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2018 Top-Rated Nonprofit

Southeastern Guide Dogs, Inc.

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Nonprofit Overview

Causes: Blind & Visually Impaired Centers, Disabilities, Dogs, Eye Diseases, Blindness & Vision Impairments, Health, Human Services, Military & Veterans Organizations, Veterans

Mission: Southeastern Guide Dogs transforms lives by creating and nurturing extraordinary partnerships between people and dogs. Our organization employs some of the most talented and innovative scientists and trainers in the working-dog industry and operates the most advanced training facilities of any service dog organization in the world. Our experts train guide dogs, service dogs, and skilled companion dogs for people with visual impairments, veterans with disabilities, and children with significant challenges such as vision loss or loss of a parent in the military. All of Southeastern Guide Dogs’ services—which include selective breeding and expert dog training and conditioning; comprehensive on-campus student instruction; and lifetime alumni support—are provided at no cost to the recipients. We rely 100 percent on private donations and receive no government funding.

Target demographics: People with visual impairments, veterans with disabilities, and children with significant challenges such as vision loss or loss of a parent in the military.

Direct beneficiaries per year: In Fiscal Year 2018, we supported 548 active teams who gave us a 99.8% student satisfaction rating. We placed 49 guide dogs with visually impaired students and 51 dogs into careers benefitting veterans. We also placed 64 dogs into other careers.

Geographic areas served: The continental U.S.

Programs: Southeastern Guide Dogs transforms lives by creating and nurturing extraordinary partnerships between people and dogs. Our organization employs some of the most talented and innovative scientists and trainers in the working-dog industry and operates the most advanced training facilities of any service dog organization in the world. Our experts train guide dogs, service dogs, and skilled companion dogs for people with visual impairments, veterans with disabilities, and children with significant challenges such as vision loss or loss of a parent in the military. All of Southeastern Guide Dogs’ services—which include selective breeding and expert dog training and conditioning; comprehensive on-campus student instruction; and lifetime alumni support—are provided at no cost to the recipients. We rely 100 percent on private donations and receive no government funding. Southeastern Guide Dogs has the distinction of being dually accredited by the two premier, global accreditation bodies: the International Guide Dog Federation and Assistance Dogs International. Learn more at www.GuideDogs.org.

Community Stories

248 Stories from Volunteers, Donors & Supporters

Scott R.4

Client Served

Rating: 5

Omg what can I say, In the first week of training and I can already see how my dog Bowen will improve my life, he keeps me calm helps me get around, knows when I am hurting and distracts my mind, no Better Program for vets

Client Served

Rating: 5

The staff here were awesome. Everyone was so accommodating and willing to work with us students. My time at the school was outstanding. Staff and trainers answered all of my questions whenever I had them, and the amenities were awesome as well. The beds were comfortable, and the rooms were spacious. Not to mention, our dogs had their own little yards which I thought was quite neat. The food was also delicious. The chef did an outstanding job.

I would definitely come back to this school when I need to get another dog once my retires. I will recommend this school to others, too.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

If you want to get away from the negative and experience the positive come visit Southeastern Guide Dogs. As a new volunteer I am just blown away by all that goes into the making of these wonderful "hero" dogs and all by donation only. The staff, volunteers and trainers all work together with the goal of giving these dogs the very best care, training, affection and love so they can be a life changer for someone in need. I feel very lucky to be a part of it all!

1

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I began volunteering with SEGD in November of 2018. It has changed my life. As someone who has worked with and for non profits for many years, I have to say this is the most professional organization I have ever worked with. There is a very large number of volunteers- 350+ - and the communication, the opportunities and the training is like no other. We are routinely recognized for our contribution, no matter how small. We are invited to lectures that are outstanding, not just about the organization itself, but by those who have benefited from it. The staff at every level are extremely dedicated and supportive. I hope that anyone who loves dogs, appreciates the struggles of the sight impaired and the service of our many veterans, with get involved. If you can’t, then donate. This fine organization relies solely on donations from the public and businesses to sustain its core mission. And they are doing that better than any non profit I have ever been involved with or supported. If you can help in any way, I hope you will. Melissa Twomey

Volunteer

Rating: 5

After attending "Making of a Super Hero" last year and learning about the mission of Southeastern Guide Dogs, I was waiting to join this wonderful organization as a volunteer. This is one of the best organizations I have ever worked with or volunteered at. The full time staff is great, is dedicated to the dogs and appreciates the volunteers. They truly care. As a volunteer we are able to help them with caring for the dogs at different stages in their growth and training from birth to graduation. No matter what your contribution, you feel like you are helping the recipient of these amazing dogs to live a better life.

1

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Southeastern Guide Dogs is a very unique and special organization that provides service dogs to the blind as well as Veterans. This is the ONLY not-for-profit that I've ever worked for or with that does not accept any federal, government or grant funding. All the funds received are donations. To my understanding, not one single building on this magnificent campus is built without having the funds in hand prior to start of construction. That's amazing!
As a volunteer I get the privilege of providing help to allow the staff members to do more than they normally would be able to do. The campus is meticulous and the staff always has a smile for anyone even on the toughest of days. (We often hear that the floors are so clean you could eat off of them!) Each and every volunteer gets knows with confidence that their efforts are greatly appreciated. With over 300 volunteers, we take pride in knowing how much money we've saved SEGD so that the funds can be directed toward the recipients.
From driving golf carts, helping in the kitchen, being a Breeder Dog Host to a Puppy Raiser, we each take great pride in the gift of our efforts.
Thank you Southeastern Guide Dogs for letting me be part of that contribution!

1

Client Served

Rating: 5

5 star organization from top to bottom. Could not of asked more on my stay with them getting my hero Lee.

1

Client Served

Rating: 5

I've been visually impaired or legally blind since birth. But with age comes lower vision and I was missing curbs which was causing me to take some nasty tumbles. II had also gotten quite depressed because I was unable to find a job due to my limited mobility. My wife was concerned and suggested that I might want to look into getting a guide dog. After much research, we decided that Southeaster Guide Dogs would be the best school for me to attend.

Going to Southeastern and getting my first guide dog, Keni was the second best decision I have ever made (the first was marrying my wife). Since graduation two years ago I have improved mobility, been able to find a job that I could not have previously done without Keni's help and I have a lot more self confidence. I am beyond thankful that a place as wonderful as Southeastern Guide Dogs exists and I'm so thankful that they gave me a sweet, furry friend who helps me so much and brings so many smiles every day.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

It all started when I attended a Southeastern Guide Dogs presentation the Creation of a Superheroes in 2016, this organization stole my heart. The positive energy that flows in and around this organization pulls you in to be involved in making a difference in the lives of those individuals in need of a guide dogs or service dogs. The mission statement guides the organization which is evident with each staff member you meet and work with on campus. The staff goes above and beyond to help and educate volunteers in every area of the campus, working with loving dogs is the best of the best. When you are invited to attend a graduation ceremony this is a volunteers dream comed true, as the journey ends at the campus it really is the new beginning for graduate and guide dog. We are a non-profit, funded by private donations so that those in need receive the best guide and service dogs. So Southeastern Guide Dogs is a place in Palmetto, Florida to request a visit and your heart will be stolen too.

Dana A.1

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I work with puppies at Southeastern Guide Dogs. The love and attention I give to them is returned to me tenfold. Knowing these precious pups will go on to enhance the lives of those in need is so heartwarming. It is truly a labor of love.The staff at SEGD are so kind and appreciative. I feel blessed to be a part of this organization.

1

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I have been a volunteer for Southeastern Guide Dogs for three years. From picking up "poo" to manning the front desk I've had nothing but warm feelings for this organization. I have learned about most aspects of the work done with the dogs to train them to the point of knowing 40 commands to help legally blind human being. I have seen the results, listened to the deeply felt experiences of those who are and have been helped including returning military personnel. It is amazing what this organization accomplishes and all provided gratis without any government contributions. I am so proud that I have been given the opportunity to do what I can to help Southeastern Guide Dogs.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Privileged to give some of my time to this wonderful non profit!

Client Served

Rating: 5

I’d like to take the time to tell my story of how
Southeastern Guide Dogs saved my life by giving me my
best friend, Hooch. Unlike most best friends, mine
is covered in fur, has a tail that wags like a top notch
propeller, and instead of a handshake he prefers licking
my face until it appears as if I just came out of the shower.
I know that description doesn’t sound appealing to most,
but in my opinion it’s perfect and I wouldn’t have it any
other way.

When I was 17 I joined the U.S. Marines and
deployed to the Sangin district of Afghanistan for 10
months. As a 20/21 year old in combat, the experiences
and actions that were made, had to be done to ensure the
safety and survival of myself, and my brothers that were
with me during it all. I saw and did things that I’d never
imagine, that I never knew existed, and that I’d never be
able to forget. But this isn’t about those experiences and is
not a therapy session. This is about my recovery and the
goldador who made such a thing possible for me.
Following deployment I began to realize that I wasn’t
right. Nothing was right, but I tried to force myself to act
like it was. My life has never plummeted like it did after
Afghanistan. I walked around with a fake smile and a
source of alcohol and drugs at all times thinking that was
normal. I called it a “coping mechanism”. For the record, if
you’re a 21 year old using drugs and alcohol to make you
seem normal like all of your chipper friends and then pre
meditating the end of your life with an optimistic feeling
towards the thought, then that is not a successful “coping
mechanism”. In denial of being clinically insane, and
wanting to avoid ridicule from the majority of the big bad
Marine Corps who say that mental illness after war is for
the weak, I sought treatment. Immediately, I was
diagnosed with a Traumatic Brain Injury, and PTSD.
Before treatment began, I was transferred to Wounded
Warriors Battalion on Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. First
step: Medication. Long story short, I am now 26 years old
and over the course of treatment I have been prescribed
to 46 different medications and a max of 15 a day. This
may remind you of a lab rat, or a guinea pig if you will.
With all of these medications, I still could not escape the
pain, guilt, regret, and hatred towards myself that I was
constantly feeling. So I took my self medicating to a new,
and more dangerous level. Drugs and alcohol became a
necessity for me to function in everyday life. I was an
empty vessel walking amongst people who I considered
an enemy, and a threat towards my life. By people, I mean
everyone; including my best friends, my mother who has
loved me unconditionally since the day she gave birth to
me, and my entire family. My brother John who is my idle
and inspiration for many things, wasn’t my brother in my
mind. He was another living life form, and possible target if
he were to approach me in any way I found aggressive.
As you can see, I was lost, sick, and absolutely out of my mind.

One day my physiologist suggested a service dog for
TBI, and PTSD. Something I have never heard of, nor did I
care or think it would help. Thankfully, it wasn’t up to me; it
was in the hands of the licensed physician who provided
me with the answer to my prayers, and the start to getting
my life back. After months of paperwork and going through
the eligibility process, I was approved for a Veteran
service dog provided by Southeastern Guide Dogs of
Palmetto, FL. March 15th was the day I traveled to the
guide dog organization to begin the two week class,
educating me about service dogs and how to command
and co exist with one for mutual benefits. The first day
upon arrival is when you meet the rest of your six student
class, and let the trainers get to know everything about
you. The good and the bad, but no dogs were provided
yet. Little did I know, March 16th would be the day that my
life would change forever. We were told to wait in our
rooms, which were provided on the campus of SEGD. I
hear the commotion in the hallways consisting of multiple
footsteps, and whatever was moving was moving with a
purpose. I now feel threatened and defense/survival
instincts snap into action. But when my door opened I
unexpectedly had to look down to see what this target/
threat was. I then looked into the eyes of a black Lab/
Retriever and suddenly felt absolutely no feeling of threat
or fear. I sat on the floor because I had to get closer to this
dog who was able to make me feel like I did before
Afghanistan, before the drugs and alcohol, when I was
simply just happy. My new best friend’s name was
“Hooch”. Perfect. Everything about him was, and still is,
perfect.

It’s been about 2 1/2 years now since Hooch and I
were paired but within days he started to change my life. I
began feeling happiness again, when I thought there was
no such thing. I reconnected with people, who I
considered a threat to me, only to know that they’ve cared
for me the entire time. I know Hooch won’t be alive forever
but, with tears in my eyes, what I can honestly say is that
he will always be with me, and I with him. I love him with
all my heart, and I owe him my life. A special thanks to
Southeastern Guide Dogs for saving my life by bringing
me together with, my best friend, Hooch.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I'm a volunteer and donor to this exceptional organization. The care they show to their dogs, students, volunteer and employees is unlike anything I have experienced in many years of volunteering. No government funds are used and ALL dogs are provided free of charge - including continued follow up visits. It does not matter where in the US the student lives, SEGD will support them throughout their working relationship with their dog.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

When my husband and I retired to Sarasota, Florida, I was thrilled to see a highway billboard announcing that Southeastern Guide Dogs was close by. We had raised three puppies for Guiding Eyes for the Blind in Syracuse and then Albany, New York, and I was excited to think about being a part of another organization that offered these magnificent dogs to visually impaired folks. It didn't take me long to visit Southeastern (had the puppy hugging experience) and signed up to volunteer. I soon learned that they also provided specially trained dogs for veterans dealing with PTSD in the Paws for Patriots program. That was 2010/2011. I've never experienced a more dedicated and enthusiastic staff and that transfers easily to their volunteers. Their mission, their professional approach to running Southeastern, their true appreciation of and for their many volunteers, are a few of the reasons why Southeastern is an outstanding nonprofit organization. The impact they have on so many individual lives, whether visually impaired or a Veteran in need of a service dog, is best seen and heard on their website. To say these testimonies are a moving tribute to the value of Southeastern's mission and impact, is an understatement. I am a personal friend of two people who are each a recipient of a Southeastern dog, one legally blind and the other a Veteran and I've had the up close privilege of seeing what these dogs mean to them. The emotional bond and the working partnership are amazing to see. I truly believe that the GreatNonProfits Top-Rated Award couldn't go to a more deserving service organization.

Aaron J.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I have been a volunteer puppy raiser for Southeastern Guide Dogs for almost 2 years now. The main reason that I selected this nonprofit organization was because of all of the positive reviews they have received online. After I joined this group. I quickly saw first hand why they received all of these reviews and most importantly that all of them were true and not made up by people paid to post positive reviews. Every single staff member, and volunteer that I have had the pleasure to meet are truly friendly, but most importantly they are professional. All of these wonderful qualities displayed by them are all because every single one of them absolutely love their jobs, and know what a life changing experience all of the people who in the end receives one of our guide dogs will encounter.

Client Served

Rating: 5

Southeastern guide dogs has been part of my life since 2002 when I got my first guide dog. Since then the school has significantly upgraded its infrastructure and added a service animal program for veterans with PTSD. During this time they have retained their core mission of graduating competent and independent guide dog teams

We are proud to be apart of this organization as volunteers. Donors, and a guide dog user. Visit their website for some inspiring stories and live web cams of the puppy kennels

Attached is a photo of “nick” , Larry and Nick’s puppy raiser Carey

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I am grateful everyday that I have had the opportunity to volunteer for SEGD for the last 4 years. The staff is very committed and passionate about what they do and they do an excellent job and just keep getting better. The guide and service dogs that they train change people's lives everyday. The dogs are amazing, smart, loving and dedicated to their "forever" person. There is not charge to an individual for a dog. As a volunteer I have received so much more than I have given. Working for a charity that is committed to excellence is wonderful experience. All you have to do is be around the dogs and the staff for a few minutes to understand why this is a charity of the highest excellence.

Client Served

Rating: 5

My life has opened up since I received Atlas, my amazing guide dog. Prior to Atlas I would take a daily walk in my community the walk was slow are careful; not a lot of cardio exercise. Now, we both go at a fast clip just like the sighted walkers. Atlas is there with me at all times and loved by all. I volunteer as a drug rehab counselor and with a bereavement group for Hospice. I'm not sure who makes the greatest impact with the participants, it might be Atlas. He is remarkable in what he has learned since Guide dog school: He can find a public trash can, restroom, stairs, he will locate the car he arrived in faster than the driver, he attends church and listens when the finial Amen is spoken Atlas stretches get up without command and on and on. He is my best friend and faithful companion, thanks Southeastern what a perfect team we have become.

Client Served

Rating: 5

Hi my name is Pedro camarena and my guide dog is Freddy Gilman I am 31 years old and I have had 17 surgeries and I lost my right eye when I got my guide dog he opened up a whole new world for me he has given me independence I am doing things that I never thought I would be doing like flying a plane by myself doing walkathons now with him by my side anything is possible The limits are end lass I am going out more now than when I was just using my cane And people actually talk to you when you have a guide dog as opposed to when you have a cane people see the change in me many have told me that I am more confident In myself now and it’s all thanks to Southeastern guide dogs To those who are thinking of getting a guided dog I would just like to say go for it he will change your life for the better you will have the conference that you used to have yourself And he will make you think if I can do this what else can I accomplish