Meet Your Neighbor: Ginny Sims

I have been lucky to call myself a Hattiesburger for my whole life. I was born at Forrest General Hospital, and I grew up in the University Heights neighborhood. My dad worked as a police officer for the Hattiesburg Police Department, and my mom was a teacher in the Forrest County School District. The oldest of four children, we all attended Forrest County Agricultural High School and went on to become alumni at The University of Southern Mississippi. I have always enjoyed photography, reading, seeing new places, and trying to convince my parents to let us keep any animal that crossed our path! 

I feel really grateful to call this city home as it has helped to mold me and given me so many wonderful examples of how to give and grow; to embrace and learn from the diverse group of people who call this city home; to be progressive and unafraid of change; and to do good as much and as often as we can. 

Growing up in a family of public servants, finding a way to make a difference in the world has always felt important. I studied photojournalism and communications at Southern Miss, and after college I began working for a non-profit based in Canada. Our mission was to create 21st century learning opportunities for teachers, students, and unemployed workers in Mississippi and Louisiana.

The success of the program gave me the opportunity to provide training and support to others in Mexico, South Korea and Kenya. Travelling to so many other countries and all around the U.S. gave me an appreciation for other cultures and points of view, and each time I would come home I would see our city and the people who make it great a little differently and with new perspective.

I really had the best of both worlds as I traveled and learned while also getting to come back to a place that will always be home. I knew that I wanted to continue to be a part of organizations working to make a difference, and I am so lucky to have found that opportunity as the executive director of Southern Pines Animal Shelter.  

I began as a volunteer at Southern Pines in 2013, and I was immediately amazed to find myself a part of an incredibly hard-working community and compassionate group of people. From the very first day, I knew I had stumbled across a very special part of our city, and that I wanted to be able to come to work at this “little shelter that could” every day. 

I was over the moon the day I became a member of the Southern Pines staff, and it has been an adventure that I have cherished every day since. During the last five years, I have been so lucky to work as part of a team that is doing so much more for people and pets across our state than I ever could have imagined.

 Southern Pines is made up of an animal shelter, a Spay & Neuter Clinic and a Second Chance Thrift Shop, and each of these programs works to touch the lives of more than 12,000 pets each year.

 In the last several years, Southern Pines Animal Shelter has grown to be recognized as a progressive, life-saving leader in the animal welfare field. Serving more than 7,000 homeless and displaced pets from Hattiesburg, Forrest County, and communities across the state, the shelter is constantly innovating and introducing new programs to save more lives than ever before. 

Through the hard work of a dedicated and passionate group of staff, volunteers and fosters; strong local and national partnerships; and the generous and compassionate support of our community, in 2017 Southern Pines Animal Shelter became the largest shelter in Mississippi to achieve no-kill status. 

I hope you’ll visit us online at southernpinesanimalshelter.org/donate to learn more about the work we are doing and the lifesaving role our community plays for thousands of homeless pets each year. Together, we truly can save more lives than ever before.

 

Today, Southern Pines works to not only find homes for the pets within our own shelter, but has also worked to build a network of partners in shelters and rescues across the nation, creating life-saving opportunities for thousands of animals through the EmBark Transport Program. During 2018, Southern Pines was recognized nationally by the Petco Foundation and awarded the Paul Jolly Compassion Award for lifesaving work. It was a true testament to the great things our community has accomplished for pets in need.

 

The Southern Pines Spay & Neuter Clinic opened in 2009, and in that time, has completed more than 57,000 low-cost or completely free surgeries for dogs and cats in local communities. Through the hard work of the clinic staff and volunteers, with huge support from national foundations like PetSmart Charities, and because of the support and action from our  community, our spay and neuter program has made great strides in addressing the problem of pet overpopulation in our state by reducing the number of unwanted and homeless litters being born in communities across the state. 

Today, the clinic continues its work by offering a wide variety of accessible and low-cost healthy pet services in an effort to keep people and their pets together and to make sure our community’s best four-legged friends have access to preventative and annual care to keep them healthy and happy. 

Southern Pines is lucky to call Hattiesburg home, and we are reminded daily that our community is filled with a loving and generous spirit and an overwhelming willingness to do good. 

We see it every day when people flock to the shelter to adopt homeless and displaced pets; when they donate their time, resources, and homes to volunteer and foster pets in need; when they seek resources and support to make sure that lost pets find their way home; when they help prevent thousands of future dogs and cats from entering the shelter by spaying & neutering. 

Southern Pines and the lifesaving work that we do together wouldn’t be possible without a community that is embracing our mission. Community fundraisers, donations, and supply drives keep our programs running. In addition, item donations to our Southern Pines Second Chance Thrift Shop during the last seven years have allowed us to create even more opportunities for our cats and dogs. With more than $100,000 raised through thrift shop sales in that time to support Southern Pines’ work, Hattiesburg has proven that shopping really can saves lives!

 

At the end of the day, I couldn’t feel luckier or prouder to call Southern Pines and Hattiesburg home. To wake up every day and be among a community of people working to make a difference is a special privilege that I am really grateful for. I’d love to meet even more of the wonderful people who call Hattiesburg home and to show you around one of my favorite places in the world. We can even help send you home with the perfect pet you never knew you’d always been missing. 

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