“Wherever you turn, you can find someone who needs you. Even if it is a little thing, do something for which there is no pay but the privilege of doing it. Remember, you don't live in a world all of your own.” ? Albert Schweitzer

Is there such a thing as “no pay” when volunteering with animals? Certainly, there is no paycheck, but what about payoff?

The wag of a dog's tail, the brush of kitty whiskers against the top of your foot – is there any greater payoff than the unconditional love of a pet?

I know our SPCA volunteers are not in it for recognition, so it must be the pet payoff that keeps them coming back for more slobber and fur-covered clothing day after day, week after week, year after year.

Still, we, the staff at the SPCA feel they should be recognized for all they do to bring joy to the SPCA, whether it is here at the shelter, in one of our thrift shops, or at any number of locations during an off-site event.

These people spread smiles and wags wherever they are and we simply cannot say “thank you” enough, but on Sunday afternoon, we gave it our best.

During the second annual Volunteer Appreciation picnic, we sang the praises of human friends who are as dedicated as any assistance animal, who have the energy of a pack of Jacks, and are as loyal as any Labrador.

These people brighten our lives by helping us save the lives of pets across the CSRA and we love them for it.

Special recognition went to outstanding volunteers nominated by their peers. See the categories and nominees below. Winners are in bold print.

• Paw Partners (pet therapy): Claire-Hèléne Horne, JoAnn Minnick, Cyndi Steinmetz

• Humane Education: Pat Bailey, Jane Long, Paula Neuroth

• jrSPCA: Abby Conder, Molly Gilbreath, Blair Sims

• Operations and Retail: Roe Cassidy, Susan McCullough, Jennifer Newman

• Development: Bonnie Hoel, Chris and Staci Jones, Susan McCullough, Lisa Sommers

• Animal Care: Bonnie Hoel, Claire-Hèléne Horne, Anya Parry

• Fostering: Roe Cassidy, Brenda Shumin, Lisa Sommers

• Adoptions: Joan Irvine, Mary Lee Koester, Susan McCullough, Marci Obringer

• Phideaux University: Kathleen Bowman, Scott Bowman, Susan Cohen, David Hoel, Sandy King

• Dogs' Best Friend: Jaxson Boney, Kathleen Bowman, Jody Clark, Nancy “Dee” Hartzog, Mitchell Lunsford

• Cats' Best Friend: Anya Parry, Sommer Pruitt, Megan Weeks

• Barbara Nelson Award for Outstanding Volunteerism: Susan Cohen, Monika Epps, David Hoel, Susan McCullough, Brenda Shumin, and Lisa Sommers

In addition, the SPCA, in collaboration with Steve and Doris Briggs, named our first Serena's Star.

This is a special award that goes out to a different kind of volunteer. Rather than a person helping a pet, this is a pet that helps people.

The award was named for the Briggs' dog Serena, a rescue-turned-therapy-dog that serves veterans, children with special needs, hospitalized children and folks in assisted living care facilities across the CSRA.

This year's recipient is Bali, a beautiful golden retriever owned by Tom and JoAnn Minnick.

JoAnn typically handles Bali when they volunteer time in literacy programs, assisted living care and behavioral health centers.

Other honorably mentioned nominees for Serena's Star include Peaches, Anne Laver's lovable mutt who is a fixture at the Child Advocacy Center; Miss Caroline, John Kolmar's lovely and loved-by-all Yorkshire Terrier; Toby, Mary Gregory's gentle Cavalier who is often seen volunteering at the Special Olympics; Charlie, Alan and Susan Cohen's rescue who makes monthly visits to the Children's Medical Center; and 1SG Maverick, an amazing addition to the Army's Eisenhour Medical Center working alongside victims of PTSD in the Inpatient Psychiatric Facility.

The work these dogs do for people is just one of the reasons we humans are so drawn to animal welfare.

Indeed, at the SPCA, it is truly impossible to tell if it is the wag that initiates the smile or the smile that propels the wag.

We, who are lucky enough to have “spending time with pets” written into our job description, are grateful for both.

If you are interested in volunteering for the SPCA, check out our volunteer page at www.LetLoveLive.org, call 803-648-6863, or email volunteer@LetLoveLive.org.

Chrissey Miller is the Development Director of the SPCA Albrecht Center in Aiken. She is a graduate of Winthrop University in Rock Hill, SC and a Certified Animal Welfare Administrator. Chrissey and her husband, David, live in Aiken with their children, Blair and Gracey, and their adopted dogs, Zipper and Django.