Portland Animal Welfare Team (PAW Team) was awarded the Henry Schein Cares Medal for excellence in expanding access to care for an underserved population.
Post by Cindy Scheel, Executive Director, PAW Team
We keep people and pets together during the most difficult times of their lives.
At PAW Team, we provide free veterinary care to the animals of homeless people and those living in acute poverty in Portland, Oregon. We feel the animal-human bond is never stronger than when life is at its worst.
They’re not just pets, they’re furry lifelines that provide emotional support, safety, warmth, love and a reason to go on when things look dire. They’re “living medicine” for their people. But sometimes even these “living medicines” get sick and that’s where the Portland Animal Welfare Team comes in. We hold a free clinic every month, providing exams, vaccines, medications, food and supplies, licenses and even surgeries.
The biggest challenge we face is the skyrocketing demand for our services. Our community is in the throes of the worst homelessness crisis in its history. More than six thousand people are homeless or in shelters. And about 25% of these folks have pets – pets that they had long before they became homeless.
With a staff of five part time people, providing services to 1,500 animals is a big job.
That’s why receiving the Henry Schein Cares Medal has been a tremendous boost to our profile.
While we have been providing care to the pet of the homeless since 1999, hardly anyone outside of the homeless community knew we existed. The Medal has given us a greater level of visibility within the community that can help us help our clients. We’ve seen an increase in volunteering, and we’ve already seen a positive impact on our fundraising. It’s been a wonderful confirmation of the good work we do.
Corporations like Henry Schein can be excellent partners with nonprofits.
Nonprofits help to cover the needs of citizens, particularly those who are the most disenfranchised, as an aid and supplement to the government. However, we can’t go it alone. Corporations can provide financial support and recognition. This brings awareness and helps nonprofits like the PAW Team in so many ways – attracting new volunteers, donors and raising awareness of the problems we address.
As the need for our services grows, so must we.
Our clinic is housed in an old school building where we have three little rooms (yes, I actually have to go to the Principal’s office every day!). It’s functional but we want to have our own clinic one day that can better serve the pets and people.
We can’t “fix” poverty and homelessness but we can make the lives of the pets that are the furry family of our clients healthy.
We can keep them together when times are rough. The “medicine” of a beloved dog licking away your tears, of a cat’s soft purr when you are trying to get to sleep under a tarp on a sidewalk is some of the best medicine there is. We provide the other stuff – vaccines, antibiotics, pain management – and the pets provide the love.
Together, we make a huge difference in the lives of those who have the least.
Learn more about the Henry Schein Cares Medal here.