By Kathy L. Collins

The GFWC Brandon Service League’s (GFWC BSL) main focus is helping others. For over 55 years, the GFWC BSL has been serving the greater Brandon community in many ways. It is with service in mind that the club recently held a Bunco Night in July to raise funds for Canine Companions For Independence.

Canine Companions For Independence (CCI), founded in 1975, is a non-profit that enhances the lives of people with disabilities by providing highly trained assistance dogs. There are four kinds- Service Dogs, Skilled Companions, Hearing Dogs and Facility Dogs. All are provided free of charge.

Sandy Pullinger, president of GFWC BSL, explained, “The cost for raising, training and maintaining a service dog for 10 years, which is the average time a dog serves before being retired, is $50,000. CCI takes care of all of it. Our GFWC District 8, clubs in Hillsborough and Pasco Counties, want to raise $50,000 to fund one service dog.”

To help celebrate the Bunco Night, Robert Hoak, a Puppy Raiser from Tampa, brought his ninth dog, Dickens II, to the event. Dickens left Hoak in August to go on to advanced training. Hoak said, “It is hard to let the dog go, but when you go to the pairing ceremony and see a kid in a wheelchair, he stops being the kid in a wheelchair and becomes the cool kid with the dog.”

Puppy Raisers are responsible for socialization and obedience training. All of this is voluntary. Hoak said, “Help is a four-legged word.”

The Bunco Night raised over $1,800. Other events will be held including Dog Fest which will be held on Sunday, November 8 from 11 a.m.-3 p.m. at USF Health located at 12901 Bruce B. Downs in Tampa.”

Pullinger said, “GFWC BSL is part of the 125 year old General Federation of Women’s Clubs, an international organization. We meet on the second Thursday of each month at 6:30 p.m. at the First United Methodist Church in Brandon. If you are interested in joining or have questions, please call Jeri Robinson at 813-685-7867 or jeri_r@hotmail.com.”

The next fundraiser for GFWC BSL is their Annual Holiday Home Tour which will be held on Saturday, December 12 from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Visit www.cci.org or visit www.gfwcbrandonserviceleague.org.