COLUMBIA — Valerie Chaffin’s father came home one day when she was 6 years old, asking, “Do you want a puppy?”
That puppy lived for 13 years, and Chaffin’s passion for animal-saving began from there.
Thirty-five years later, Chaffin found Columbia Second Chance at the Volunteer Fair in August 2009 while she was a student at the MU School of Law. After seeing dogs at the fair, she decided to work as a volunteer for the organization.
As a volunteer, Chaffin cared for cats once a week. While studying for the North Carolina Bar Exam, she would read notes and cases to cats as they sat calmly around her and took naps.
“When cats take naps, it means that they are happy with you,” Chaffin said.
When she found out she passed the exam, she went out to Catty Shack and told the cats.
“I hope they were happy for me,” Chaffin said. “I think the cats could have passed the test if they took it.”
On July 1, Columbia Second Chance contracted with Chaffin to make her the executive director. Chaffin has helped the organization get involved in more community activities, assisted the board of directors in overseeing the adoption center and ranch caretakers and helped in establishing an on-site veterinarian center.
Kim Foster, president of the board of directors of Columbia Second Chance, has worked as a volunteer there since 2002 and has known Chaffin for two years.
“She has the best interest of our animals at heart,” Foster said. “She is able to help us open up more doors. The more doors we open up, the more animals’ lives we can save.”
Columbia Second Chance has grown from a small adoption center on Ash Road in Columbia to a new 38-acre facility at 24687 Highway 179.
Heather Stubbs, who began to volunteer 12 years ago, had a great time working with Chaffin.
“She is the right person for the position of executive director,” Stubbs said. “She is experienced in non-profit management. She can also understand volunteers.”
As the first executive director at Columbia Second Chance, Chaffin is taking it to the next level of development.
“We are expanding our visibility west of Columbia,” Chaffin said.
Chaffin's goal is to raise money and awareness, to recruit more volunteers and find more foster homes for the animals.
“We are a 100-percent nonprofit and 100-percent volunteer-run organization,” Chaffin said. “Ninety percent of our funds come from the donors.”
It was a step for Columbia Second Chance to move forward.
“With Valerie as our director, it is a dream come true,” Foster said.