The Power Paws volunteers who bring their therapy dogs to schools, libraries, the elderly and handicapped are in big demand and there aren't enough to meet the need.
"We are in desperate need for volunteers for our program," Deb Jones said. "Schools are asking for our help and we don't have volunteers to go there."
The mission of Power Paws For Kids Inc., Animal Assisted Therapy volunteers is to help promote health and well-being through positive interactions with animals. Together with their nationally registered therapy dogs, they provide weekly group sessions in reading programs in schools and libraries. They also visit the elderly and infirm in the Care Center at Hartsfield Village in Munster as well as participating in programs at Arc Bridges, said Maryanne Battistini, volunteer and vice president of Power Paws.
Power Paws Facilitator Lina Rolland is able to qualify a volunteer dog for Power Paws.
"It does cost $25 for the dog to be evaluated but the fee is refunded when a volunteer shows up for four events in a year," Rolland said.
The organization asks volunteers to give one hour a month as a minimum but won't turn down folks who want to give more time.
"We started the program with the Crown Point Library on Saturdays with children reading to the dogs," Rolland said. "It is very rewarding to see a child who was frighted of a dog and by the end of the session they are petting it."
The schools' programs are group sessions where the volunteers and their dogs are matched with a participant for the duration of the program, usually a semester, and is coordinated with the reading program. Activities are goal directed and focus on improving reading skills, peer relations, expressing emotion, increasing social skills and communication, increasing attention skills and cooperation, and gaining self-worth and confidence.
The group also participates in school programs for children with learning problems.
"We're dedicated to the kids and their recovery, whatever their problem. I cry at the beginning of every year when I see a child's first contact with the dog," Rolland said. "That's why I continue to drive here (Crown Point) from Chicago."
Power Paws is a nonprofit organization that raises funds to buy books, training materials, awards for children, equipment and many other program needs.
Anyone interested in donating or becoming a volunteer with a dog that might qualify to be a registered therapy dog can contact Deborah Jones at (219) 306-6344 or Lina Rolland at (773) 517-4245.