Local Love is our opportunity to shine a spotlight on those in our community who are doing great things for the love of animals, and their owners.

How many of you remember asking (ok, I begged) your parents for a dog when you were younger? Lashonda Geffrard does. Though her parents never allowed her to have one, she grew up helping friends and family with their pets, and devoted her spare time to learning all she could about dogs. That love and knowledge continued to grow over the years, and resulted in Lashonda opening a successful pet salon and a creating a wonderful pet-focused nonprofit. I sat down with Lashonda to learn more about Paws of Hope, and what makes them a little different from other nonprofits.

A Nonprofit is Born

The Paw Shop, Geffrard’s pet salon business in Ocoee, is now in it’s fourth year running. It was through her interactions with customers that Lashonda began to see a greater need not yet being met in the community. She continually encountered pet owners who were not only lacking knowledge around things like behavior, grooming, and nutrition, but also lacking basic tools and supplies that most would deem essential. Paws of Hope became a solution to this problem, and her way of giving back. At its core, the mission behind Paws of Hope is to help people take better care of their pets and to be a resource to those who need it. Roughly half of the pet owners this nonprofit assists are senior citizens, with fixed or low incomes. Paws of Hope strives to keep owners and their pets together by filling the needs gap, which can vary from guidance and supplies, to transportation and low cost/free services. They never want lack to be a reason why an owner needs to give up their best friend. While a good amount of the organization’s time is spent providing goods, services, and tools to those who need it, a lot of time is also spent educating pet owners on how to use these tools, and why these things are important.

Powered by a small, dedicated team of volunteers, including Lashonda’s husband Josue Geffrard, and dear friend Ashley Walker (who also serves as Vice President), Paws of Hope extends their community outreach even further in the form of free pet wellness events. Working with local community partners like Orange County Animal Services and Pet Alliance of Central Florida, these events are a total blessing to pet owners in need, offering various free services, goods, and education. It’s no surprise that their events draw visitors from over an hour away.

What’s Your Skill?

Like most nonprofits, Paws of Hope’s greatest need is volunteers, but Lashonda addresses this need in an interesting way. Rather than only filling specific volunteer roles, she asks what talent or skill you might have that could provide value. Do you know how to sew? You could help mend some donated goods so they are in better shape for giving to those in need. Have a license? You could donate your time to take senior citizens who can’t drive, and their pups, to the vet. Are you a dog trainer? You could partner at one of their events and help talk through common behavioral tips to those who may not be able to afford training. Lashonda knows that everyone has something they can bring to the table, and every bit helps. If you’d like to help, but you’re not sure how, reach out to Lashonda via the Paws of Hope Facebook page, and she’d be more than happy to share some ideas of how you can get involved. If you don’t have time to spare, donations are always welcome, and are what keep this organization going.

Pawtoberfest 2019

If you’re interested in attending a future event, you’re in luck! The last event of the year is coming up in less than two weeks!

Saturday, October 5th
Bill Breeze Park, Ocoee FL
10am – 2pm

The Pet Alliance of Greater Orlando, Off Leash K9 Training Orlando

This event is geared at both dogs and cat and offers:
• Free Microchipping
• Free Vaccinations
• Free Wellness Exams
• Free Nail Trims
• A free Pet Pantry where you can pick up free dog and cat food and treats!
Ask a Vet/Ask a Trainer– Vets and Trainers on hand to answer all of your questions.

Even if you don’t have a need for any of the offerings above, it’s a great opportunity to enjoy a day out with your pup. There will also be a costume contest, gift basket raffles, and a donation drop-off. Mark your calendars and follow this event page for updates!

Posted by:Laura Harrington