PAWS: Then and Now
Esther had long been interested in improving public relations for the animal control program. So, at the suggestion of Jim Chisholm of Chisholm Associates, she called a meeting to explore possibilities for such a society. On May 5, 1982, Esther Pratt Nowell (then Chairman of the Canine Control Committee) and nine citizens of Wakefield met to discuss organizing a society for the protection of animals in Wakefield.
At that first meeting, it was "Resolved: that it is the sense of this meeting that a society for the protection of animals in Wakefield shall now be formed." Suggestions on how to implement this resolution included reinforcing the Dog Officer's program, serving as a clearinghouse for information encouraging humane education in the schools, and sponsoring a low-cost spay/neuter clinic.
Over the next few months, the group met and became an official entity. The name was changed to Protection of Animals in Wakefield Society, creating the acronym PAWS.
The Articles of Organization were filed with the Secretary of the Commonwealth on March 2, 1983, stating that the original purposes of the organization were as follows:
The corporation which shall be a charitable, non-profit organization, shall have the following objectives:
A. To protect the rights and the well-being of all domestic and wild animals in the: Town of Wakefield.
B. To foster greater understanding of animal welfare and animal rights through education.
In April of 1985, PAWS received 501(c)(3) status granted by the IRS, acknowledging it as a charitable, non-profit organization and thereby exempt from taxes.
Esther Nowell was tenacious and relentless in her pursuit of animal rights. One of her first priorities was humane education. She proposed introducing talks in the lower grades, a curriculum guide for grades K-6, and enlisting the cooperation of the PTOs as a means of implementing this proposal.
Today, PAWS continues Esther's commitment to education by underwriting our Wonders of Animal Life presentations such as Eyes on Owls, which brings live owl demonstrations into the classroom. The local Wakefield PTO helps support some of the costs of this program with an annual grant.
In addition, PAWS has continued and expanded annual subscriptions to Kind News to all Wakefield students in grades K-6. An award-winning humane education magazine that was founded by the Humane Society of the United States, Kind News helps students connect with animals and build stronger, more empathetic relationships.
Esther firmly believed fostering is a major part of the PAWS mission. Volunteers welcome homeless animals into their homes and care for them until a "forever home" is found. Initially, PAWS accepted homeless cats and dogs, and rabbits …and birds … and Guinea pigs … and even turtles! More recently, however, only cats are in foster care. Fostering is truly the foundation of PAWS’ work.
Esther's dedication to animal rights reached far beyond the local level. She spoke out for animal rights at the state, national and world levels. To this end, she petitioned a local store to stop selling furs and fur products, demonstrated against animal abuse at rodeos and, in 1986, picketed McDonalds to serve veggie burgers. In 1990, PAWS presented a plaque to Soviet officials at the Soviet Embassy in Washington DC in recognition of their effort to save ice bound whales in Northern Alaska. The New England Federation of Humane Societies awarded the prestigious honor of Humanitarian of the Year to Esther Nowell for her outstanding service, above the call of duty, to the care of animals in 1997.
In 2008, the first PAWS scholarship, under the Wakefield Citizen Scholarship program, was awarded to a Wakefield student who planned to study veterinary science. This scholarship is funded with by an endowment that was seeded by the fundraising efforts of the PAWS volunteers and continues to this day. In 2019, the scholarship was awarded to Samantha Cardoza, Esther's great-granddaughter.
Fundraising is an important part of any non-profit organization and PAWS is no different. Adoption fees contribute a substantial amount to our operating budget, but do not raise enough to meet all of the medical expenses. Esther promoted a wide variety of fundraisers such as paper drives, a flea market and a casino sail. In addition, donations from our generous supporters also contribute a significant amount toward meeting expenses. Watch our website and social media for events, fundraisers, and other opportunities for you to help us help the animals throughout the year.
From its humble beginning with nine people in May 1982, PAWS has grown to the well- recognized organization that it is today. We continue to hold adoptions although now virtually and by appointment. Our office headquarters at 411 Lowell Street, Wakefield, has been, and hopefully will be again, a place to meet our volunteers and supporters, hold classes, events and meetings, and manage the day to day business of serving our local community. Our large foster home network allows us to provide a safe place for our many homeless cats.
We also have a team of volunteers that supports our Humane Response Line every day, answering questions that range from how to adopt a cat to what do I do with the baby bird in my yard? The Office Team manages our supplies, in-kind donations, mail paperwork and archives, among other things. The Intake Coordinator manages the new feline arrivals, placing them with appropriate foster families and getting them started with medical evaluations and needs. The Adoption Coordinator handles the team of volunteers who process adoption applications, match families with felines, and ensures our community knows which kitties are ready to be adopted. Other volunteer teams help with fundraising events, awareness opportunities, and other community projects.
In addition, volunteers are encouraged to increase their knowledge base and learn how to better serve the community, by attending seminars, webinars, and conferences. Plus, we continue to support the educational initiatives initiated by Esther for the Wakefield public schools.
At the annual meeting in 1986 Esther stated: "While we believe we are doing fairly well for a four-year-old society that began with fourteen members and now has seventy-three, we must never, ever, allow ourselves to become complacent. If a few successes go to our heads, we shall fail dismally in our commitment to animals. We must now and forever continue to speak for those who cannot speak!"
This is as true today as it was then.
For a picture of how we’ve grown and what we accomplished in 2019, check out our PAWS by the Numbers infographic. Even though the world as we knew seems to have disappeared, we continue to adapt, innovate, and find new ways to carry out our mission. We look forward to making 2020 another successful year for PAWS.