By RENEE FITE
If Lou Wedding won the lottery, Cherokee County would have the best and biggest Humane Society in Oklahoma.
Humane Society of Cherokee County is one of three organizations, including her church and Relay for Life, to which Wedding donates her time and energy.
“Volunteering helps me feel like I’m doing something worthwhile,” Wedding said.
She believes volunteers create the community.
“It’s only as good as the people who give, who take time and give from their heart,” she said. “You look around at all the things people do, like clean up parks. There’s not enough workers to do the things that need to be done.”
Wedding also believes volunteering is a good learning experience for young people, as it helps them learn responsibility and a commitment to help others.
“My parents didn’t have a whole lot, but they never turned anyone away,” she said. “From my upbringing in Miami and Coffeyville, that’s what I learned – that you help others.”
Wedding moved to Tahlequah 15 years ago, when her daughter went to work at the Cherokee Nation. Most of her family has followed.
Along with donating a lot of food to HSCC for the shelter and taking loads of stuff to the resale store, Wedding has three rescued and adopted dogs: Cooper, a cocker spaniel; Ryder, a King Charles cavalier spaniel, which she got to keep Cooper company; and recently, Gracie, a Pekingese.
“I adopted because of the sad eyes,” said Wedding. “They’re our babies.”
The idea of dogs being abused, chained up or hungry really bothers Wedding, who has been known to chase down strays and find them homes.
Once a month, or as needed, Wedding volunteers in the café at her church, Cornerstone Fellowship, serving beverages and breakfast snacks.
“They said they needed help and asked if I would, and I said yes,” she said. “I like feeling part of that, and you meet new people and get to know the regulars.”
Wedding, along with two other family members, also stays busy year-round planning for the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life. This year’s event is slated May 30-31, at the Northeastern State University track.
As the team coordinator, Wedding is enlisting groups to sign up.
“[We’re looking for] new teams, teams that haven’t participated before or teams who haven’t done it in a while,” she said.
Her daughter, Pam Wedding, is secretary of the Cherokee County Relay for Life, and Lou’s sister, R’Della Benning, is the corporate sponsor chairwoman.
“We know how important research is to help save lives,” Wedding said. “We have lost family members to cancer, and have family members who are going through it now and are cancer survivors. My oldest sister’s [cancer] has come back.”
Last year, 11 teams were involved on site, and 18 raised money for Relay for Life. The goal this year is 25 teams, and so far, they have 10.
Wedding has visited some churches, businesses and clubs, leaving packets of information.
She even stopped when she saw a group of college students cleaning trash in a park.
“They agreed to put information on their Facebook page,” said Wedding.
Funds raised in Cherokee County stay here, she said.
“I just want people to know we’re grateful for their commitment to help with treatment and care. The treatment wouldn’t have improved without research,” she said. “There is a 24-hour manned hotline to put people in touch with resources in the community.
Wedding says volunteering requires work, but it’s very rewarding.
“If what we do saves one person or one animal, it’s worth it to me,” Wedding said.