Volunteer Spotlight: Starr the Dog and Stephanie Kwisnek

Dec 10, 2012

This month we highlight our youngest, yet one of our biggest, Kids Club volunteers:  Starr the Newfoundland dog, she is 4 years old and weighs 175 pounds! She and her owner, Stephanie Kwisnek, attend Beverley Hills United Methodist Church (where Kids Club meets).

Last year, when Stephanie saw an annoucement in the church bulletin about a need for Kids Club volunteers, she contacted us and informed us of studies that have shown that reading to dogs can help children become more confident, comfortable readers. Ever since then, Starr and Stephanie have faithfully been coming once a week to have the children read to them. And the research is proving true, even our most resistant readers can’t wait to get a chance to read to Starr!


Starr and Stephanie also look forward to their weekly visits to Kids Club. In fact, Stephanie swears that Starr knows the day and time of the visits because she gets so excited on Tuesday afternoons. Starr literally tugs Stephanie out the door because she can’t wait to see the kids and hear good stories. Stephanie says she feels very proud when they arrive and hear the kids say, “Starr’s here! Starr’s here!”.


We are so thankful for both of their dedication and love for the children of Kids Club!


If you are interested in learning more, here is more info about Starr that Stephanie shared with us:

Because of their sweet and laid back personalities, Newfoundlands (a.k.a “Newfs” or “Newfies”) are known as the “Gentle Giants” and “Working Dogs” of the dog world. They have webbed feet and their tail acts like a rudder, making Newfies great swimmers and renown water rescuers. There are many stories about Newfs rescuing ship-wrecked people and saving them from drowning; even today, some Newfies work as lifeguards off the coast of New England. Because Newfoundlands are also very strong, during World War II, Newfs hauled supplies and ammunition for the Armed Forces in blizzard conditions in Alaska.


Starr literally “went to school” at Old Towne School for Dogs in Alexandria. At school, Starr had a teacher and classmates and learned the basic commands of being a lady-dog (walking well on a leash, speaking on command, coming when called and socializing well with others).  Starr has taken obedience exams. She’s earned her Canine Good Citizen title and recently became a certified therapy dog with the People Animals Love (P.A.L.) organization.


We are a community of people “learning together to love our neighbors as ourselves” in a Latino neighborhood in Alexandria, Virginia.

As a faith-based Christian non-profit with a small staff and over 100 volunteers, we serve alongside more than 100 families and their children (1st-12th grades) each week through our community programs.

Learn More

Get Involved

Our relational network of volunteers and donors reflects a diverse group of individuals from all over the Washington, D.C. metro area. As a non-profit, we rely on the community for assisting program directors on-site, being mentors, supplying the needs of our food pantry, and everything in between. Each member of our Casa community holds a unique gift, whether time, talent or treasure.