Hilton Head Humane Association’s HERO.
Raven-haired Bobbi Helton sweeps into a room with the stealth of a tigress, attacking the day’s tasks with unbridled energy and enthusiasm. Whether she is taking inventory, assisting customers, moving furniture or wielding a mop, she gets the job done, collecting innumerable joys along the way.
Starting as a volunteer in 2000, a beacon of light to the Hilton Head Humane Association, Helton was asked to join the board the same year. She served as vice president in 2002 and was elected president in 2003. After working seven days a week for two years at The Litter Box thrift store (a funding mechanism for the organization), in 2006, she took the position as manager and continues to work tirelessly.
A former school teacher, devoted wife and lifelong animal activist, she brings passion and compassion to her role, her service and dedication surpassed only by her love of life itself.
HHM: Did you have lots of pets as a child?
BH: Only one dog that we rescued. Little Teddy lived my whole span until I was in college.
HHM: How have pets made a difference in your life?
BH: I don’t even use the word pet. I call them companion animals. They just bring so much joy. I am a vegan; I don’t eat any animal products.
HHM: How did you first get interested in working with and for animals?
BH: I can’t say there was an epiphany. I just always respected all life.
HHM: How did you get involved with the Hilton Head Humane Association?
BH: I had been involved in organizations in Ohio. When I found out that the Hilton Head Association was a no-kill facility, my sister and I went and offered to wash bowls or whatever. [Bobbi’s sister, Nancy Laine, continues to work with the organization, and her brother-in-law, Chuck Laine, currently serves as chairman of the board. Bobbi’s husband, Chuck Helton, helps care for the couple’s five special-needs dogs and one cat as well as foster animals as needed.]
HHM: What do you find most fulfilling about your work?
BH: I think it is two-fold. I love that the thrift store enables the shelter to have the funds so that every animal can have the best medical attention. The second part is the community. I have built our store based on the idea of the very best customer service. I learn everybody’s name. We become part of their lives. It’s so fulfilling when you can offer something that they otherwise couldn’t afford.
HHM: What have you learned about life from working with animals that you might not have known otherwise?
BH: Yo u certainly learn how precious life is and how fleeting it is. To o many people spend too much time being negative. Animals don’t have that feeling. They are happy for what they have, and they are not judging you.
HHM: What do you most wish that people would understand?
BH: No animal deserves less than the best that we can afford in the way of love, care and companionship. We’re talking about living, feeling beings.
HHM: What can the public do to help?
BH: I really need volunteer help here. If you are thinking about donating items, we would be thrilled to be the recipients. Some people think we only take cat and dog items. We take everything. [clothes, books, furniture, appliances, etc.]. You can also support us by coming in and shopping with us. If you are thinking about adding an animal member of the family, please consider the shelter.
Photographer Anne Caufmann will host a Photography by Anne Dog Days of Summer event on August 16 to help raise funds for the humane association. Learn more at photographybyanne.com. Learn more about the Hilton Head Humane Association at hhhumane.org and reach The Litter Box at (843) 842-6369.