June Eggers loves animals. The Iowa native grew up on a farm, has volunteered with several animal shelters and currently counts four cats among her household.
That's why Eggers was so inspired by the work of Retrieving Freedom.
Based in Waverly, Iowa, Retrieving Freedom is dedicated to training service dogs to help people in need. Its primary outreach areas include:
- Military veterans
- Children with autism
That multipronged approach is one reason Eggers has donated to the organization. "I love that they work with animals and help veterans," she notes, adding that those are two groups she feels passionate about.
Eggers first learned about Retrieving Freedom through Thrivent Choice®, which allows Thrivent members to recommend where Thrivent distributes a portion of its charitable funds each year.
"These small actions mean a lot to the children. They really help students build confidence in their reading skills."
Donations from members such as Eggers support Retrieving Freedom's Learning with Animal-Assisted Activities program, which brings service dogs in training into K-8 classrooms across northeast Iowa.
"Teachers take specific dogs to their classrooms and work them into their curriculum," program director Keegan Birkicht explains. "The dogs give students a nonjudgmental audience to practice reading with. They don't laugh if a student stumbles over a word or has to start a sentence over. Instead, they give a loving look, maybe a sloppy kiss on the face or a reassuring paw on their lap."
"These small actions mean a lot to the children," Birkicht adds. "They really help the students build confidence in their reading skills."
Retrieving Freedom has worked with area literacy programs for nearly two years. The organization now partners with six different schools, serving approximately 450 students total.
That figure doesn't include separate library and church programs in which Retrieving Freedom staff members travel to different communities to allow even more students to interact with the dogs.
Students aren't the only ones who benefit from the innovative program. The service dogs get practice providing unconditional love to their future recipients, and the chance to help numerous individuals.
"With all the time, effort and money going into each dog, we believe they should be able to help as many people as possible," says Birkicht. "Through these classroom programs, each service dog in training can reach hundreds of students before it's placed with a specific person for the rest of its life."
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Eligible Thrivent members can help direct where some of Thrivent Financial's charitable funds go. Discover how Thrivent Choice empowers members to help support the causes they care about.