing the benefits of pet therapy in her mother’s nursing home and was inspired to do the same.
“I told my mom that’s what I was going to do. My mom was a redhead with freckles named Cass, so in her honor I got Cassie,” she said, referring to the spotted English setter laying at her feet. “She’s kind of my spirit animal.”
Tawanda Harbison, of Newark, realized her puggle, Mr. Gibbs, could bring joy to others after happening upon a PAWS fundraiser while out shopping.
“I thought, ‘My dog likes people and he’s good at laying down,’ so I thought he might like to do that,” she said, laughing.
Since then, she said, volunteering with the nonprofit has been a humbling experience and she’s proud of the impact they’ve been able to make as a therapy team. She also said she feels safe with PAWS and praised the organization for its training and support.
“I think it can take your breath away when people look at your dog and say, ‘This is just what I needed,’ and burst into tears,” added Marilyn Huebner, of Newark. “It’s very awe-inspiring.”
Now that PAWS has the space, Robinson said she expects the organization to keep growing and may even hire more employees in the future.
“The point of getting bigger is that we can help more people. We have already seen a difference in that and we will continue to see a difference in that,” she said. “Pet therapy is a win-win-win. Everybody wins when you bring a dog or a cat around.”
PAWS for People will two hold training sessions for potential new pet therapy teams from 6:30 to 9 p.m on Dec. 14 and Dec. 28 at the Newark office. Both sessions are required and interested persons must pre-register online at www.pawsforpeople.org or by calling 302-351-5622.