Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Ginger Sikes, President of the Animal Lovers Assistance League, Inc.

Ginger Sikes, who is the founder and president of the non-profit Animal Lovers Assistance League, Inc., which operates the Currituck Animal Shelter, also helped found the Currituck Humane Society 18 years ago.

She has always been a passionate animal lover. A college scholarship in music at the University of NC at Greensboro, followed by graduate studies and degrees in Music Education at Florida State University, and later at the University of Michigan, helped lead the way to a career as a high school band, orchestra, and choir director as well as a church choir director and an FM radio broadcaster.

Summer trips to Europe as a member of the staff and Assistant Conductor of the United States Collegiate Wind Band were not only fun but enlightening on the values of other cultures. Her high school band was the first high school band ever invited to perform at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, DC.

 Although Ginger loved teaching, she took early retirement 12 years ago to pursue her passion of making the world a better place for animals.

In 2005 it became apparent that there needed to be a change of direction in animal welfare in Currituck County. The Animal Lovers Assistance League was formed to pursue a more multifaceted approach to animal welfare in Currituck.

It includes a focus on humane education, which includes providing the US Humane Society's "KIND News" every month of the school year to more than 50 elementary school classrooms in Currituck as well as actively incorporating a large number of animal lovers (more than 150 members) with diverse interests and talents into the multitude of activities of the Animal Lovers Assistance League.

Although being chartered in 2005, in 2006 they were the recipient of the Governor's Award for Outstanding Volunteer Service in North Carolina. In 2007 they were the recipient of the Award for Non-Profit Organization of the Year in Currituck County.

The Animal Lovers Assistance League organized the second annual Bark in Maple Park in October. It had approximately 350 people in attendance. Many entered their dogs in the various Fun Dog Show categories, such as Most Regal, Most Spots, Best Costume, etc., while some just brought their dogs to come and watch the festivities. Every dog in the Fun Dog Show is a winner! All went home with dog treats provided by DogNutz, ribbons, certificates. first place medals. Pet Portraits by pet photographers Laurie Stuart and John It was a fun day for all! 

The motivation behind the event is to promote the concept that dogs are a part of one's family, that they can not only be a lot of fun, but deserve respect as well. Next year it is expected that even more dogs will bring their families!

Operation of the Currituck Animal Shelter includes providing a comfortable quality of life for animals at the shelter as well as intense efforts to bring the animals to the attention of the public through the use of frequent adopt-a-thons including at the PetsMart in Chesapeake; work with animal rescues; a donors' sponsored weekly newspaper ad of our animals who are "Ready to be Homeward Bound"; our web site that is linked to Petfinder.org for national and regional exposure of our shelter animals; and a volunteer pet trainer who teaches free classes in pet good manners in order to make our animals more readily adoptable.

Veterinary care is provided by local veterinarians as needed. Thanks to the efforts of many people, an 88% adoption rate for adoptable animals is maintained.

Rapidly growing Currituck County has outgrown their small shelter, which will be bulldozed when the neighboring airport expands, and efforts are underway to enlist the assistance of the county in building a new, larger progressive 21st century shelter near the new NC Extension Center and future Community/Senior Center on Hwy. 158 to Elizabeth City.

It would include flex cages for use by animals displaced due to their owners being battered and having to leave home, or losing their home in a fire; or to help in a disaster. Modern animal display techniques will help provide better public exposure for our animals as well as better techniques for controlling the transmission of disease.

Part of Ginger's vision is the development in conjunction with College of the Albemarle a curriculum of Animal Services that would lead to local employment of people in the various areas of animal services. This would not only provide jobs for those who have training in the various animal welfare services, it would provide improved animal care in the region for many decades to come. Ginger remarked that there is a deep satisfaction when you know that you helped save a helpless animal's life.

Hopefully, with the coming of a new, much larger Animal Adoption Center, which aptly describes the concept that the Animal Lovers have of it, over the years many thousands of animals will be saved and go to loving homes.

This is her vision. Her passion is to make these things become a reality -- and with the help of a great many other dedicated animal lovers, they will! Ginger's children who have paws are named: Ressie Piecey, Barkley, Beethoven, Wee Bonnie Lass, and Nestle (who is the son of now deceased Hershey). "They bring me so much joy-- they make me laugh every day.

 People who do not have pets just don't realize that they are missing some of the great joys in life!"  

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