PAWS for Peo­ple moves to larger space

Cecil Whig - - FRONT PAGE -

— 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.pawsfor­peo­ or by call­ing 302-351-5622.

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