Sometime between my junior and senior years of college (my first senior year, mind you) my parents had relocated to Wisconsin and, as student at Grand Valley State, I wanted to stay behind. So I spent several weeks between semesters living with my grandmother. My Grandma was an amazing woman. She had an amazing heart, and her entire life – all of it – revolved around family. She was also, shall we say, quirky. She had a great sense of humor and a tendency to do things that, to this very day, bring a smile to my face.

One of my favorite memories, mostly because it just embodied those memories, is from the time I stayed with her. I was sleeping on the couch, and sometime around 2:00 AM was awakened by the flickering of lights overhead. On. Off. On. Off. Slowly, I opened my eyes to find my grandmother, all maybe 5’0” of her, flipping the light switch up and down and clearly getting frustrated with the results of her bewildering actions. This probably went on for 10 minutes before I inquired to my sweet Grandma what she was doing.

She sternly replied, “I’m cold, I’m trying to turn the heat up.”

My grandmother, Thelma Pepper, was the sweetest woman I have ever known. She made me promise, straight from her mouth, to never name a child after her. She repeatedly told my wife and me that “Thelma was an old name when she was born.” That in mind, I have a beautiful daughter, Katharine, who I hope inherits her spirit, if not her name.

And that, in a nutshell, is family.

By no means is family perfect. I can’t count the number of arguments and fights I had with my brother, Josh (all clearly his fault). However, they are family. They believe in each other. They support each other. They make the good in us better. They reflect all the values that make us…well, us.

As we close out the year, I have the opportunity to reflect on my family that is the Michigan Humane Society. That is truly what we are: a family. We believe in each other. We believe in what we collectively make possible.

To our staff: thank you. Thank you for believing you can make a difference. Thank you for believing that every day you come to work, you can impact the lives of the animals in our community. As the President and CEO, I get to, at times, be the face of the organization. I am, however, humbly only one part of a team. The real heroes are the people who, everyday, dedicate their lives to helping, caring for, and loving the lost, scared, abandoned and discarded animals entrusted to MHS. THANK YOU!

To our supporters: thank you. Without you, none of what we do is possible; none of it. Everyone one of you is a part of what we do. When our Cruelty Investigation or Rescue teams remove an animal from a situation where they are suffering, it is because of you. When a scared, injured dog is treated by our team of veterinarians and ultimately adopted by a loving family, it is because of you. When a child is taught empathy and compassion through our humane education efforts, it is because of you. Whether through volunteering or making donations, you make a difference. Everyone who supports MHS, regardless of the amount of time or money, has chosen to be part of something special. THANK YOU!

To our colleagues and partners: thank you. Thank you for working alongside us to create a better world for the animals. Thank you for what you do; for your passion. There are so many great organizations, non-profit and governmental, that we are proud to call partners and that, quite frankly, help make many of the programs we are so proud of possible. THANK YOU!

To the citizens of Detroit and southeast Michigan: thank you. Good social programs require active citizens. Thank you for adopting. Thank you for advocating. Thank you for donating. Thank you for making us an institution in our community since 1877. We are more than an animal welfare organization. We are a community organization. We are about quality of life for all citizens; two-legged and four. If you aren’t currently involved with MHS, we would urge you to consider it. If you are looking for a pet, come to our facilities and adopt. If you are looking for a social cause to get behind, consider donating or volunteering for MHS. MHS is proud to represent your compassionate values. THANK YOU!

To all of you: thank you. Thank you for being a part of the MHS family. I do ask, however, one thing as the holiday season is upon us and we look forward to a new year: believe. Believe you can make a difference.

From my family to yours, THANK YOU AND HAPPY HOLIDAYS!