Volunteer recognized for service, donates to animal rescue

Madison Heights woman gives back to community in many ways

By: Andy Kozlowski | Madison - Park News | Published March 23, 2016

 Theresa Gorelick receives affection from one of the rescue cats. Her husband, Damon Gorelick, also volunteers at the Animal Welfare Society by walking some of the dogs.

Theresa Gorelick receives affection from one of the rescue cats. Her husband, Damon Gorelick, also volunteers at the Animal Welfare Society by walking some of the dogs.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes

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MADISON HEIGHTS — Among the volunteers at the Animal Welfare Society of Southeastern Michigan (AWS) is Theresa Gorelick, of Madison Heights. Since 2012, she has been a driving force at the no-kill rescue, finding homes for the animals there and educating the public on the importance of spaying and neutering.

She has also contributed to a variety of other causes, including multiple sclerosis, diabetes and different types of cancer. Which is why for the second time now, her employer, Great Expressions Dental Centers (GEDC), has recognized her with the Community Contributor of the Year Award, donating $500 to a charity of her choice.

This time, as with last, Gorelick has donated the money to AWS. She knows full well that rescues virtually never make a profit and are almost always in the red. They spend a lot of money restoring animals to adoptable health — a cost barely offset by adoption fees. So every bit of money helps the rescue stay in operation.

“They’re an awesome organization,” Gorelick said of AWS, located at 27796 John R Road in Madison Heights. “I’ve always had a love for animals growing up. One of my childhood dogs passed around the time I moved to Madison Heights, so I decided to donate my time to helping homeless animals in her honor, doing everything I can to give back, finding them homes and giving them love.”

She volunteers there two nights a week and helps out whenever she can at adoption events.

“The people at AWS are just incredible,” Gorelick said. “They have such a passion for animals, even putting them above their own needs. You see these animals come in malnourished, abused, neglected, and see them come out of their shells and start to thrive. It’s an incredible feeling.”

Gorelick said she has gotten her husband involved at the rescue. Her extended family now has about 10 animals from AWS. Gorelick herself has three rescue animals. Her mother, Carolyn Roberts, has five rescue animals — three dogs and two cats — that are a direct result of Gorelick.

“She began volunteering at an animal shelter … during her college years and hasn’t stopped since,” Roberts said in an email. “I foster for local rescues to this day ever since Theresa asked me to foster a tiny scared little dog that was dumped in a parking lot while giving birth.

Luckily, they survived, and I adopted the mama and a friend adopted the baby. (Gorelick’s) love and passion for saving animals drew me in.”
Danni Wonnacott, vice president of the board of directors at AWS, said in an email that Gorelick has helped out the rescue in many ways: walking the animals, feeding them, medicating them, bathing them, cleaning and scooping, and showing them love. She also helps coordinate fundraisers, and even contributes money to events like photos with the Easter Bunny and Santa.

“Both of her dogs were AWS rescues,” Wonnacott said. “After their arrival, she offered to take each pup home and foster them since they were rather scared. After getting them home, each time she quickly realized she couldn’t let them go and adopted them. We call it a ‘foster failure,’ but for the dog it’s a ‘foster win!’”

AWS works hard to save every animal, Wonnacott said. It’s a 501(c)(3) nonprofit and receives no assistance from any state or federal programs.

“We pride ourselves on the work we do to rescue animals, make sure their medical needs are met, and find them the best forever home,” Wonnacott said. “Theresa is one of the committed volunteers that help us do so.”

And Gorelick’s commitment extends to many other causes as well. For example, she collects pledges and rides her bike for Bike MS, a cycling fundraiser that attracts thousands and hopes to improve quality of life for people with multiple sclerosis and someday find a cure.

Gorelick does it in memory of her husband’s mother, and in support of her friend who has MS.

Gorelick also supports other health-related causes, participating in World Aids Day, The Kidney Walk, and the efforts of the Michigan Institute of Urology’s Men’s Health Foundation and Ronald McDonald House of Detroit.

Through her employer, GEDC, she also partakes in Feeding Children Everywhere and the Michigan Dental Association’s Missions of Mercy, held every two years, providing free dental care to those who need it. Two years ago, it was in Grand Rapids; this year, it will be in Warren at Macomb Community College June 10-11.

Other causes include Clawson Claws & Paws and The Brides Project in Ann Arbor. The latter was her way to give back during her wedding last fall; she purchased her wedding dress through The Brides Project, and the entire value went to the Cancer Support Community of Greater Ann Arbor. She plans to donate the dress back to The Brides Project so that another bride can enjoy it while also supporting the same cause. 

Gorelick’s mother said she’s very proud of her daughter.

“She has a true heart when it comes to helping anyone or any animal in need,” Roberts said. “She is truly one of the voices for the voiceless.”

For more information about the Animal Welfare Society of Southeastern Michigan, call the rescue at (248) 548-1150.

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