Grace Hamlin – The W-Underdogs

I interviewed Grace Hamlin who started the organization W-Underdogs in Atlanta.

What do you do?

Gangs and stray animals are 2 of the biggest problems in our area of Atlanta. The kids that live on the streets here grow up with gangs and guns and believe that is normal. The stray dog population is extremely high in Fulton County. The county shelter was designed to hold 80 dogs and it is regularly overcrowded to the point of 400 dogs. The W-Underdogs tries to incorporate kids, animals, community and the world. I am a Veteran, focused on helping kids to stay out of gangs and instead focus their energy on helping the many stray animals roaming around our communities. A lot of the children I work with don’t have parents and are vulnerable. I teach them accountability and show them how they can be heroes in their own story. They rescue and take care of animals and build dog houses. I teach them how to become advocates for animal welfare and do work to change the community they live in for the better.

How many kids are involved and what do they do?

I have 5 teenagers who are the leaders (W-Underdogs) and 7 to 10 younger kids (Underdogs) involved. You become a W-Underdog when you start saving dogs and learn discipline, responsibility and own your mistakes. During the Summer I have up to 14 kids. They do a lot of caring for, bathing and walking dogs and cats.

How many dogs and cats have you rescued?

About 300 dogs and over 60 cats. That’s not bad for 10 kids!

You don’t have to be a “rescue” to rescue dogs. It is a mindset. This program teaches kids to do the right thing.

What do you do on a normal day?

We start early and let the dogs we are currently caring for out on a 15 minute rotations. Days have many interesting challenges. We recently managed to rescue a senior dog that took us on a 3 mile chase around the neighborhood. We also build and deliver dog houses where needed. We work with the Fulton County Animal Cruelty Liaison who puts us in touch with people in the neighborhood who need dog housing and fencing to keep their animals in. We help with putting up fencing and building dog houses.

How do you find the kids to help you?

My teenage group were 6 to 8 years old when I found them being harassed by gang members. I started working with them then. They bring others in to help now.

Why did you start this project?

 In 2013 I was injured on the job. I couldn’t care for my animals. I found some kids in the neighborhood that were being harassed by gang members and got them to help me.

What is a story that you like to tell?

 These kids are amazing. They teach us that anything is possible. Why are we waiting for tomorrow when these kids are showing us what we can do today. You’ve got to engage kids in the solutions. Especially in this area where the social problems caused by drugs, gangs and guns are just so great.

How can I help you?

We need dog houses and materials to build them. Fencing over 5 feet, toys, food, leashes and supplies. Please visit our site www.w-underdogs.org for more information.

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