If you love animals you’ll love the story of two MNU alums who live their passion every day at work. Megan McGee (’12), director of donor cultivation for Great Plains SPCA, one of the largest no-kill animal shelters in the Kansas City metro, says she has found her home among those who care so deeply about God’s creatures. And working on the weekends or evenings isn’t a problem either--all because of her passion for animal welfare and the family feeling that comes from working with others who are united through their love of animals.
It began when McGee was a student in MNU’s bachelor’s-degree completion program in 2011. A part of her major required completing a problem-solving project for an area business. McGee chose to research ways to raise money for animal welfare, which didn’t come as a surprise to her classmates who knew about her soft heart for animals in need. After completing her degree, this wife, and mother of three, decided to volunteer her time at a local animal shelter. What she calls a random visit to the Pet Adoption Center of Great Plains SPCA turned into a job in 2013.
Bubbly and enthusiastic about educating the community about the plight of abandoned animals, McGee is involved in most aspects of the 12 animal life-saving programs Great Plains SPCA conducts. From the Young Heroes for Pets Camp, which teaches how youth can make a difference for shelter animals, to the SASSY Program (Shelter Animals+Seniors+Supportive Youth), enabling senior citizens to lead more fulfilling and productive lives through relationships with pets, the organization touches the community in many ways, many times a week.
McGee defines her mission as educating people on how they can help the organization and connect them with opportunities to give. In fact, she has secured some unusual gifts, such as wiring for computers in the office and a new dishwasher for the shelter.
“A lot of folks don’t realize that we are more than a shelter,” McGee says. “Our programs range from youth and senior to animal rescue, medical services, and humane education in the community. It’s something you have to see for yourself to understand. I have been so blessed to witness some of the most feel good stories, and too many heartbreaking ones. At the end of the day, my heart is full and I feel I have found my purpose here, and my home.”
Emily (Lefler ’06) Hawkins is social marketing manager for Great Plains SPCA. The mass communications major found her perfect job two years ago. Managing the highly engaged audiences on the organization’s Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, YouTube, blog and Snapchat would be a job in itself. But Hawkins also oversees the organization’s website and its new Etsy shop which raised $20,000 in the few months it was open. In two years their Facebook page alone has gone from 15,000 to 50,000 followers. Hawkins wears many hats within the marketing department at Great Plains, and finds herself helping at events and envisioning creative marketing pieces for the Veterinary Care Center and more.
“I constantly refer to lessons I learned from Professor Mark Hamilton (MNU professor of communication),” Hawkins says. “When discussing how to communicate a specific story to the public, my communications classes have really stuck with me all these years later.”
Hawkins and her husband, Daniel (’06), both love animals and find themselves fostering dogs as well as caring for their own dog Turk. Writing a blog about home renovation for the last five years along with a position as e-communication development specialist at the Salvation Army in Kansas & Western Missouri blossomed into her current job.
“At MNU, we were always encouraged to serve others, and that helped fuel my desire to work in the nonprofit sector,” she says. “I wake up every day excited to go to work, because I know that I will be able to make a difference in someone’s life that day.”
On a tour of the facility, Hawkins says the organization has four metro locations and served 35,000 animals in 2014. Great Plains is also experiencing nearly maximum capacity in certain areas. This summer there were 700 cats in the shelter that comfortably houses a total of 750 animals. Being responsive to the changing situation at Great Plains SPCA is something Hawkins and her coworkers are familiar with. So, in order to free up space, they held several promotions to place cats in their forever homes. “Orange is the New Cat” was one effort in which fees were waived for adult cats and kittens were available at a two-for-one cost.
Hawkins says the public can use the veterinary services at Great Plains as well. The costs are usually lower than traditional vet clinics, offset by the donations of those who love animals. In fact, the fees are on a sliding scale based on the pet owner’s income.
Part of Hawkins’ role at Great Plains involves using social media to encourage online giving. As a nonprofit organization, Great Plains incurs the cost for a variety of expenses, including emergency surgeries. Recently, a dog named Echo made local news after being shot in the face and taken to their Independence location. Donations, largely driven by social media, assisted with Echo’s recovery, and how he has a new family. This is just one success story that Hawkins tells with warmth and pride. The shelter boasts a 96 to 98 percent live release rate for all animals.
“Behind every pet is a person, so when we are helping a pet in need, we are also directly helping that person or family who may otherwise not have had a place to turn,” Hawkins says.
For information on the many services and programs offered by Great Plains SPCA visit www.greatplainsspca.org.
See a few photos from our visit to Great Plains SPCA in Merriam.