Times Herald — Dogs Looking for a Home Meet & Greet Customers at KOP Shake ShackApril 12, 2014
By Oscar Gamble, The Times Herald
UPPER MERION — Dogs ruled the day as the Shake Shack hosted charitable partner New Leash on Life for a pet adoption event at its King of Prussia location Saturday.
New Leash on Life USA (NLOL) is a nonprofit program in which prison inmates train service and support dogs to assist returning war veterans suffering from physical disabilities and post traumatic stress disorder.
Started in Philadelphia in 2011 and expanded last year to include the State Correctional Institution at Graterford, NLOL is a 12- week program that trains inmates to prepare dogs for service certification through weekly sessions with certified trainers and biweekly workshops run by veterinary technicians.
Most of the dogs at Saturday’s event were from the Graterford program. They won’t be moving forward through service certification but are ideal candidates for adoption, according to NLOL adoptions coordinator Waleed Yousef. Some of them have survived harrowing experiences, much like those soldiers and inmates whose lives they enrich.
“Abigail (a rescued pit bull mix from Chester County) was chained to car and dragged, and for a dog that’s been through such trauma, she is fantastic,” Yousef said.
Linda Loi, NLOL director of resource development and communications, said the Philadelphia program also provides post-parole support in partnership with the Pennsylvania Prison Society and other agencies, allowing soon-to-be paroled inmates to work on life skills and job skills and to attend resume-building workshops
“Once they’re released we connect them with internship opportunities, so not only do we help the dogs, we help the inmates just as much,” said Loi.
More than 95 inmates enrolled in the Philadelphia program, and 60 of them received offers for internships, Loi said. Twenty-two former inmates who have found full-time work as a direct result of their participation.
In addition to hosting the event, Shake Shack is donating 5 percent of Saturday’s sales of it Liberty Shell Concrete frozen custard ice cream to the program.
Volunteers from Stacey’s Face Painting were stationed on the premises, using their artistic talents to brighten the faces of youngsters already delighted by the presence of furry friends.
Shake Shack general manager Tom Hunton, who recently got a chance to see inmates train their dogs at a Philadelphia Prison System demonstration and met with Loi and Yousef prior to the opening of the King of Prussia location, said he was impressed with the program.
“We made the decision that when we opened we were going to partner with these guys exclusively as our official charitable partner,” Hunton said.
Hunton said he was happy to donate 5 percent of the ice cream sales to NLOL but was most proud of the opportunity to expose guests and team members to the message and mission of New Leash On Life.
“It’s fantastic, and so inspiring,” Hunton said.
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