Smithfield's Gimme Shelter assists downtrodden animals of the region

Jonathan Black
Contact Reporterjoblack@dailypress.com

Robin Knauth received a call one day in June that two dogs in a North Carolina animal shelter would be put down the following morning if someone didn't pay for their boarding and vet fees.

Knauth made a quick few calls, and soon after, a rescuer was on her way to save the animals in Northampton County.

It was business as usual for Knauth and the Smithfield thrift store Gimme Shelter.

Starting in 2010 by Knauth and her husband, Peter, Gimme Shelter is a non-profit that donates 100 percent of its proceeds to various animal rescue groups and pet owners in the greater Isle of Wight area.

"Smithfield loves our animals," Knauth said. "People here are so proud and eager to help the animals."

The idea of the organization was planted into Knauths' mind after the passing of their dog of 15 years, Duke, while they lived in Kilmarnock.

After friends encouraged them to turn to a shelter to adopt, the Knauths were assisted by the Animal Welfare League of the Northern Neck in rescuing Jack, a black lab that was left tied to a mailbox.

The Knauths later moved to Smithfield and realized there was an opportunity to replicate the success of the Animal Welfare League.

"Jack just turned out to be the best," Knauth said. "When we moved to Smithfield we decided to pay back for our opportunity to get him because he was saved from death."

An old gas station on Main Street turned out to be the perfect spot for their store.

Founded on the spirit of Jack, Gimme Shelter opened its doors in the 2010 to assist the downtrodden animal of the region.

Protecting animals

At its core, Gimme Shelter operates to protect the animals of Isle of Wight and the surrounding counties through a variety of avenues.

The organization assists the Animal Shelter and Humane Society, provides assistance to individuals to treat animals and offers after hour rescue. A $5,000 scholarship also is provided to an Isle of Wight high school student pursuing veterinarian degree.

"Our biggest expense is covering vet bills for people who can't pay for emergency vet care," Knauth said.

Gimme Shelter is able to spread itself across the county thanks to the 18 volunteers who assist Knauth. This ranges from volunteers in the store to Julie Bouey, who works with fellow non-profit Operation Save a Shelter Dog.

Bouey often works with Gimme Shelter in order to rescue dogs from kill shelters in Hampton Roads and northeastern North Carolina.

"I'll post on Facebook about an animal that needs saving and we'll get something worked out," Bouey said. "When there's emergencies anywhere Robin asks what we can do."

No problem escapes Gimme Shelter's gaze.

Tiffany Webb, an officer with Isle of Wight Animal Control, said the organization has assisted in paying for animals' operations, buying new beds and donated washtubs.

"They know how much people love animals and wants to see them live in a happy environment," Webb said. "It's always very nice knowing that if we don't have it they're there with open arms and hearts."

Gimme Shelter has even stepped in when the shelter is closed.

For the last five years Howard Holloman, a rescue coordinator, is on call if an animal is found and in need of shelter.

"He will get the animal, keep them in a heated space until they can be taken to the shelter," Knauth said. "No dog in this county should go neglected. No reason for any animal to suffer."

'Guilt free shopping'

It would be hard to miss Gimme Shelter driving into downtown Smithfield.

The shop is busting at the seams with a mix of furniture, kitchenware, china, clothing and more. Even the occasionally car has turned up at the shop.

"It's guilt-free shopping," said Robbie Younger, a volunteer with the organization. "There's no pretenses."

The store has received so many donations that they've had to expand. About three years after opening, an additional room was added in the back to store items. In the following years, three storage units have been filled off site.

While Gimme Shelter's store is only open four days a week, the Knauths still find themselves driving by multiple times on off days and finding new items placed on the donation tables that sit outside of the building.

"I can't emphasize enough the importance of donations. That's what keeps us going," Knauth said. "It's the people that are responsible for this. I wish I could stand outside and thank every one of them.

Black can be reached by phone at 757-247-4607.

How to contact Gimme Shelter

Hours: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Wednesday-Saturday.

Where: 426 Main Street, Smithfield.

Rescue: If you're in the Smithfield area and find a lost or abandoned animal, after hours rescue is available at 757-334-0738.

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