Lawrentians volunteer at Saving Paws animal shelter

Tammy Tran

(Tammy Tran)

What started out as a couple Lawrentians volunteering at the local animal shelter one Saturday morning has blossomed into a campus-wide volunteer movement over the past academic year. Saving Paws, a student-run volunteer group dedicated to providing a helping hand for animals in need, is a truly inspirational movement towards building a stronger community.

Headed by sophomore Alysa Levi-D’Ancona, Lawrence’s Saving Paws is currently made up of nearly 35 students who volunteer in groups of around seven each weekend. The student group was established in conjunction with the Trever Hall and Executive Houses’ hall council, and is affiliated with Saving Paws Animal Rescue Inc., a not-for-profit organization dedicated to rescuing homeless, abandoned and special needs animals in North East Wisconsin.

The non-profit organization aims to provide new adoptive homes for these animals while working toward decreasing the amount of unwanted animals in the region. Saving Paws also seeks to eliminate animal neglect and cruelty through outreach and education.

Levi-D’Ancona got the idea of organizing the Saving Paws group after volunteering with sophomore Chelsea Johnson last year. Johnson discovered Saving Paws Animal Shelter over the winter break, and invited some animal-loving friends to volunteer with the organization one Saturday morning. 

Said Levi-D’Ancona, “We’d get up every Saturday at 8 a.m. just to help and play with cats and whatever other animals they had there. It kind of phased out as we all got busier, though.”

As a current Resident Life Advisor at Trever Hall and the service chair of Trever’s hall council, Levi-D’Ancona saw a good opportunity to engage more Lawrentians in volunteering with Saving Paws.

The response from Trever residents after the first volunteer event was overwhelmingly positive, leading to more volunteering for the cause. These outings have involved Lawrentians from all over campus, and have not been limited to solely Trever and Executive House residents.

The shelter that Lawrentians currently visit is located around seven miles away from campus. Each weekend, transportation is provided for volunteers.

Volunteer tasks range from maintaining animal cages, to replacing food and water or grooming fur. The shelter recently relocated, so volunteers have also been helping with organizing and moving things. As the shelter has gotten more settled, volunteers have been able to socialize more with animals.

Basically, there is no typical day on the job for a Saving Paws volunteer — Lawrence volunteers usually lend a hand with whatever the shelter needs help with from weekend to weekend.

Recently, the Saving Paws organization brought cats and dogs to Trever and Sage’s Southeast Side Days event. The success of the event made it possible to raise $130 for Saving Paws.

“I love animals so much,” Levi-D’Ancona enthusiastically shared. “I’m probably going to be that woman who has several cats in her condo in 50 years, but I’m not ashamed about it. I just like feline company in particular. Both of my cats sleep with me at night when I’m home, even if one tries to lick my ear in the middle of one my sleep cycles.”

Said Levi-D’Ancona, “I think student involvement in volunteering both on and off campus is extremely beneficial. In college, we’re perpetually working on our own self-betterment; it’s really a very egocentric system. Volunteering, especially for animals that have been left to die is a great way to grow as a citizen and as a person. We’re getting more involved with the community outside of Appleton, which shows the Appleton community that we care about the space that we live in outside of campus, and it shows that they can trust us within our community. We can use each other as resources.”

All volunteers must be oriented by Saving Paws in order to officially volunteer at the animal shelter. If anyone is interested in getting started or learning more, they are encouraged to contact Levi-D’Ancona via email.