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Shelly and Jake: Pet Therapy Pioneers by Moxie Gusto

October 29, 2012 • Paige

Happy Halloween from the Dread Pirate Shelly and her Terrible Sea Monster Jake

This was my mother and our family dog preparing to visit a convalescent hospital on Halloween, many years ago.  Every week Shelly and Jake visited patients in the hospital for rehabilitation, and they came to be well known around our little community.

My mother saw a news story about therapy animals being used in hospitals across the country and decided that we needed something like that our small town.  Neither Mom nor Jake had any formal training, yet they became the first pet therapy team in our area.

Mom spent most of her time doing things for other people, and had a frequent habit of rescuing and rehabilitating abandoned or abused animals.  After her children were raised, it was only natural that she created her own volunteering niche in the community.

Jake was adopted from the pound as a puppy, so we have no idea where he came from.  He was very well-behaved and incredibly affectionate, with a special talent for giving the best hugs ever.

I was too much of a teenager at the time to fully appreciate what they were doing, and never got involved myself, but I always listened to my mom tell stories after each visit to the hospital. I put up the ‘disinterested teenager’ front, but I was so proud of both of them.  She would get fired up describing the happiness that Jake brought to the patients.  Some of them never got any visitors except for Jake and Shelly.

It was not her intention, but my mom brought an incredible amount of joy to her own life through volunteering at the hospital.  She didn’t have any special skills, but she did have an abundance of love and a kind and friendly nature that uplifted everyone around her. She probably didn’t think I was listening but I came to understand that lifting up other people is one of the most important things you can do with your time. It doesn’t matter who you are, or where you came from.  There is always something you can do that brings hope or joy into the lives of others.  Thanks, Mom.

The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.”   —   Ralph Waldo Emerson

“It is one of the most beautiful compensations of life, that no man can sincerely try to help another without helping himself.”  — Ralph Waldo Emerson

Footnote: Shelly and Jake underwent appropriate health exams, updated their immunizations and were screened by hospital staff prior to visiting any patients.  

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Where do I start? by Moxie Gusto

September 17, 2012 • Paige

A fairly common goal in our rag-tag community is to inspire others to help those in need and generally do more good in the world.  We all have our own methods of drawing attention, but what do you do once you’ve got it?

More often than not, the response we get from people is very positive and often a person will ask how they can help.  Usually this isn’t a person who is looking to dress up like a ninja or go on patrol.  In my recent experience, those most interested in getting out and doing something good are older people or mothers who want to teach their children about helping others.

When this happens – and it will – have a well thought-out answer ready for the non-ninjas. Even better, print up a few business cards with contact information for outreach organizations in your area. There is a much better chance a person will follow through if you can put the information directly in their hands.

There is no reason not to do this. A pack of break-apart business cards can be had for about $3.00. You can find free software similar to Microsoft Word at , and free business card templates to get you started here:

If YOU are wondering where you can start:

It doesn’t matter what you do, or how you help. Just pick something that appeals to you and get started.

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Simple Gestures

June 11, 2012 • Paige

Sometimes all you need to do to really help someone is to listen. Never underestimate the effectiveness of a simple and heart-felt “How are you doing today?”

If you find out someone is really struggling, take the time to listen, no matter what.  Be late to work.  Be late getting home.  You never know what kind of affect you may have by simply listening to someone who needs a few minutes of your time.

You might give a stressed out person a chance to vent, get something off of their chest and have a much better day than they were having.  You might instill a little bit of hope in someone who has just about lost it.  You could even save a life.

I don’t have answers for the really tough problems, and I don’t always know what to say when someone is hurting.  Having the answer is NOT what it is all about. What is important is making eye contact, and really and truly listening and letting that person be heard.

In an Emergency, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255)

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Moxie’s Coat Drive 2011

December 21, 2011 • Paige

My first coat drive in 2010 was a great experience. With very little planning and no experience, I collected 25 warm coats in 5 days.  I only visited the offices within the same building where I work.   That was nice, but I had an entire year to plan my next coat drive.  This year I enlisted Cognito and Servo to help.

Because this was my second coat drive, everyone I know was already familiar with what I was doing, and donations came from every direction.  We had to devote a 4′ X 4′ area in our house to hold donations throughout the year.
I learned of a huge rummage sale happening at a church near my house.  I asked the organizers if I could have the coats, clothes, and blankets that were left over for my coat drive – and they were GLAD to let me haul off anything I wanted to take. WONDERFUL!!  You never know, until you ask.



It took Cognito and Servo two trips with our truck to get all of this stuff to the rescue mission. I had some more last minute donations that are not in this photo, so it was a total of 18 bags of quality coats, clothes, and shoes in all sizes. The “donations corner” in my house was finally empty, but it never stays that way for long.

Moxie is co-Founder of the Louisiana Initiative, and a regular contributor for S.T.A.N.D.

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Moxie’s Coat Drive 2010

December 31, 2010 • Paige

In December of 2010, I held my first coat drive.  I was inspired by people in my life who were very quick to help anyone in need, and I want to be one of those people  It was a very long time ago, but I know what it is like to have to be outside in cold weather without proper warm clothing.

For anyone just starting out, is a fantastic resource!   You will find all kinds of advice tol help you plan and conduct a successful drive.  You can also advertise your coat drive on their website, and at the end they will send you a cute certificate to recognize your efforts.

It doesn’t matter what you do, or how much you can help – what matters is that you find a way to help, and get started!  Do what you can, when you can.


Moxie’s first coat drive, 2010

Moxie is co-Founder of the Louisiana Initiative, and a regular contributor for S.T.A.N.D.

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