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We can all personally take steps to halt injustice or alleviate suffering on our own, and certainly our individual efforts can bring about substantial goodness and change. However, when we empower others to join us, our collective efforts reverberate like a pebble hitting the water… and our effectiveness grows exponentially, often in ways we would not have imagined.

If we presume that others bring meaningful information and dialogue to the table, they will come through in ways that they themselves often didn’t expect. In communities in which suffering is chronic due to poverty, social isolation or even natural disaster, a sense of having the capacity to create change may be absent. By being a catalyst for change, we offer part of our self to the process by which change comes about.

Suffering always accompanies poverty and isolation. But when people do not feel the capacity to become effective they very often come to accept what is unacceptable. This isn’t due to a lack of desire for change; it’s survival. Conversely, when people are genuinely empowered to care effectively, they usually choose to do so.

When we empower others to act, the outcome is far greater than the sum of the individual people involved. Creating change is to share knowledge, skills and confidence which empower people to move forward. When empowered to act, people who previously felt powerless come to mirror many of the attributes we see as our own best.

From that point of understanding we become partners in change. We help to create the leadership that we hope to see. And although others may not have the background or knowledge that we bring to the table, as organizers it is vital to recognize that our connectedness enables “people” to become the “process,” and for ideas to take shape.

Change is not the result of isolated thoughts (no matter how astute): it is the result of the sharing of those thoughts, turning them into activity and turning activity into outcomes.

After all, though we bring certain skills to the table, others bring a sense of community to the table along with a genuine personal investment in the outcome and a feet-on-the-ground understanding of the issues. It takes a team to create effective and meaningful change and wherever there are people who care there is the potential for change.

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Ruth Steinberger initiated her first spay/neuter program in the Appalachian region of Virginia. Her efforts focus on developing a network of professional and grass roots organizations to assist at-risk animals through prevention (spay/ neuter), education and improved statutes.

Ruth moved to Oklahoma in 1999 to make her home in an area with no rural animal welfare programs and has worked closely with veterinarians, humane organizations, tribal health agencies and municipalities to develop services which now cover nearly half of Oklahoma counties, providing over 30,000 spay/neuter surgeries annually for pets in low-income homes.

She was a founding board member of SPAY Oklahoma, the first high-volume, low-income spay neuter clinic in Oklahoma.

She was the recipient of the esteemed 2006 ASPCA Henry Bergh Award.

Believing that education is vital to helping at-risk animals, Ruth developed the first accredited anti-cruelty classes for Oklahoma law enforcement officers; over 500 officers have attended these classes.

As a founder of Spay FIRST! Ruth believes that animals and people together make up the fiber of a community and that animals play a vital role in the lives of children and seniors. She believes that preventing suffering is vital to animals and the communities they live in.

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