Hand in Paw breaks ground on new headquarters

Birmingham Alabama
Birmingham Alabama
The dogs eagerly helped with the groundbreaking effort! – Photo by Hand in Paws.

Tuesday, Oct 24th, on an acre of land between Forest Park and Avondale Park, Hand in Paw, the nonprofit therapy animal organization, broke ground for their new headquarters. They had some help from some tenacious digging by a few of their therapy dogs. The new facility will be named for Beth Franklin, the founder of Hand in Paw.

Birmingham Alabama
Humans and dogs participate in the groundbreaking at the new Hand in Paws Headquarters – photo courtesy of Hand in Paw.
Hand in Paw
Hand in Paw rendering of new headquarters. Via- HIP.

Generous private donations  resulting from a year long capital campaign will enable construction of the new headquarters to begin in 2018.

Guests looked at renovation and expansion renderings. They were able to meet some of the all-star therapy teams!  Dr. Jim Lasker, Ken Jackson and Laura Cardwell addressed the crowd.

Jeanie Wallace, someone who knows first hand what HIP can mean to a patient, also spoke. Jeanie was a cancer patient who benefited from visits with HIP therapy team Philippa, Frank and ‘Pippa’ Bainbridge.

Laura Cardwell, the Executive Director explained how the capital campaign and new headquarters will increase their outreach and services.

 “Part of the funds raised are to build capacity and ensure there is professional support and needed program materials. In addition, this new center allows us to support our volunteers and recruit new ones through increased training opportunities. And the addition will allow us to bring community partners into our facility for programming. We envision our campus bustling with activity and adding a positive footprint to the Avondale area.”

Birmingham Alabama
Hand in Paw founder Beth Franklin with Board member John Saxon – Photo by Pat Byington

In 1996, Beth Franklin struck out on a mission to design and build an organization of volunteer Animal-Assisted Therapy Teams. Hand in Paw would go on to improve the health and well-being of people all over the Birmingham region. Today, they reach over 97,000 clients annually and work with 100 partnering facilities.

Rachel Goodson of Hand in Paw. Photo by Pat Byington, Bham Now.

Beth Franklin always knew the benefits of hanging out with our four-legged friends and science agrees. Scientific evidence suggests that interacting with pets results in more than just emotional benefits. Animal therapy can reduce stress hormones, lower cholesterol and lower blood pressure. Interacting with therapy animals can help elderly patients, traumatized children, and people undergoing physical rehabilitation get better. It’s simple, people feel better around therapy animals, and they heal faster.

Hand in Paw
Hand in Paw therapy animals make hospital rounds. Via- HIP.

The new headquarters will include a simulation hospital room. Laura Cardwell explained the importance of this space.

Animals are incredible, but just like with people, sometimes new environments can be confusing. This space (thanks to Children’s of Alabama) will give both the humans and animals a chance to experience some of the sights, sounds, textures, and smells they may experience in a hospital setting. 

One of the most enthusiastic, and effective therapy teams is Cindy Bowman, and her mixed-breed terrier, Sally.

Hand in Paw
Cindy Bowman, and Sally, an all-star therapy team at Hand in Paw. Via- blog.birminghamdoctors.com.

But dogs aren’t the only therapy animals Hand in Paw has in service. Currently they have two therapy goats, and a hairless cat. They also welcome pigs, birds, llamas, guinea pigs rabbits and miniature horses!

As you can imagine, there’s a long waiting list for Hand in Paw services. Laura shared how the expansion and new building will alleviate that unfortunate backlog.

We currently have to borrow space for training and testing. Having a training center on site to work with prospective therapy animals and their handlers will help us place more teams in the field at a faster rate. The new center will make it convenient for handlers to stop in for extra practice, which will increase our ‘pass’ rate. Having the capacity to host trainings and evaluations on site will increase our ability to offer sessions that accommodate a wider range of prospective volunteer schedules, too. “

With the expansion there will be a need for more volunteers on the administrative side of this worthy organization. Why not get involved?

“ We will need  more volunteers in these areas, as we have mailings, special events, etc. Having a skilled retired person, like our longtime volunteer Carol Speed, who works for HIP twice weekly in an administrative capacity, is invaluable”

Yesterday was an exciting day for Hand in Paw. Guests left with a cute memento; Glenwood, YWCA, and Exceptional Foundation painted dog faces on rocks for the guests.

Today they will be right back at it, serving the community, and deploying their super animal therapy teams!