‘It’s all been worth it’: Sammie’s Friends celebrates 20 years | TheUnion.com

‘It’s all been worth it’: Sammie’s Friends celebrates 20 years

The people of Sammie’s Friends include, front from left, Evan Walsh and Brigitte Falwell. Rear from left, Lisa Beard, Beverly Ward, Curt Romander, Cheryl Wicks and Lizette Taylor.
Photo: Elias Funez


Sammie’s Kitty Kove at Sammie’s Friends has been helping cats find homes for many years.
Photo: Elias Funez


Sammie’s Friends’ Lisa Beard always has a smile on her face working with the county’s no-kill shelter.
Photo: Elias Funez


A Sammie’s Kitty Kove cat looks out from his perch in the adoption area.
Photo: Elias Funez

Looking back on 20 years of animal rescue nonprofit Sammie’s Friends, which reached the milestone anniversary today, co-founder Cheryl Wicks said, “It’s all been worth it.”

Over the past 20 years, according to Wicks, Sammie’s Friends has saved the lives of over 30,000 animals, reducing the local euthanasia rate to less than 1%; spayed or neutered 10,000 animals through its community program; and helped 10,000 more whose owners could not afford veterinary care.

Since 2010, the nonprofit has been contracted to operate the county animal shelter.

In the pursuit to prevent animals from being euthanized — which Wicks explained is often an outcome of shelter over-crowding and medical issues — Sammie’s Friends’ community programs for spaying, neutering, and assisting pet owners with veterinary costs have proven to be effective measures, according to Wicks.

“I always say we’re a no-kill shelter by practice, not by policy,” said Wicks.

Wicks recounted the measures taken to find animals new homes over the years — from arranging for animals to ride along to Washington with locals and putting a dog on a plane to Chicago, to driving dogs to Canada and the Mexican border, and for some time arranging exchanges with a dog sanctuary in Texas.

“We had endless … ideas on how to do these things,” said Wicks. “We just kept at it, and our efforts and our energy had no limit. There’s nothing we wouldn’t do.”


Sammie’s Friends co-founder, and Wicks’ partner, Curt Romander, said he would never have imagined the organization in its current form when they began their efforts in 2001.

“The community obviously has taken to our philosophy, because we get so much support from the community,” said Romander.

Since 2013, Sammie’s Nifty Thrift Shop in Grass Valley has operated to benefit the nonprofit’s activities.

“Everything just really seemed to work out,” said former volunteer and board member Joanne Castles, who started the shop. “We just got dedicated employees, and volunteers who are very committed, and the environment is just a really good culture to work and volunteer in at the thrift store,” said Castles.

According to Castles, the shop’s operation has “really helped Sammie’s Friends,” both through funds raised and a community built up of employees, volunteers, and donors.

Bobbi Giudicelli, who has adopted several animals from Sammie’s Friends, began serving as a board member in late 2019 after being approached by Wicks to do so.

“It took me very little time to get excited, only because anything that she is a part of and what she’s done with Sammie’s Friends, I am honored to be a part of,” said Giudicelli.

She shared that, while almost all of their meetings in the past year have been virtual due to the pandemic, Sammie’s Friends’ board members have remained active and continued to plan for improvement and growth.

“Financially, it has not been a struggle like it has been for other nonprofits during the pandemic, and I believe that is completely a testament to how outstanding this organization is,” said Giudicelli.

Victoria Penate is a staff writer for The Union. She can be reached at vpenate@theunion.com.

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