PEOPLE | PETS | COMMUNITY

Beck’s Place: Building Community For People and Pets

Beck’s Place has fostered and honored the deep connection between people and their pets since it was founded in 2015.

The nonprofit is a support system for people and their animals and offers multiple services, including a foster boarding program, veterinary care, a pet food and supply bank, community action, and a “paw it forward” program. Beck’s Place is “community in the best sense of the word,” and love for one another is at the core of the services that they provide.

Melanie and Beck

Founder Melanie Ryan had spent her career in finance, but always had a deep passion and interest in social issues and community outreach. She received a Masters in Social Work from UW in 2006, and while she didn’t change her career path, she used her education in her volunteer work and in foster parenting.

“I wanted to blend my business experience with my desire to serve my community in a deeply integrated way,” said Melanie. “I’m a long-time cat lover and had been lucky to have many as part of my family over the years. And my first dog, Beck, was a life-changing experience. The connection with him was an ‘a-ha’ moment. Not only did he give me the gift of truly understanding what unconditional love looked like, he opened the door for how to honor that connection in other families. That was the beginning of Beck’s Place.”

Board member Katie Starheim has been involved with Beck’s Place since June of 2016. “I’ve seen our community just wrap its arms around this organization,” she said. “When Melanie puts a call out for help, people jump into action. They see that we’re providing a needed and overlooked service for the most vulnerable populations in our area. Many of our clients are starved for human touch: they want someone that will reach out and say, ‘Hey, we got this! We’re going to help you!’”

One of Melanie’s favorite stories is that of Dalin and Jenna. “They’re super special to me,” she said. “Dalin had been on the streets for years. He was addicted, had been to jail, and just was lost. Jenna, his dog, was his world. She was the one thing he had a connection to. We see this a lot: despite the chaos in someone’s life, their pet is this place of purity, an area where they show up and are responsible and with who they are loved by and can love in return. You want to honor that in someone’s life, but our systems don’t make room for that. In Dalin’s case, he wouldn’t get clean if it meant giving up Jenna.

Dalin and Jenna

“When we met Dalin, we told him we had an alternative: we could care for Jenna in our Foster Boarding Program while he cared for himself and then they could be reunited when he was ready. He wasn’t ready at first and he didn’t know whether he could trust us. But we told him we weren’t going anywhere. We just continued to love Dalin and Jenna until one day Dalin said he was ready. That was about a year ago. Dalin went to treatment, has been sober since, has a job and a house, and is connected to his family again. I still stay in touch with Dalin. I love that guy. I love Jenna. And their story is why we are here.”

Beck’s Place also serves a lot of seniors. “For many of our seniors, their social circle is diminishing as friends move away, become ill, or pass away,” Melanie explained. “Their kids are busy with their own lives and their mobility diminishes due to their health. Being on a limited income often jeopardizes their pets’ health, as well their own. We repeatedly see seniors who refuse to seek desperately needed inpatient medical care if it means that they’d have to surrender their pet.

Beck’s Place serves victims of domestic violence, as well. “With approximately 75% of domestic violence cases, a pet has been harmed, threatened, or killed as a means to control the victim,” Melanie explained.

“As a result, many victims won’t leave their abuser for fear of the safety of their pet. Very few domestic violence shelters take pets. We had a family in a very urgent, dangerous situation that needed to be relocated immediately. We were able to accommodate their cats in our foster boarding program on an emergency basis. We safely provided visits during this period, and when they were back in safe and secure housing, the family and their pets reunited. What an honor and a gift to be able to walk with a family and keep them together in the darkest days of their journey.”

“A lot of our homeless clients are families with hard working parents that because of unforeseen circumstances, found themselves out on the streets,” said board member Ken Fenton.

Linda

“These are people who you see working around town. Our kids go to school together,” Ken said.

“There are a lot of different backgrounds: seniors, the chronically homeless, and people who are just momentarily down on their luck, but the one thing they have in common is the love for their pets. That’s one of the things I love about Beck’s place: our focus on not only the pet, but the human also.”

You can help Beck’s Place continue to be a hero for the people and animals of our community.

Everyone has something to contribute,” Melanie said. “Your contribution, whether big or small, makes a difference.”

There are three specific areas where Beck’s Place can currently use support:

  • Foster Homes: They are always looking for more foster homes so that families can achieve stability and pets remain out of an overburdened shelter/rescue system. Their Foster Boarding Program is open to low-income residents of Snohomish County and they have foster homes in Snohomish, King, Pierce, and Kitsap Counties.
  • Financial: 2016 was their first full year of operations and they served over 200 families. Beck’s Place is growing fast and it continues to increase exposure. Your financial support allows them to grow the operations of their core programs and services as well as building a capital plan to address the needs of a boarding kennel and short-term emergency housing needs for families.
  • Time: They are always looking for flexible volunteers that realize that the fledgling organization is in a growth stage and has dynamic needs. They’re seeking people who have talents that can help the organization run efficiently.

To learn more about Beck’s Place, visit www.becksplace.org.