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Humane Society of Greater Akron, MRDD are partners in pet care

By jim Published: December 4, 2008

By Kathy Antoniotti 
Beacon Journal staff writer

A basset hound appeared ill and underfed when he was spotted wandering down an Akron street last month. A good Samaritan rescued the stray and took him to the Humane Society of Greater Akron for care.

On Tuesday, the dog, dubbed Bubba by staff members, seemed quite content to share a small room with caged cats, puppies and dirty pet bowls. But apparently Bubba is accustomed to getting a lion's share of attention. He became very vocal each time Tom Mather stopped petting him to speak to a visitor.

''This one really loves me,'' he said over the basset's booming bark.

Mather, 30, was taking a break from loading clothes into three washing machines that hummed away in a corner of the old barn on Quick Road in Boston Township. His job would be to help make piles of dirty bedding dwindle during his four-hour shift.

Mather is one of four Summit County Board of Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities clients who have been working since July in partnership with the Humane Society. Their duties include washing pet bowls twice a day and laundering 90 loads of bedding that get changed daily.

Carrie Roberts, director of Community Employment Services for MRDD, said more than 350 of the agency's clients are working in similar partnerships throughout the county each week.

''The program benefits both our clients and the community. It allows them to be more independent and give back to the community,'' she said.

MRDD employees try to chose the right person for the right job opportunity, Roberts said.

''We are able to match clients' interests to employers' needs,'' she said.

The people who work at the Humane Society each week are a welcome addition to the staff, said Karen Conklin, executive director for the Humane Society.

''The whole facility is cleaner than it's ever been,'' she said.

Conklin, who took over the job in September 2007, said the MRDD employees have helped the facility do more with fewer dollars in a slow economy. As an additional benefit, the work they do frees time for full-time employees, allowing them to concentrate on developing new programs. Consequently, there is more job satisfaction and less turnover in the staff, Conklin said.

''I am really committed to this MRDD partnership. This, for us, is one of the important things we do in the community. It's a win-win situation,'' she said.

Amy Sedilko and her husband, Andy, take a cab to the facility from their Northfield Village apartment each day.

''I like to work here with the animals,'' said Amy, 46, while she stacked the bowls Andy was scrubbing in the sink.

Andy, 39, said he formerly worked as a groomer at Northfield Park and making the transition to working with pets wasn't that big of a deal.

''I just wanted to do something different and this is closer to our house,'' he said.

Tom Kuhn, 42, also took a turn at the sink, diligently spraying, then scrubbing dirty bowls until soap bubbles reached up his arms.

He lost count of the number of bowls he had washed during his daily shift.

''I do a lot of bowls a day,'' he said with a grin.

Kathy Antoniotti can be reached at 330-996-3565 or kantoniotti@thebeaconjournal.com.

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