The Christmas holidays are traditionally a time for giving, but this year, the students in Dr. Heather McFarland's CI Class gave a gift that was a bit different - their gift was their time and creativity.
The recipient of the students’ gift was Needy Paws, the local animal shelter. Needy Paws is similar to many other small-town shelters, operating on a limited budget, and depending heavily on the generosity of supporters and volunteers. The shelter houses approximately 20 dogs and 20 cats, and student volunteers have often spent time at the shelter walking the dogs, or socializing with the cats. However, Ozarks professor of biology and environmental studies Dr. Doug Jeffries, who has served on the shelter board for the past two years, saw other areas where the shelter had unmet needs.
"Dr. Jeffries had talked to me about some of the needs at Needy Paws," Dr. McFarland said. "Some of the CI Classes actually go to Needy Paws and walk the dogs, but I wanted to show the students there was a different way of doing community service than just going and walking the dogs." She said Dr. Jeffries told her that one thing the shelter hadn’t had in the past two years was a holiday newsletter. "Many of my students worked on annuals and newspapers in their high schools, so that’s why I brought this to them," she explained.
And so the work began. The students brainstormed about what a newsletter might look like, and then divided into groups to create the content. Drawing information from the internet, the Needy Paws facebook page, and interviews with shelter board members and workers, the students created four main articles for the newsletter.
- Riley Allen, Alejandro Cordoba, Billy Easley, Anne Sterba, and Megan Stewart compiled the "Year in Review," highlighting the major events that took place at the shelter in 2011.
- Andrea Chamorro, Scott Gregg, and Kinley Hughes wrote an article introducing the newest Needy Paws board president, Dr. Doug Jeffries.
- Cheyenne Holland, Randall Roets, and Ryan West researched the topic of winter care for pets to create an informative article with important tips to keep pets safe and healthy during the cold weather.
- Jessica Osterdock, Nicholas Parton, and Chelsea Young wrote the "Dear Santa" letter on behalf of the dogs and cats at the shelter, listing gift ideas that help make life better for the animals.
The students also included a profile of two dogs from Needy Paws who found their Forever Home, as well as a short segment telling about things the community can do to help the shelter.
Osterdock and Parton selected the newsletter layout, while Linda Fitzmaurice, Kimberly Peters and Chyna Ramsey chose the art and graphics. The students then used Microsoft Publisher to create the final draft of the two-page newsletter, and after three class sessions - representing about 55 person-hours of work - the newsletter was completed. After one final review by Dr. McFarland and members of the Needy Paws staff, the "Holiday Gram" newsletter was printed, ready to be added to the Needy Paws Family Portrait Fundraiser photo packets (download a copy of the Holiday Gram newsletter).
Dr. McFarland said response to the newsletter has been overwhelmingly positive. "I’ve received over two dozen emails telling the students how great the work was," she said. "This was a way to draw interest to the board, because they’d like to build it up. That’s one of the big things…just getting the word out there, that Needy Paws is active."