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The beauty of purpose

One of the animals previously available at a local shelter in Warrensburg, Mo. Opportunities to volunteer increase significantly by venturing into the local communities and keeping an open eye for things of personal interest.

One of the animals previously available at a local shelter in Warrensburg, Mo. Opportunities to volunteer increase significantly by venturing into the local communities and keeping an open eye for things of personal interest. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Jazmin Smith)

One of the many dogs previously available at a local animal shelter peers through the fencing in Warrensburg, Mo. Volunteer opportunities at a shelter include socialization and exercise of the animals.

One of the many dogs previously available at a local animal shelter peers through the fencing in Warrensburg, Mo. Volunteer opportunities at a shelter include socialization and exercise of the animals. Getting the dogs out of their kennels for some one-on-one brushing or taking them on a walk helps the staff learn some of their quirks so they can find good placements for them. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Jazmin Smith)

A puppy enjoys time outside of a local animal shelter in Warrensburg, Mo.

A puppy enjoys time outside of a local animal shelter in Warrensburg, Mo. Many local shelters have a variety of dog and cat breeds of all ages available for adoption. Contact your local shelter for more information about volunteering. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Jazmin Smith)

A puppy enjoys some fresh air at a local animal shelter in Warrensburg, Mo. Volunteers at a shelter can socialize and exercise the animals, which helps the staff in finding them good homes. Contact your first sergeant for more information on volunteer opportunities available in your local community.

A puppy enjoys some fresh air at a local animal shelter in Warrensburg, Mo. Volunteers at a shelter can socialize and exercise the animals, which helps the staff in finding them good homes. Contact your first sergeant for more information on volunteer opportunities available in your local community. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Jazmin Smith)

WHITEMAN AIR FORCE BASE, Mo. -- I remember the first time I realized there were animals in need.

As a kid growing up in the late 90’s, I, like many others my age, had my eyes glued to the box TV when I wasn’t outside playing with friends. Amidst the various commercials and advertisements, little did I know at the time there was a certain series which would stand out. It would always start with soft piano music transitioning with videos of animals in a shelter. Eventually, a spokesperson would appear to express how the animals needed your support. Collectively, it would entice a sense of sorrow and pity … and eventually a desire to help.

As a seven-year-old at that point, I did not donate, nor did I volunteer. I continued watching cartoons as usual until dinner time.

Fast-forward two decades.

I married my high school sweetheart, adopted two dogs and was an enlisted member of the Air Force. Life was great. Yet, I still didn’t feel as though I was doing enough.

I took a step back and asked myself what else I could be doing to benefit others. I quickly came to the conclusion that for me to truly make a difference I had to invest my time in something personal.

In the words of Mark Anthony, “If you do what you love, you’ll never work a day in your life.”

Since coming to Whiteman, I’ve had the opportunity to volunteer at the local animal shelter. During my time there, I would frequently overhear the nearest passerby call out with different versions of the same phrase, “Look at this one!”

If you really take a look, you would see this is not where they want to be for the rest of their lives. I’m sure if I could communicate with animals, they would tell me about how much they wanted to go home with the family that came in earlier that day.

Whenever my husband and I have a free Saturday afternoon, we spend a few hours playing with the sweetest dogs, letting them explore for a bit of time.

During our visits there, I am able to capture them as happy, full of life and playful. By taking photos, my hope is that the shelters I photograph for will be able to share the images and thus generate more interest in adoption. This is my goal; what’s yours?

Other than the genuine happiness which overwhelms me after spending a few hours with some four-legged friends, I always look forward to seeing how busy the shelter is when I am there. Seeing pups getting loaded into their new family’s vehicle would leave a smile on my face, and I would carry a noticeably better mood throughout the day.

To this day, I recall my first encounter with the animals at the shelter. Other than wanting to take home every animal, the interaction brought an immediate realization: I went with the intentions of coming by just a few times, but I left knowing this is something I would continue doing.

Just by applying a skill I’ve acquired from my job in the Air Force, I have been able to offer my time and services in the hopes of helping animals find a home outside of the kennels.

No matter what your tie is to the military, it is important to remember the significance of your engagement within the surrounding community and the humbling sense of purpose that betters you as a person. My own intentions benefited a few animals and families, but if you find something, whether it is at a veteran’s home, for a neighbor, or even within your own office, keep it up; you’re making a difference for the better.

All around us are chances for volunteering. With emails coming in from the shirts and supervisors, there is no doubt the window of opportunity is there.

If you aren’t seeing something you like out there, start asking questions or better yet, take the initiative and create your own.