“We are in the process of organizing an employee “Day of Service” for Feb. 9. Would your organization be able to participate…?”the email said.

FOTAS responded, “Yes! – with caveats. The volunteer program at the shelter is doing its best to accommodate community involvement. Unfortunately, until the new shelter is built, there are logistical constraints on how many people can productively be on site at one time.

FOTAS volunteer counselors Caroline and Denise are available by appointment for volunteer orientations. Contact FOTAS or the County Shelter. New volunteers learn Animal Control and shelter staff functions, about shelter layout, play yards and walking trails. They learn FOTAS’ role and history, even about the cat facility FOTAS built. They meet the adoptable animals and learn the dos and don’ts of animal management.

The orientation is thorough and intends that the volunteer experience be as safe and pleasant as possible for all concerned.

A “Day of Service” mom emailed FOTAS: “My daughter is a Junior Girl Scout and she is looking for a service project to earn a badge. She is a loving, gentle, and a responsible child who loves animals. Your website says that you’re looking for volunteers to pet and groom cats waiting to be adopted. Would this be something she could do on Saturdays? She is 10 years old, and I would be volunteering also.”

Youth under the age of 17 have to be accompanied by a responsible adult, preferably a parent. Younger children must come with their parent or guardian and be closely supervised throughout. Youngsters who come to the shelter find interacting with cats and dogs a lot of fun and very rewarding.

The Girl Scout’s mom had a younger daughter, too, age 6. She and the two girls came to the shelter and then wrote: “My daughters and I volunteered 2 weekends ago. We are trying to make it an every weekend event but of course things come up. We will be up there this weekend to help out again. We enjoyed it so much…”

It is very important to check with FOTAS or the County Shelter in advance of bringing a group. Due to current space and personnel limitations, if more people show up than can be effectively accommodated, it is hard on everyone, especially the animals.

Hopefully, by the end of this year more of everything will be possible: volunteers, adoptions, and community involvement. The ground-breaking ceremony for the new Aiken County Animal Shelter is March 3.

The “Day of Service” mom wrote one more time:

“We absolutely enjoyed every minute volunteering (with the Day of Service) and can’t wait to do it again next year. Also, I will bring a picture of “James” (aka Lucky) and “Brenda” (aka Lulu). These are the two dogs we’ve adopted from the shelter, since volunteering a month ago. They are a wonderful addition to our family and are much loved.”

There are all kinds of benefits to getting involved at our County Shelter. Dogs are still half-price until next Saturday, and cats always!

FOTAS volunteers work with the Aiken County Animal Shelter, 411 Wire Road. For more information, email info@fotasaiken.org or visit www.fotasaiken.org.