FAYETTEVILLE, AR - Falling in love with animals at the Washington County Animal Shelter is not hard to do for people who volunteer there on a regular basis.
However, for one group of volunteers it is an escape in every sense of the word.
Tamela Stanford and a handful of others come from the Northwest Arkansas Correction Center as part of a work-release program.
"We are a state prison, but we focus a lot more on treatment and getting the women prepared to get back into society. They get so much out of this more so than the animals and it's just the highlight of their day," explains Sgt. Abby Clark with the Northwest Arkansas Community Correction Center.
The work-release program started back in September as a way to help the county, the shelter and the volunteers all at the same time.
When putting pencil to paper, organizers say the county saves nearly $140,000 a year when adding up the man hours worked by the volunteers.
"It's just instrumental to what we do. They clean everything, They walk all the dogs and socialize with the animals and a lot of times they get to just play with them and that's what the animals need and it also helps the individual," says Angela Ledgerwood, director of the Washington County Animal Shelter.
Volunteers in the program are shuttled to the shelter 3 days a week as part of the program.
"Honestly I feel like the animals that are picked up and brought here are a lot like we are there at the center. Some of us had vicious lives," says Tamela Stanford, a correction center resident.
Stanford has been in the correction center for 9 months on charges for possession of a controlled substance. She believes part of starting over and her recovery process happens while volunteering.
"In my case it made me want to improve myself in my way of living," she says.
"To get away from the compound for 6 and a half hours is just awesome, but to know I'm coming here and get to spend all this time with them and make their life better is making my life better," says Samantha Coggins, who also lives at the correction center.
The shelter's ultimate goal is to adopt out every one of its animals. The staff says it appreciates all the help they can get from the volunteers.
"It's just incredible. They know each one of the animals. They know their temperament, they know their personalities and you can tell that they love them," says Ledgerwood.
While the volunteers in the program wait to get out of the correction center, they are happy to help find the animals their new forever home.
"We cry. it's like the loss of a child, but yet you're happy. You're like 'oh my gosh he got adopted' and we're like 'yes he got a family. You know we won.' It's like a victory. They're great inspirations, they're your companions. They are your best friends for life," Stanford says.Click here
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Reported by: Jonathan Martinez
, KNWA-TV Fayetteville