01/26/06 — She wanted donations for shelter instead of gifts for herself

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She wanted donations for shelter instead of gifts for herself

By Andrew Bell
Published in News on January 26, 2006 1:51 PM

All it took were a few words to get her interested, but what really tugged at Hannah West's heartstrings was a picture of a dog cowering in the corner of a pen at the Wayne County Animal Shelter.

That is when Hannah decided she did not want presents for 11th birthday party. Instead, she wanted her family and friends to donate $10 each to help build a new shelter for that dog and many other animals in need.

Hannah West

News-Argus/Andrew Bell

Hannah West, 11, of Walnut Creek, enjoys a moment at home with one of her four pets, her rabbit named Cuddles. For her birthday, Hannah asked her friends and family for money, which she donated toward a new animal shelter.

"One of my cousins that's my age thought I was kidding and some brought presents anyway," Hannah said.

However, it was no joke when Hannah and her mother presented a check for $100 to the animal shelter. Chief Animal Control Officer Jerry Pate said he was surprised by the young girl's gesture.

"That's a sacrifice," Pate said. "That really touched me."

Even Wayne County Commissioner Jack Best, who originated the idea of the community contributing toward a new animal shelter during a commissioners' meeting, was taken aback by Hannah's generosity.

"I tell you what, that is wonderful that an 11-year-old girl had enough gumption to say 'Don't give me presents.' How great can that be? It doesn't get any greater than that. That's as nice a thing as I've ever heard about," Best said.

For Hannah's mother, Barbara, she said she has come to expect such acts of kindness.

"Hannah's just that type of person -- loving, helping, a very giving person. When we have lemonade stands, Hannah makes sure we give the money to some kind of charity," Mrs. West said. "It just makes you feel good when your children are like that."

Hannah has always been the first to help her parents around the house with chores and taking care of her four siblings, her mother said. So, it was only natural for Hannah to lend a helping hand when she read about strays at the animal shelter that could not help themselves.

"That article really got to me. I had wanted to about a month before my birthday, but that article really got to me," Hannah said.

Animals of all sorts have been and still are important parts of Hannah's life.

The West family owns Bailey, a yellow Labrador retriever, Maggie, a black Labrador and blue heeler mix, and two rabbits, Cuddles and Camy. Hannah said she also loves watching Animal Planet.

Aside from that, she said she enjoys learning how to play the violin, fishing, playing soccer, tap dancing, ballet, math and mystery books.

Hannah's actions for a new animal shelter has impressed anyone who has heard the story, Best said.

"For people wanting to do something to make a change, they should consider what she has done. It's people like that -- that's how you raise a million dollars (for a new shelter)," he said.

Hannah was not the only person to give a donation for a new animal shelter.

Members of Southern Wayne High School's Health Occupation Students of America donated $150 toward a new structure. Nann Hatcher, the group's faculty leader, said her students voted to give half of the money raised from candy sales for a new animal shelter. The other half was donated to the county's soup kitchen.

"We had the money just sitting there. I figured I would rather donate the money this year because it's hard to get students to bring donations in," Mrs. Hatcher said.

Starus Dyson, a senior at Southern Wayne and HOSA president, said she and other members donated money for a new shelter because they believed it was the right thing to do.

"I have been out there before, and it's not a happy place. Mrs. Hatcher had brought in the articles and told us how bad the conditions were. So, we took a vote and the majority won," Miss Dyson said.

Fellow HOSA member Brea Close, also a senior at Southern Wayne, agreed.

"It's a good idea to give to anyone, but people need to help stray animals. It's good to give (the shelter) money to give them a place to stay," she said.