Story by Hannah Rabalais. Photos by Hunter Lacey.
This story is brought to you by Mr. and Mrs. Norm Bagwell.
Wendy Reiner is the co-founder and Executive Director of Friends of the Dallas Animal Services (DAS), a nonprofit raising funds to directly benefit the Dallas Animal Services. What originally started as searching for a discount on KONG toys for the animals in the shelter, resulted in a brand new 501c3 to enhance the DAS programs and services that ensure compassionate care of shelter animals and find positive outcomes for placeable pets. The organization is focused on enrichment items for shelter pets, foster program support, medical support and offering general shelter support to hundreds of animals who call the shelter home each day.
Wendy chose to walk away from her career in civil rights after spending over 17 years working in various federal agencies. She felt called to volunteer and give back to her community. Feeling unfulfilled at work, she took a leap of faith to commit herself to full time volunteering and giving back. Wendy took a risk, giving up a steady paycheck and retirement plans for the sake of giving back to society. This effort would be daunting to most, but Wendy persisted with the encouragement and support of her partner.
To start, Wendy knew exactly where she would begin giving back her time; at Meals on Wheels. Her reason? Meals on Wheels is often the only contact that home-bound people have on a daily basis. Meals on Wheels delivers freshly-prepared hot meals to 4,000 Dallas County residents Mondays through Fridays. Wendy says, “What really made me want to volunteer was, the person who made the call to request a welfare check on my mom was the person who delivered her meals. The delivery person noticed that my mother didn’t come to the door, and that sent a red flag to the volunteer. They didn’t have to do that, but because they genuinely cared, that inspired me.” Because of that experience, Wendy wanted to show the same care that was shown to her mother later in her life.
Along with Meals on Wheels, Wendy started volunteering at the Dallas Animal Services when there was a leadership transition and the shelter opened their volunteer program. “My love for animals started later in life when I lived in Minnesota and would volunteer at a wildlife reserve,” says Wendy. Dallas Animal Services is a governmental agency, and they’re the third-largest animal shelter in the country, taking in 39,000 animals a year. As Wendy spent time at the Dallas Animal Services, she noticed that due to the shelter’s limited government funding, the animals at the shelter were not provided with the same items that were donated to other animal facilities in the area.
Wendy set out to find ways to get items donated or heavily discounted. Wendy went to a popular animal toy website, KONG, and realized the only way to be able to get these items was by creating a 501c3. She approached the Director of Dallas Animal Services in February 2019 and by May 2019 had officially formed the Friends of the Dallas Animal Services. Since its formation, Wendy has been its Executive Director, serving with four committed board members. Along with her volunteer responsibilities through Friends of the Dallas Animal Services, Wendy has kept her Meals on Wheels routes, volunteers with Texas Equal Access Fund answering their hotline, and also volunteers with Hunger Busters, which provides third meals for food-insecure DISD students to bring home.
Wendy is the most dedicated volunteer any city could ask for, and Dallas is very fortunate to have someone who so selflessly serves our community. To learn more about Friends of the Dallas Animal Services, please visit friendsofdas.org.
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