About Us | Service Paws Of Central PA

 

SPCP is a non-profit, non-residential, community-based organization, founded in 2011 by Ms. Leslie Kelly. All members of the SPCP Advisory Board are volunteers. SPCP was established with the goal of helping individuals financially obtain a service dog and/or helping defray extraordinary veterinary costs for those currently using a service dog.

 

Service dogs are used for many reasons and are life-changing for those that are able to benefit from these extraordinary animals. Their services include but are not limited to, assisting individuals who are blind or have low vision with navigation and other tasks, alerting individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing to the presence of people or sounds, providing non-violent protection or rescue work, pulling a wheelchair, assisting an individual during a seizure, alerting individuals to the presence of allergens, retrieving items such as medicine or the telephone, providing physical support and assistance with balance and stability to individuals with mobility disabilities, and helping persons with psychiatric and neurological disabilities by preventing or interrupting impulsive or destructive behaviors.

What Can We Do?

Our goals are to help with the purchase of Service dogs and extraordinary veterinary bills associated with caring and maintaining these wonderful animals. We are able to do this through fundraising events, monetary donations from the public and redemption of aluminum can tabs. 

Meet Our Team...

Leslie A. Kelly - Vice-Chairperson                                                         

Altoona is my hometown, I was born and raised here. I love this community. I attended Altoona Area High School, am widowed, and have three beautiful children with 9 grandchildren and a great-grandchild. Along with Nokie, my retired hearing dog, I have three other furry “kids” at home.

 

I became hard of hearing from a head injury, then at age 34, became totally deaf. My hearing loss did not keep me from working, but it did create hardship for me. That is when I started my new life with a hearing dog, Sara until she crossed over the rainbow bridge.

 

When Sara was with me, we did many presentations in the community to help educate others on different kinds of service dogs and how they can help a person with a disability. For me, it was very important to reach out to the public to help educate others.

 

When I needed my second hearing dog, Nokie, I had to raise $5000. I asked the community to help me raise the money, and was amazed at the support I received. Even after I got Nokie, the money continued to come in, so I decided to give back to the community to help others as I was helped. That is when I founded SPCP. I have such wonderful people on the board who help make it possible to assist those in need.

 

This is truly something I love doing!

Leslie A. Kelly

Joe Fagnani - Chairperson

 

I’m from the New York City area and spent most of my life working as a Systems Analyst for several major corporations.  When the last company for whom I worked was taken over by Star Wood Hotels, I was given an early retirement.  This gave me the opportunity to move to Blair County.

                         

 I’ve been advocating for blindness-related issues for fifty years.  In 1968, I was part of a group that established a dog guide user’s organization and drafted the first New York State dog guide legislation.  Through my volunteer work with other groups and organizations, I met Leslie Kelly and became a charter member of  Service Paws.

Julie Fischer - Secretary

 

I am originally from Pittsburgh, but I spent 6 years living and traveling abroad before ending up in Hollidaysburg. My experiences working with English language learners and individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities led me to pursue a career in speech-language pathology, so I am currently working toward a master's degree in Communication Sciences and Disorders at Penn State. I'm excited to be part of the SPCP team.  

Kimberly Thompson - Treasurer

 

I am an Altoona native and have been married to Chad Thompson since 2000. We have one son, Lance. He just graduated from AAHS, class of 2020. I graduated from Bradford Business School in Pittsburgh with a degree in Hotel Management. Through a series of lucky breaks, I changed careers and have been in banking for 25 years. I started with Mid-State Bank which transitioned to M & T Bank. Then I furthered my career at First Commonwealth Bank as a member of their team for 10 years. I was then recruited by CNB Bank where I have been for 3 years. I am an avid lover of animals and Service PAWS was the right fit for me. It's wonderful to be able to see the amazing things that have happened for clients of this fantastic organization.

Celia Fagnani

 

I grew up in central PA and became involved with people with special needs from an early age.  I began working for OVR, Bureau of Blindness and Visual Services in 1990 and loved teaching blindness skills to people of all ages.  I retired from my job in 2014, and soon became involved in several non-profit organizations.  I knew Leslie Kelly from meetings, etc., when I was employed, and when I retired, I joined the Board of Service Paws.  

Dr. Brad Kissell

 

Growing up in Altoona, Dr. Kissell graduated from the Altoona Area High School in 2002. He attended Juniata College where he majored in Biology and graduated Summa Cum Laude in 2006. He went on to obtain his doctorate of veterinary medicine from the University of Pennsylvania in 2010.

Heather Macharola

 

I am thrilled to be asked to be on the board of such a great cause that helps people and animals. Always having a special bond with animals is one of the reasons I wanted to be part of this organization. I grew up training and caring for horses for competitions in Hunter/Jumper shows all over the east coast which is a partnership like no other. I learned about the special bond and trust between animals and their handlers as well as the love and companionship that is developed. In college, I was the captain of the PSU Equestrian team. 
Since having children, I moved to smaller animals and currently have 3 dogs and a cat. Although this organization is mainly about support animals, I act as a support human to my hearing-impaired Dalmatians who require special care from myself and from my hearing dogs. 
A graduate of Penn State in Speech Communications and Business as well as studying for an MBA at Saint Francis University. 
While raising my children I spend 20 years working as a volunteer in many nonprofit organizations such as my children’s various schools, churches, community events, and art foundations, doing fundraising, event planning, and public speaking.
Heather currently resides in Altoona Pa with her youngest of four children 17-year-old Grazia who is a senior honor student and avid dancer, She also has a recently married daughter Polly 26, who is an Airman in the Air Force, a son Frank 24 on active duty in the Navy and another son Nick, 21 who works and resides in Reading PA.  She is employed by Baywood Hotels As a General Manager of the Holiday Inn Express and Suites Altoona.  
I enjoy spending time with my children and animals doing outdoor activities and traveling. 

Charles (Chuck) Schneider

 

Brooklyn, N.Y. born and bred, and having lived in Florida for over 30 years, wife, an Altoona native, and I came back to Altoona. Enjoy the mountains and the 'small-town atmosphere'. I believe the work we do to be extremely important in affecting the lives of the people we help.

Chris Wible

 

 

 

I was born in Altoona, PA and graduated Altoona Area High School in 2016. I then attended Penn State and graduated in 2020 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Biomedical Engineering. During my undergraduate studies, I focused on medical device research where I designed transparent and flexible transducers. Starting in the fall of 2020 I will be pursuing my Master’s Degree in Electrical Engineering, also at Penn State. Due to the pandemic, I found myself with more free time and the urge to help the community. Service Paws was the perfect fit since it is a local organization that I can volunteer with for years to come.  

Billie Witherow

 

Born and raised in Altoona, I have lived here all my life. I have two grown daughters and two teenage grandchildren, all of whom I am very proud. I was employed by the federal government from which I retired seven years ago. Before I retired is when I became acquainted with Leslie Kelly, founder of Service Paws of Central PA. I had attended a couple of sign language classes she conducted. Sometime later she asked me to become a board member of her organization. Other than a short sabbatical from the group, I have been on the board since 2012. I am very honored to be associated with others who are so passionate about the cause. I have learned a lot over the years, and continue to learn, how remarkable service dogs are, and how important their skills are for those who are disabled. During events to raise money, I enjoy meeting and speaking with people about our group and providing information about service dogs. When not volunteering at an event, I always am acting as an advocate in the community and will accept any opportunity presented to talk about SPCP. Having a love for animals is not the only factor involved with working with this organization; it’s having the understanding of the need for service dogs in different communities and having great respect for these extraordinary working companions.