East students get hands-on at the Animal Welfare Association

Everyone in Cherry Hill has likely been involved in some form of community service. Whether it be helping a classmate with schoolwork, or volunteering at a local hospital, community service participation is rather common. East students Samantha Mitchell (’17) and Lauren Edson (’17) have taken their engrossment with community service to another level, spending the majority of their summers volunteering at the Animal Welfare Association of Voorhees Township.

The Animal Welfare Association (AWA) is an acclaimed nonprofit organization, whose tagline is “caring for animals… benefiting people.” Celebrating its 65th anniversary this year, the AWA claims to be the oldest and largest spay/neuter clinic, adoption center and no-kill animal shelter in South Jersey. The AWA is constantly hosting events, fundraisers, drives, sponsorships and more in hopes of aiding homeless or deprived animals.

Mitchell aids the Animal Welfare Association in its hopes, endlessly devoting herself to the care and needs of the shelter animals.

“About two years ago, I started volunteering at the Animal Welfare Association. Ever since my first day of volunteering, I’ve been completely changed,” said Mitchell, commenting on her experience at the AWA.

To help explain the volunteer program at the Animal Welfare Association, Mitchell detailed the various levels of volunteers. After completing the mandatory “Basic Orientation”, Mitchell was considered a Level I volunteer. Unfortunately, during Mitchell’s time as a Level I volunteer, she was unable to handle the animals.

“As a Level I volunteer, I did most of the gritty–and even somewhat disgusting–work,” said Mitchell. “I would either scoop poop out of litter boxes, clean dishes, or file perplexing information.”

According to Mitchell, after twelve hours as a Level I volunteer, she was able to become a Level II volunteer.

“Level II volunteering is definitely where the fun starts. I actually was able to directly help… Y’know I could pet the animals, and see how my volunteering was actually directly affecting their lives,” said Mitchell.

Mitchell discussed the next level of volunteering (Level III volunteer) as her ultimate dream position.

“One day I hope to become one of the top Level III volunteers. If I ever become that high of a volunteer, I can play with the dogs with more freedom,” said Mitchell, commenting on her aspirations for the future.

If Mitchell’s dedication to the Animal Welfare Association has anything to do with her becoming a Level III volunteer, her dreams will certainly come true. During the summer alone, Mitchell spent over 55 hours at the Animal Shelter. That is an average of 73 minutes per day spent at the shelter.

Mitchell’s fellow peer and friend Edson claims to feel a corresponding affection towards the AWA, just as Mitchell.