Soldiers are volunteers by nature. U.S. Army Cpt. Gina Thibodeaux, commander of Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 177th Armored Brigade, is no exception.
Instead of going home after finishing the day's work at Camp Shelby, Mississippi, Thibodeaux stops at the Southern Pines Animal Shelter, where she has volunteered to walk dogs, do laundry, and put together donation requests."This shelter is a no-kill, so I was definitely excited about it," she said. "Every dog that I find, I bring here. Then I can help take care of it."When Thibodeaux arrived to the Spearhead Brigade almost two years ago, she and her husband began looking for volunteer opportunities. When they found Southern Pines, she introduced the organization to her battalion, and the Soldiers began volunteering. When Thibodeaux assumed command of HHC, she brought in a new group of Soldiers and volunteers.David Fondren, the volunteer coordinator at Southern Pines, said Thibodeaux also helps put together and mail out donation requests and even brings laundry away from the shelter to clean larger quantities
"Volunteers certainly increase our life-saving capacity and our capacity to care for the animals that come into our shelter," said Fondren.
Southern Pines has been a no-kill shelter since 2017."In 2018 alone, our shelter saw over 8,000 animals come through our door," said Fondren. "Despite taking in more than 8,000 animals, we had a live release rate of over 96-percent."Fondren added that those numbers certainly weren't possible without community supporters like Thibodeaux, other volunteers and foster teams.
Volunteering is especially important for the Soldiers of the 177th Armored Brigade. A part of their mission is to shape the Pine Belt, which is the region of Mississippi near Camp Shelby.Soldiers have resources and assets that others simply don't, said Thibodeaux."A partnership that the first sergeant took on was to help the homeless shelter," said Thibodeaux. "We would bring them toiletries and clothes, and it was a huge success."
While loading armfuls of blankets into a dryer at the shelter, she talked about her history of taking care of animals.
While growing up overseas, she was responsible for 21 pet guinea pigs. Thibodeaux's stepfather was a United States Marine, and she had lived in over 13 countries by the time she was 11-years old. However, she didn't own a dog until she came to America while in middle school.Thibodeaux currently has two dogs, a retriever mix named Lola, and a hound-shepherd mix named Lucky. She had first found Lucky wandering near a highway. After picking him up, she called a shelter, which informed her that they held dogs for only five days before euthanizing them.
"I ended up not taking him to a shelter," Thibodeaux said. "And he's been on my couch ever since."Anyone interested in volunteering at Southern Pines Animal Shelter in Hattiesburg, Mississippi should send an email to email@example.com.