Richard and Nathalie Woodbury Philanthropy Award - Mary Lou Rice

Mary Lou Rice has been a staunch supporter of Dakin for several years. Not only has she donated generously to support the organization, but she is also very hands-on, especially when it comes to helping our dogs as both a dog walker and dog walker mentor.

For these reasons and more, we honored her with the Richard and Nathalie Woodbury Philanthropy Award, which is named for a couple whose vision and legacy secured Dakin’s future by sharing time, talent, and resources to improve the lives of animals at Dakin.

A Springfield native, Mary Lou’s love for animals began early in life. “I had dogs since I was young. I adopted from the MSPCA when it was on Bliss Street, and from the Charlottesville, VA shelter when I went to the University of Virginia,” she said. “Aside from helping with neighbors’ and relatives’ pets, my first efforts to help animals were from donating until I could actually start volunteering.”

Mary Lou joined Dakin’s volunteer roster in 2016 and has hit the ground running. She can be found both inside and outside the building (on those dog walks!) frequently, and is always ready to help.

Her efforts have enhanced several departments and projects at Dakin. “I was on a couple of transport pick-ups a few years ago, and I’ve helped with transport dogs many times, but I also assisted with some envelope addressing for the Development department once,” she recalled. “I fostered a few cats, and learned I am the world’s worst feline medication dispenser! Plus, I was a foster fail for one who I adopted. I’d like to train for cat care but there’s always such a need for dog walkers during the week.”

Like many who volunteer, Mary Lou delights in experiencing the animal/human connection. “I love that animals are in the moment,” she stated. “They don’t care if I forgot to pay a bill or my work is behind or I left dirty dishes in the sink. After making sure they’ve had their walks and are fed, they just need us to be present with them, and for that, they give so much more back to us.”

Her sense of camaraderie is strong among her fellow volunteers as well. She is happy to provide some stress relief by lending a hand, whether it’s taking care of laundry, cleaning litter boxes, bombing kennels, or providing funding for necessary purchases.  She finds her motivation in “basically feeling that I’m doing something good with my time.”

Mary Lou admitted to being “flabbergasted and extremely humbled” by her award. “I see so many volunteers do so much for Dakin and the animals. I’m deeply honored and very grateful, and hope I can live up to the expectation.”

While she currently has a pet-free home, Mary Lou plans to adopt once she is fully retired. “For now,” she smiled, “I get my canine fix at Dakin!”