Wayside Waifs is more than just a no-kill animal shelter. It is a campus dedicated to the animals we call pets. Across 44 acres of land in Kansas City, you will not only find furry creatures ready for adoption, but also an agility park, a state-of-the-art veterinarian office and a crew of volunteers and employees that keep Wayside Waifs’ tail wagging.

The first thing a visitor will notice as they walk into Wayside Waifs is a contemporary, colorful animal-painted mobile hanging from the ceiling designed and donated by Christopher Duh, a local artist, as well as a collection of desks where prospective owners of all the animals undergo interviews before taking a new pet home. Jennie Rinas, communications relations manager of Wayside Waifs, explains that having a particular application and process to take an animal home is crucial to the success of this shelter.

“We take the time to learn everything about an animal before they can be adopted,” Rinas says about the beginning of the adoption process. “We strive to make the healthiest and happiest endings.”

However, not every visitor Wayside Waifs attracts is taking home a new pet. Most are there to volunteer. Depending on your interests, strengths, and availability, Wayside Waifs has an array of volunteer areas and specialties necessary to stay a successful organization.

Candy, a full-time volunteer, is a Waif Watcher, a volunteer that decorates a specific animal’s kennel, takes the animal on field trips to parks, and even allows home-visits for their furry friend.

When asked what made Wayside Waifs such a special home away from home, Candy’s eyes lit up.

“The care and the compassion that is shown here. It’s not walk in, get a dog, leave, it’s so much more.” Candy says. “I think when you have a common denominator- the same passion and love for what you’re doing, it is above and beyond.”

Candy is also a part of Wayside Waifs’ emergency rescue team. This team conducts local rescues as well as national rescue missions, such as a missionduring Hurricane Sandy and a cat-hoarding situation in Florida.

“It’s a therapy where we’re trying to help the dogs and, I would say, more times than not they’re helping us,” Candy says.

Volunteering at Wayside Waifs happens offcampus, too, at any of their community events like Strut With Your Mutt, an annual walk that benefits homeless animals in Kansas City.

Danielle, a full time employee for Wayside Waifs, began just as a volunteer whose primary interest was actually human rights.

“I have extended human rights into animal rights, which has become a huge passion for me,” Danielle says.  “And, (Wayside Waifs) is like a family to me. When I lost my grandparents a couple months ago, being here was like being with my second family. This is definitely the best job I’ve ever had and it’s not just because I get to take puppy breaks. It’s also the people I work with.”

2014 marks the 70th year of operation for Wayside Waifs and speaks loudly of the generosity and dedication of Kansas City donors and volunteers. Since the renovation of 2012 there are more opportunities than ever to get involved as a volunteer or visit the campus of Wayside Waifs and see the new and improved facets.

Just as Candy did 4 years ago, it is easy to learn more about organizations like Wayside Waifs and become an integral part of a team.

Candy says,  “I think that people are afraid to come here but when you see the good and the help that you’re doing for these dogs, and when you see people walking out with their match, that’s what makes it all possible.”