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Meet Joel Wolff of Pets and People Foundation in Acton

Today we’d like to introduce you to Joel Wolff.

So, before we jump into specific questions about the business, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
Founded in 1985, the Pets and People Foundation is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization–run entirely by volunteers–working with site directors to organize 45-60 minute visits from our volunteers and their pets. We offer animal-assisted therapy to residents of nursing homes, assisted living homes, special needs facilities, half-way houses, some children’s facilities, and some senior daycare centers and hospitals.

Covering Eastern Massachusetts from Worcester east to the Atlantic Ocean, and from Falmouth north to the border with New Hampshire. In general, we make visits to facilities as individuals with a single pet, and will also arrange special group visits to colleges, universities and other organizations.

The foundation started as a group of people interested in performing scientific studies of the effects of animal-assisted therapy on the human population. However, the purpose of the foundation was soon redirected by one of the early board members (Sally Jean Alexander) into an organization that was instead focused on certifying and placing volunteers interested in performing animal-assisted therapy with their own animals.

Has it been a smooth road?
The organization has been around for 32 years. The initial goal of the foundation changed from one planning to investigate the effects of animals on humans, it changed to an organization focused on coordinating volunteers that wanted to share their animals with people.

More recently, we have struggled with the increased popularity of animal-assisted therapy. We have had to shift from an all volunteer organization with minimal expenses to one that now has a part-time paid administrator and an official office. Over the last several years we have doubled the number of volunteers, drastically increased our expenses, and had to start performing regular fund-raising and grant writing to continue our mission.

So let’s switch gears a bit and go into the Pets and People Foundation story. Tell us more about the business.
We are a 501(c)3 foundation focused on certifying and managing people who want to share their animals with people in hospitals, nursing homes, schools and other facilities.

Our focus is on instructing and certifying the visiting teams, and then offering insurance to the certified teams. Over our 32 year history we have never had an incident with our teams.

At this time, our reputation is so good that we are constantly contacted by facilities looking for volunteers, and have no need to advertise to keep our volunteer pipeline full.

So, what’s next? Any big plans?
As mentioned, with the growth of the organization and the increase in costs, we are focused on how to keep the foundation funded for the future. We are writing grants, looking for donations, and spending more time discussing the fundamental structure of the foundation.

We are also moving away from a “board only” structure to involving more people in the running of the foundation.

Contact Info:

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