Meet Martha Powell, president of the board of directors at Paws in the City; a Dallas-based organization devoted to ending the abuse, neglect and overpopulation of dogs and cats. Powell and the volunteers at PAWS are like the "last chance" for many animals, about to be euthanized.
For decades, Powell who also works for a non profit in her professional life, has volunteered countless hours to not only rescue animals, but transform the system. While on the board at PAWS, Powell helped move Dallas to a no-kill city.
We wanted to know more about Powell and she was kind enought to answer a few questions about herself, PAWS and the communities it serves.
Dawn Tongish: Can you begin by telling us about Paws in the City?
Martha Powell: Paws in the City is an all-volunteer 501(c)(3) charitable organization devoted to ending the abuse, neglect and overpopulation of Dallas area dogs and cats. Each day, our volunteers work to find loving forever homes for dogs and cats who were "on the clock" at the Dallas Animal Services shelter when we pulled them into our program. We have a foster home network, but also we have boarding partners and invest in training for dogs who need to overcome behavior issues in order to make them adoptable. We also participate with the Paws of Hope prison training program. One of our flagship programs is "Fixin' to Save," where we fund and staff "spay day" and immunization clinics in underserved Dallas zip codes. We also have a special fund, the Wyly Fund, that allows us to take in injured and abused animals and bring them back to health. The Janie Tilford Fairy Godmother Fund provides grants to people who need assistance with unexpected medical expenses for their pets. We partner with individuals who have rescued animals and are seeking homes for them through our Guest Dog program - we market their rescues and they bring them to our adoptions. We hold adoptions nearly every weekend of the year. These locations include Whole Foods Lakewood, Petco, and the PourHouse in Oak Cliff.
DT: What are your duties at Paws in the City?
MP: I am president of the board of directors, which consists of six dedicated volunteers who direct different areas of our operations. I can honestly say that everyone who volunteers at Paws in the City works harder than I do. I "helicopter in" for certain events, and I do the adoptions at PourHouse Oak Cliff, near where I live. I help with fundraising, governance, and work with the board to solve issues that arise as our volunteers battle the tough problem of transforming Dallas from a city that euthanizes 17,000 pets each year to a no-kill city.
DT: How did you become involved with Paws in the City, are you so passionate about the work being done with the animals?
I served on the board from 2008 to 2011. In 2012, when the board was re-organized and expanded, I rejoined and was elected president, which at the time was more a reflection of my willingness to serve than my qualifications. I was president of another humane society in the 90's, and my husband and I have been rescuing dogs and cats for more than 20 years. My husband runs a daily animal rescue news site called "readlarrypowell.com
" and we have volunteered for many fine rescue organizations in North Texas. There really cannot be too many rescue groups, because people who will abuse and abandon pets outnumber us exponentially.
DT: Why do you work in the non profit sector?
MP: Paws in the City is volunteer effort for us, although in my professional life I do happen to work at a non profit organization (the World Affairs Council of Dallas/Fort Worth). Non profit organizations are not so different than for profit organizations in that good business practices are essential for success. I would also like to say that without companies and individuals who work for profit, non profits could never be funded. So - I am a big fan of people and companies who make money and then are kind enough to share it with us if they support our mission.
DT: It can be difficult for any non profit to pay the bills. How do you stay afloat?
MP: You have to spend the same or less than you take in - it is that simple. Any time you want to do something, you have to raise the money to fund it. Our volunteers are creative and passionate, and they devote countless hours to finding ways to fund our mission and wisely steward the funds donated to that mission.
DT: How can the people of Dallas County and beyond do to help meet your needs for 2014? What are your biggest needs?
MP: You know, if the people of Dallas County would commit to spaying and neutering their pets, keep them safe and not abandon or abuse them, rescue groups like us would happily go out of business. Our biggest need is for our neighbors to act in a moral and responsible way on behalf of the animals that we have domesticated as our companions. And when they are asked by a group like us or the SPCA or Operation Kindness or a hundred others to give a few dollars, please do!
DT: What is the most memorable moment in your experiences at Paws in the City?
MP: This was not a really momentous occasion, but one of our foster families adopted a Pit Bull from us. This breed is loving, loyal and gentle, and always in great danger whenever they land in a municipal shelter. I saw a photo of the dog, Decka, a few months after her adoption. In the photo, Decka's white paw, with nails painted a bright pink, rested in the hand of her young owner. It just made my heart swell to think of the journey she made from death row at the shelter to a family where she is cherished and adored.
DT: What is the first thing you do when you walk into work each day?
MP: Well, I have to tend to my duties at the World Affairs Council! But I am sneaking a look at my Paws in the City email a couple of times a day, and often spend my lunch hour catching up with that. I am lucky to work for a boss who is an animal fan and supports our volunteer activities.