In September 2013, the AOPA Foundation gave away 10 grants, worth $10,000 each, as part of their Giving Back Program designed to recognize good work being done through general aviation by nonprofit organizations. Pilots N Paws, which uses volunteer pilots to transport rescued, sheltered, or fostered animals, was one of those grant recipients.
The organization heard about the Giving Back Program through word of mouth, said Pilots N Paws Executive Director Kathleen Quinn. “A lot of our pilots heard about the program and encouraged us to apply for it,” she said.
The $10,000 grant was used to help fund fly-away outreach events that resulted in hundreds of animals being rescued and delivered to new families along the East Coast. “When we started in 2009, we would do an annual event. But with the foundation grant, we can have two fly-aways. We had one on Oct. 5, and it was just an amazing event,” said Quinn. “We had 90 pilots working on one day to transport 535 animals, thanks to the AOPA Foundation.”
Pilots N Paws was able to empty an entire animal shelter, the Fort Stewart Military Pet Shelter, along with rescuing other animals in Hinesville, Ga., near the base, said Quinn. “A lot of animals went to New Jersey. Some pilots can do the entire flight, while some flew relay points to airports on the east coast, from Southern Pines, N.C., to points in Washington, D.C., and Virginia.”
“One of the cool things about this fly-away was it was not just about the animals,” said Quinn. “While we’re dedicated to saving animals from shelters, we also impact the lives of the people we’re delivering animals to,” she said. “Some of the animals came from Fort Stewart and they were sent to New Jersey to Paws of War and trained to become comfort and service animals for military members who have been affected by combat-related injuries and post-traumatic stress disorder.”
“We also had a fly-away on March 1 out of Alabama, where we flew more than 200 animals,” said Quinn. “Our next fly-away will be Sept. 26 to 27 at Greenville Downtown Airport in South Carolina, and we’re in the early stages of planning a Midwest fly-away.”
The AOPA Foundation’s Giving Back Program will award more grants to nonprofit groups doing good work through GA in 2014. The application process opens on May 1. For more information, visit the AOPA Foundation website.