At your service: teaming up for service dogs

Many organizational changes had affected the Corporate Control Department in Arnhem. New colleagues had joined the team and it was decided to look for a joint activity to reinforce the team spirit. Inspired by the success story of their colleagues from Information Management, they also choose to serve a good cause in our community with their efforts. The obvious thing to do was to contact the Arnhem based Program Coordinator of the Community Program who advised them about a few possible options in the Arnhem environment. The team almost unanimously picked Stichting Hulphond (Foundation Service Dogs) in Herpen.

Service Dogs Netherlands trains dogs to become fully qualified service dogs, providing dignified living conditions for people with a physical disability or epilepsy. When fully trained a service dog can perform up to 70 actions, varying from opening and closing doors, drawers en cupboards, assisting with getting dressed and undressed, collecting mail and other items, putting the laundry in the washing machine, making payments in shops, pushing light and elevator switches, etc. An independent life and better social contacts is made possible by these loyal mates and they make their bosses feel more accepted in society.

The Foundation is a non-profit organization, receiving their funding from corporations, individual donations, service organizations, foundations and fundraising. Their objective is to provide a service dog at no cost to those in need of one. The training of one dog costs no less than € 43,000 and in the past 25 years 1,300 dogs have been trained and placed with their new owners. The building in Herpen had been intensively used for training purposes in the past 4 years and this had clearly left its traces in the kennel and the training quarters. In close consultation with the management and careful preparation, like measuring, calculating, purchasing the required materials and composing the different teams per area, 26 volunteering colleagues were ready to do the renovation job. As our colleagues from Decorative Paints in Arnhem were very helpful by providing the right paint at the right price some additional funding could be spent on other items, like banners at the entrance of the building and training equipment for the dogs as well as a badly needed first aid device, which were also on the Foundation’s wish list.

At the end of May the volunteers were welcomed at the training center where no less than 300 m2 walls were to be painted. It took hard work and fortunately some of our colleagues, who normally spend their days behind computers doing calculations, controlling and other financial tasks, appeared to have other talents and could coach the other (less handy) team members to finish the job. As the kennel part was relatively easy to do these teams started helping the others where the damaged walls even had to be treated twice. It was a race against the clock but at the end of the day all the planned activities were finished. The hosts even had organized a short demonstration of the training of a service dog.

And that’s what it all began with: creating a colorful and clean environment for the trainers and the dogs.

Eric Bouwer, Director from the Service Dog Foundation was very grateful with the result and said: ‘The offer from the AkzoNobel volunteers came as a real gift. Every day these quarters are intensively used to train our dogs which obviously leaves its traces. We lack the money and the time to repair these ourselves and therefore we are extremely happy with this support. We thank AkzoNobel and its employees for their colorful contribution’.

Although our volunteers were tired by their hard work, they were above all quite satisfied with the quality of the job done. As Paul Schellings, the coordinator of the project said: ‘It was a totally different way of working together which we all enjoyed very much. A real win-win situation for all involved: the trainers will certainly be motivated to work in a colorful environment with the dogs and ultimately life for many physically disabled people will be made more colorful as well. Glad to have been of service!’