Last week you met Peggy Mehen, the Self-Advocate Dreammaker Award winner who will be celebrated at the Transforming Lives Gala on August 18. This week let’s focus on the Volunteer Dreammaker award winners—Secondhand Hounds.

Living Well has been partnering with Secondhand Hounds, an animal rescue organization since 2018. Their Secondhand Hope program offers companion pet visits to Minnesota assisted living communities and other facilities, and prior to working with Living Well had not worked directly with disability service organizations.

Their goal is to provide both humans and animals with comfort, socialization, and companionship. Volunteers bring their personal animals, including dogs (both large and small) and cats, to participate in the visits. Each animal and its handler receive guidance from Secondhand Hounds staff in order to make the experience both enjoyable and safe. They worked with Living Well staff to adapt their services and train their volunteers to be able to support people with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities.

Volunteers and pet pairs have supported fifteen of our residential locations, including our Douglas and Powell homes. Volunteers visit the same location each month, so they have been able to get to know the people and staff at each home. Josie Jeffrey, Regional Director, says, “People served look forward to the monthly visits from their house’s dog or cat volunteer, and they often come up in the daily conversations at the house. Our Secondhand Hope volunteers have become a part of the Living Well culture at these homes, and we are excited to have a beautiful partnership with them.”

The impact the collaboration has on our mission is obvious. Volunteer Manager, Kathy Anderson says, “It’s been more than a pleasure working with Secondhand Hope Hounds. The companion animal visitors these past five years have brought so much joy to so many people. Those of us that live and work with Living Well think their volunteers are generous and kind.” Adding, “And of course the dogs and cats are sweet and fun. Our partnership is priceless, and I can’t thank Secondhand enough!”

And it appears to be a mutual feeling. Gayle Boje, Secondhand Hope Program Coordinator, says, “We are all honored to be able to have a partnership with Living Well, and we are humbled to be able to make such an impact in the lives of your residents.”

When people and community open their hearts to organizations like Living Well, magic is sure to happen. We couldn’t do what we do so well without the consistent dedication of our volunteers. They are essential when it comes to bridging the gap between home and community, and we are forever grateful.

We look forward to celebrating Secondhand Hounds on August 18, 2023, at our Transforming Lives Gala. For more information, click here.




(The Volunteer Dreammaker award honors a Living Well Disability Services volunteer—individual or group—who has made an outstanding contribution or demonstrated exemplary leadership, creativity, cooperation and hard work that transformed the lives of people we support.)