You know you’ve been there: sitting in your dorm, staring out the window dramatically, missing your family pet more than some human relatives.
If you find yourself in this scenario more often than you’d like to admit — or you just want to help some animals — Project PAWS might be for you. It’s a student org dedicated to raising awareness for the welfare of our furry companions in Happy Valley. If the name rings a bell, it’s because the org works in conjunction with State College animal shelter Centre County PAWS.
Centre County PAWS was founded in 1980, housing animals with the goal of finding the right homes for these cats and dogs. The shelter works to improve the conditions that these unlucky animals find themselves in through training, spay/neuter treatments, and education of the public.
Such an operation, however, requires lots of volunteer help – that’s where Project PAWS comes in.
We sat down with the current president of PAWS, Jacqui Fenton, to hear all about how the club was created and what it does to promote the well being of Very Good cats and dogs:
Onward State: What led to the creation of the club?
Jacqui Fenton: Project PAWS was founded in the Spring of 2016 by Marty Powers during his sophomore year. Marty recognized the homeless animal epidemic and wanted to make a positive change in the Centre County area. He heard about Centre County PAWS, a local animal shelter committed to finding forever homes for dogs and cats, and saw it as a perfect opportunity to make a difference. He and a few of his fraternity brothers came together and created Project PAWS with the intention of recruiting student volunteers and fundraising for the shelter.
OS: How difficult was it to get the club off the ground?
JF: Most students miss their pets while they are away at school and are eager to get their hands on anything with four legs. As a result, recruitment for the club is very easy. We basically hold up a sign or hand out a flyer with a dog or a cat on it and students flock towards us. That being said, finding members is not something we really struggle with. Rather, it is retention that is most difficult. Many students don’t realize that volunteering can be hard work and can rather time consuming, so many find that they are unable to commit as much as they would have originally hoped. However, many committed and dedicated members have allowed this club to really pick up over the past two semesters and I believe we have a bright future ahead of us!
OS: About how many people are active members now?
JF: We currently have about 100 active members with about 75 who are in the process of or beginning the process of becoming volunteers. These people attend meetings and are always eager to get involved with events that we have planned.
OS: How easy is it to get involved in Project PAWS?
JF: Getting involved with Project PAWS is very simple. I receive emails and messages from students almost every week asking how they can get involved. I ask them for is their email and phone number so that I can add them to our GroupMe and our listserv. I invite them to join us at our meetings every week, but understand that many students are busy and may not be able to attend. As long as a student is passionate about our mission and willing to help in any way that they are able, we are more than happy to have them on board with us.
OS: What are the goals of the club?
JF: As a club, our mission is to promote the safety and welfare of all companion animals through volunteering, fundraising, and leading by example. That being said, our main goal is to positively impact the lives of as many animals as we can. We hope to eventually have a completely organized carpool system to help students with transportation to and from the shelter. We currently have a few drivers in the club that are willing to help out with this, but we hope to have many more in the future. We also want to fundraise as much as we possibly can in order to support Centre County PAWS financially. In order to achieve this goal, we are planning many fundraising events this coming semester.
OS: What events does Project Paws hold?
JF: Last spring Project PAWS hosted a carnival on HUB Lawn to benefit Centre County PAWS. Over $400 was raised, and this semester we hope to repeat this event and increase our fundraising goal. There will be CCP dogs at this event along with food and games for students to enjoy. We are also planning smaller events such as a Valentines Day fundraiser at the Funky Trunk downtown. This will be a consignment event with 50% of the proceeds going directly towards CCP and we will have dogs standing outside to promote the event with the option to take photos with them. In addition to these events, we have discussed potentially hiking Mount Nittany with some PAWS dogs when the weather gets nicer! We hope to have many more events to raise money for the shelter and are always looking for new ideas from members of our club along with members of the community.