I am very proud to be a part of this community. Not only can you drive down the street where neighbors greet you with warm smiles and waves, but Clallamites genuinely care about this lovely area. They invest in the community that they love. It’s as though nature and nurture coexist.
When people find out I am with the Olympic Peninsula Humane Society, I am often the recipient of wonderful animal stories they are eager to share. Their pets and helping animals mean so much to them.
Recently I met Annie Gilbert, a lovely woman in her 80s living in Sequim. Ms. Gilbert contacted me regarding the new Kitty City building we are renovating as she wanted to donate to help with this effort. I am always interested in knowing why someone has selected our cause to support and Annie was willing to share her story with me. And what a story of devotion and compassion it is!
Born in Denmark, a young Annie loved volunteering for Dyienes Beskyttelese (Animal Protection Demark). Tragically, her time helping animals was cut short with the onset of World War II.
One evening, while her father was out, Annie and her mother were seized by the Nazis and deported to Auschwitz concentration camp. Just 12 years old at the time, Annie was separated from her mother, who she never saw again. When the Allies liberated the camp, Annie was sent to a displaced persons camp where she was eventually reunited with her father through the help of the American Red Cross.
Annie returned to her studies and went on to college, where she obtained her teaching degree and certification in animal welfare.
After moving first to Canada and then to the United States, Ms. Gilbert volunteered to spearhead community education for the humane society in San Jose, Calif. As a result of her popularity, she was offered a chance to host a regular television segment spreading the word about the joy and responsibility of pet ownership. She volunteered her expertise for many years without pay, insisting funds go towards helping the animals in the shelter instead.
Annie and her husband Bob moved to Sequim, where they eventually retired. Even though Annie’s life was interrupted through the horrors of war and unimaginable cruelty and loss, she managed to hold onto hope and compassion for others.
To this day, her kindheartedness extends to many organizations, especially those helping four-legged creatures. The twinkle in her eyes when speaking about her devotion to animals is unmistakable.
Though Annie does not have pets currently, she knows just how many furry lives she saved along the way. That knowledge is part of the secret sauce that keeps her going, even after her husband’s passing.
Those of us with beloved, adopted pets can relate. We know having compassion for and helping others is healing and good for our health. Just ask us to answer whether we saved our pets, or instead, did they save us? The answer is a no-brainer.
Luanne Hinkle has been the Executive Director of Olympic Peninsula Humane Society (OPHS) since December 2017 and has more than a decade of experience in executive-level positions leading major fundraising and program development efforts in the nonprofit arena. See ophumanesociety.org.