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7/21/2020 – Along with the rest of the world, Patriot PAWS has spent the last several months adjusting, readjusting and then adjusting some more to the challenges of living and doing business in a global pandemic. The initial adjustments we made early in the quarantine phase were focused on keeping our volunteer puppy raisers, kennel, and training staff safe while continuing to train and care for the dogs. It was challenging but we adapted to the quarantine environment successfully through virtual training with our puppy raisers, distance training in our prison program, working from home for our administrative staff, and designing virtual demonstrations/tours are just some of the ways we have adapted to the new environment.
When Texas began to reopen in phases, Patriot PAWS also began to reopen in phases – first with staff only, and later allowing a very limited and controlled number of volunteers and visitors. We continue to implement CDC guidelines and safety protocols including masks and social distancing for anyone on campus, temperature checks at the door and plenty of hand sanitizing stations. Our trainers are conducting in-person training with Puppy Raisers, always with masks and social distancing required.
Each month since the shut-down seems to bring new challenges and difficult decisions. In March, we got word from TDCJ that our April Prison Graduation would not be possible. In April, we had to cancel our Volunteer Appreciation Luncheon and reschedule our Annual Golf Tournament from May to November. In May, we realized that our plans for a Fall Graduation Celebration were no longer realistic. In June, we began discussing the possibility that we would have to cancel all in-person events for 2020, and in July we did just that.
Financially, we are weathering the impact but have definitely seen a dip in regular donations. We were able to secure the SBA loan, which has allowed to keep almost all of our team on staff. Although we are not sure what the donation landscape will look like for us and other nonprofits moving forward, we are determined to continue training dogs and serving veterans.
It’s not all bad news, though! We are getting ready this month for our first Veteran Training and Graduation of 2020 – hooray!! Since our campus is still closed to large groups, volunteers and friends will be sharing Graduation with us virtually and at a distance. So, this will be a completely different Graduation event from any in our history. However, the one thing – and the most important thing – that will remain the same, is that we will be providing life-changing service dogs to veterans in need.
In spite of everything, we are happy to report that many other good things are still happening at Patriot PAWS!! The pictures below tell the story of how Patriot PAWS – with the help of friends, supporters and volunteers – continues to connect with our community and raise awareness for our mission to train service dogs for disabled veterans.