Local Dog Trainers Give Back to Veterans

K-9 Partners for Patriots is not the typical dog training class—veterans are pairing up with pets to help them enter back into civilian life.

Mary Peter, who has over 30 years of experience as a master dog trainer, founded the program a few years ago to help veterans struggling with PTSD and other brain related injuries.

“People would come for obedience training and I started noticing more and more veterans coming back from combat with a dog trying to get into an obedience class,” said Peter.

Before taking the class, veteran Aurthur Moore found it difficult to complete day-to-day activities.

“I would lay in bed all day, said Moore. “I would stay in the house.”

Having gone through the training program, Moore is inspired to help others by studying to become a dog trainer for veterans.

“I want to help other veterans like they’ve helped me,” said Moore. “It makes me feel good helping other people, it helps me feel good inside.”

166 veterans are in or have gone through the program. Similarly, 55 dogs have been rescued and found a new home.

“90 percent of our funding goes directly to our veterans,” Peter said. “We try to save two—a dog and veteran together.”

For Peter, helping veterans is a gift she feels honored to be a part of.

“To see and honor those who have suffered so much in service to our country—it means everything to me,” said Peter. It’s not a job to me, it’s my passion. I love each and every one of these men and women and it’s an honor to serve them and help them.”

Leadership Day Held at Fox Chapel Middle School

Students and parents filled the halls of Fox Chapel Middle School on Wednesday to take part in Leadership Day.

Arianna Carter, a seventh-grader and member of student government, spent the day playing in the band and working behind the scenes to make the day run smoothly.

“Leadership Day is a day that we show Hernando County what the seven habits are and how we use them to help the community,” said Carter.

The Leader in Me is a school transformation model, developed in partnership with educators, that empowers students with the leadership and life skills they need to thrive in the 21st century.

Magen Schlechter, a teacher at Fox Chapel, said this program allows students to learn what it means to be a leader and how little changes in their personal life can help them persevere.

“Each habit represents certain character features that we should work on and improve on day-to-day to help us be the most effective leaders we can be,” Schlechter said.

Over 25 projects took part in Fox Chapel’s third-annual Leadership Day. The school’s Beta Club will be nationally recognized by the Leader in Me program for completing over 350 hours of community service.

Carter, a member of the Beta Club, is inspired to continue being a leader outside the classroom.

“We really just help around the community,” Carter said. “I heard that high schools have beta clubs too and I’d like to help more.” 

For Schlechter, watching her students embrace this program is one of many things she’s happy about.

“I’m really proud that the kids have found something to be proud of,” said Schlechter. “You see kids in a new light and they become completely different people and it’s an awesome thing.”

 

Brooksville Group Coming Together to Help Homeless

People from all over Hernando County came together in a room at The Grande, an assisted living community in Brooksville, to help the homeless.

Dianna Seijas, a resident of Brooksville, is the project coordinator for Mats for a Mission, a volunteer group that makes mats for the homeless out of recycled plastic bags.

“Unfortunately it can happen to anyone, it doesn’t take a lot to change your life overnight,” Seijas said. “We do have a lot of people sleeping in the woods.”

Since starting in January, Mats for a Mission is getting a lot of attention. Volunteers ranging from teenagers to the elderly make up the over 200 members involved in the project.

Carly Nichols, who teaches at Fox Chapel Middle School, can see the benefit of getting her students to become a part of a mission like this.

“I teach sixth to eighth grade and they’re at a time where they are very impressionable, so it’s really important that we build a strong character base for them,” Nichols said.

It takes many hands and about 700 plastic bags to make one mat. From flattening bags, to tying yarn together, it takes a community to be successful.

“Come, volunteer, we have a lot of fun,” Seijas said. “Take it back to your community, we’d be happy to teach you.”

The goal of the group is to have 500 mats made by the end of the year.

“We realize that’s a lofty goal,” Seijas said. “But we have all the confidence in the world in this group and our volunteers that we will meet this goal.”

Mats for a Mission meets Saturday each week from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. at The Grande.

 

 

Veteran Garden Opening

https://youtu.be/tgq3kTbPWhg

The Sustainable Living Project is getting veterans back into society through the construction of their Veteran Garden, set to open Feb. 16.

“We thought if we did something here that would welcome veterans, they may enjoy coming to see where their food is coming from and engaging in fellowship with other veterans here,” Will Carey, the project’s operations manager, said.

Located at 918 W Sligh Ave., The Sustainable Living Project works to grow food and to teach sustainable living techniques.

“I’ve done a couple of little grow boxes at my house and from what I see here, I can change a lot of things to make it a lot better,” Kenneth Jackson, a volunteer, said.

Carey, who’s worked 20 years in the field of hunger related issues, wanted to do something for veterans. All food is being donated to those in need.

“Everything else we’ve been doing here is going to folks that needed healthier alternatives injected into their diet,” Carey said. “We deal with a lot of homelessness, and veterans make up a good portion of that.”

Carey, who sees this as a stepping stone to other gardens, says these types of programs will only get bigger and become more accessible to everyone.

The Sustainable Living Project opened on Earth Day in 2013.