Newman University is proud to be a title sponsor of The Difference Makers for Wichita awards along with Emprise Bank and the Wichita Eagle/Kansas.com.
The awards, created in 2016, recognize individuals and organizations making a positive difference and celebrate their contributions, value and positive influence on improving the greater Wichita community.
The Sister Tarcisia Roths, ASC, Not-For-Profit Award, presented by Nonprofit Chamber of Service, is named for former Newman University President Tarcisia Roths, ASC, who played a major role in the growth of the university.
It is awarded to a mission-driven not-for-profit organization that is creating a significant impact in the Wichita community. The 2019 recipient was the Wichita Animal Action League (WAAL), whose executive director is Sarah Coffman. WAAL is dedicated to rescuing animals in crisis that have been abused, neglected and abandoned.
Coffman is making a difference in the lives of community members by helping them find a new best friend through her organization.
WAAL is “an action-based volunteer organization that rescues animals in crisis,” explained Coffman. “We do that through three main branches of service.”
Those three services are adoption, spay and neuter services and community outreach.
Community outreach, she said, includes anything from welfare checks, helping pet owners with questions they might have to rescuing animals from various situations.
Coffman said her love for animals began as a young girl, and all because of a kitten.
“I remember sitting in the parking lot of the grocery store while my parents were inside shopping,” she explained, “and I saw this kitten run through the parking lot. So I got out … grabbed this kitten then I put it under my shirt and I got back in the van. And on the way home … I remember my dad being like, why is the backseat meowing?”
That wasn’t the last kitten she would rescue. Coffman told of another time at the age of about 10 or 11 rescuing another kitten after a big rainstorm. After some help from her parents and a local veterinarian, that kitten became “Buddy” and also a family pet.
Coffman founded WAAL after seeing a Facebook post about a dog living at an abandoned house. She said she wanted to do something instead of just sharing the post so she went to the house, loaded up the dog and found a warm place for it to stay that night.
“(WAAL) really just started with being active and not just sharing something on social media and hoping that someone else did something about it,” she said.
She said she was pleasantly surprised throughout the years to realize how much WAAL has been accomplishing. The 2018 goals they set for the organization were “blown out of the water” and Coffman is excited to continue watching the growth and accomplishments of the nonprofit.
Her motivation is simple — “There are animals that are being neglected and being in pain and suffering. Um, that’s what fuels me to do a good job every day so that we can be there for them when they need us passionate about.”
Coffman said she obviously could not realize this type of success without the numerous volunteers that dedicate their time and treasure to WAAL.
Approximately 130 volunteers work with Coffman, working as foster households, running the organization’s Facebook page and answering emails, transporting animals or putting in hours at the WAAL location in Towne West Square.
Coffman said she felt honored to be presented with a Difference Makers for Wichita award alongside so many “doers” of the Wichita community.
“In a day when it’s really easy to simply hit share or retweet and hope that someone else takes care of the problem, it’s really encouraging to see so many people who are still willing to roll up their sleeves and do the dirty work.”