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Clay Humane’s Claire Whitely Hall celebrates 30th anniversary with organization

Posted 7/27/23

ORANGE PARK – In a quaint corner of Orange Park lies the Clay Humane Society, a haven for animals in need, recently celebrated the 30th anniversary of assistant director Claire Whitley.

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Clay Humane’s Claire Whitely Hall celebrates 30th anniversary with organization


Posted

ORANGE PARK – In a quaint corner of Orange Park lies the Clay Humane Society, a haven for animals in need, recently celebrated the 30th anniversary of assistant director Claire Whitley.

Growing up in a family of devoted animal advocates, Assistant Director Claire Whitley Hall has always had an affinity for animals.

“My entire family has always been animal advocates. We grew up with animals and rescues and always took the best care of our animals and everybody in the neighborhood. I knew I would always work with animals (to some degree),” she said.

But she never expected life’s journey to take her in this direction for her full-time career.

Life’s road initially took her down a different path. She aspired to pursue a legal career, but fate had other plans.

“I went to college and did completely different things. I went to law school and intended to leave, but it’s just a huge part of who I am,” Whitley said.

She decided to dedicate her time to animals in need fully.

“I felt like it was just in my blood, so I chose to stay and apply what I learned to help,” she said.

She joined Clay Humane in 1993.

She never realized her impact on the organization, her colleagues and the community in the past three decades.

What has kept her around for so long goes beyond her furry friends. She believed in the family-first culture fostered at Clay Humane.

 

“Clay Humane has been around for so long that they’ve proven that we can overcome those hurdles no matter what’s thrown at this organization. It’s a family atmosphere. They care about each other and the general public, which makes it easy,” she said.

No two days are alike at the nonprofit organization, and the thrill of not knowing what awaits her each morning is part of what fuels her passionate career.

“I love the variety of our day and not knowing what’s going to happen. It’s fabulous,” Whitley said.

From cuddling adorable puppies and kittens to treating wildlife, there’s no telling what will happen next.

“I could walk in (during) the morning, and a bald eagle needs transporting to Orlando. I just spent the last week in isolation with a puppy signed over to us, doing compresses on his legs and making sure it’s getting fluids and food down, hand feeding it for full days to pull through,” she said.

“I can come in the morning, and there will be complete chaos. On other days, we’re just petting puppies and kittens and giving them annual vaccines. I don’t know what’s going to happen each day. It’s fabulous.”

Whether she’s hand-feeding a sick puppy back to health or coordinating transportation for a bald eagle in distress, Whitley’s passion for animals is endless.

Her willingness to dive into the unknown and adapt to an ever-changing landscape of circumstances has played a crucial role in Clay Humane’s ability to serve the community with pride effectively.

“I want to make sure that we’re present for every animal in the community,” Whitley said.

Whitley was instrumental in introducing community programs like the free feral cat sterilization initiative.

She also played a pivotal role in founding the anti-violence group First Coast, First Strike, which was instrumental in planning the clinic’s urgent care program.

Her contributions have helped animals in Northeast Florida live healthy and happy lives.

As Whitley celebrated the milestone, she felt both a sense of honor and shock.

“I feel rewarded to have a job that I love, and you know the old saying, ‘If you do something you love, you’ve never worked a day in your life.’ It doesn’t feel like (I’ve worked here) that long. It was a surprise to me as anybody else (at Clay Humane),” Whitley said.

“She has left an indelible mark on the hearts of her work family, the animals she has saved, and the community she has served,” said Clay Humane Executive Director Linda Welzant, in a press release.

However, Whitley and her organization’s work isn’t finished.

Clay Humane’s 45th-anniversary celebration on Sept. 7 will kick off a capital campaign to raise funds for a new building. The parcel, which sits next door to the current location, is owned by Clay Humane, which is already working with architects.