CONWAY — Calling it the start of a new chapter, the board of directors of Assistance Canine Training Services (A.C.T.S.) recently announced Kathy Metz has been hired as the group's new executive director.
“All of us at A.C.T.S. are pleased to welcome Kathy and are excited to start this new chapter in our organization’s growth,” said Kelley Brown, chair of the board on Friday. “So many new and exciting things are already in the works, and with Kathy at the helm, we are certain we will be moving toward great things.”
Metz has lived in the Mount Washington Valley for many years, first serving in hospitality — working in sales, marketing and management.
She then started her second career, in non-profit management, leading the American Cancer Society's community engagement and fundraising in Northern New England. She is well-known to valley residents as one of the faces for such events as Making Strides Against Breast Cancer.
After 15 years, Metz has joined the leadership of A.C.T.S to help the organization continue to make a difference through the training and placement of service and facility dogs.
“This opportunity allows me to combine my love of dogs, my commitment to the local community and my non-profit management experience,” she said. “I am so pleased to be a part of this wonderful organization and to be able to utilize my background and abilities to help further its mission.”
A.C.T.S. was founded by Dorothy Hyde-Williams of Tuftonboro in memory of her son Nate, who died tragically in a bicycle accident. She served as executive director for seven years.
“During most of her tenure, (Hyde-Williams) served as a dedicated volunteer working to establish the organization,” said Robin Crocker, head trainer for A.C.T.S.
Crocker then stepped up to run the organization. But, she said, "during the seven years I have overseen the organization's operation, A.C.T.S. has continued to run as a volunteer-driven operation with no full-time paid employees.”
She added: “The board has spent a great deal of time in the past few years looking to the future and determining what we will need to do to successfully continue our journey.
"We look forward to many years to come placing service dogs and facility dogs in our community and throughout the country. Our future vision does include less dependency on volunteers, particularly on volunteers that have been working 20 to 40 hours a week to support the organization,” Crocker said.
Crocker is proud of what A.C.T.S. has been able to accomplish.
“The heart and dedication that has gone into making A.C.T.S. a fully accredited service and facility dog training organization is amazing,” she said. “But as we move forward and introduce new ideas, new programs and more dogs to the program, it is unreasonable to expect volunteers to sustain that sort of growth.
“We started our executive director search in the summer of 2020,” Crocker continued, “We took our time and waited for the right applicant. When Kathy contacted us, we were thrilled to interview her and even more thrilled when she accepted our offer.”
Crocker believes Metz is the right fit at the right time.
“Kathy brings a great deal of experience with fundraising and with volunteers,” she said. “She also has a long work history in the non-profit sector. A.C.T.S. is looking forward to her leadership in the areas of long-term planning and growth.
“Our current core group of volunteers who handle the training of the dogs, client relations and many of the other administrative aspects of the organization will remain in place so Kathy can focus on all aspects of organizational growth including fundraising, marketing, and long-range planning.”
A.C.T.S. trains and places service and facility dogs. Since 2009, the organization has partnered 33 dogs with humans.
According to its website, assistancecanine.org, “Service dogs are placed with individuals who are confined to a wheelchair or electric chair. These dogs are specifically trained to do tasks such as fetching, pressing buttons and turning on and off lights.
“Our facility therapy dogs are placed with individuals who work in professions that use animal-assisted therapy. These dogs are placed with teachers, counselors, therapists and other social service professionals.”
A.C.T.S. is an accredited 501(c)(3) non-profit.
“We are looking toward a future with an increase in puppies that are brought into the program,” Crocker said Friday. “This will not only mean we need more puppy raisers (full-time and/or six-month commitments), but we will also be looking for assistance with supplies.
"In particular, we are looking for wire and canvas crates 30 inches and 36 inches. We also have an Amazon wish list under the Nathaniel J Williams Foundation.”
To donate or for more information, go to assistancecanine.org or follow them on Facebook and Instagram @actsdogs.