KEWANEE, Illinois -- BreAnne Busboom, 21, is a voice for homeless cats and dogs at the Kewanee Animal Shelter, 197 S. Fischer Avenue.
She started volunteering there at age 8, turning her love of animals into a caring career as a veterinary technician in Bettendorf.
"In high school, five o'clock in the morning, this is where I was before class," she recalled. "Right after class, I was here again. This is just where I was. This was home to me."
That home - the no-kill shelter - is in the midst of revival under her guidance. These days, she's always on the move.
"That's what I do," she continued. "I'm always on call. I'm always going somewhere, doing something, organizing something."
That's why Dusti Lashbrook nominates her for a "Pay It Forward" award.
"It just amazes me," she said. "She's been out here for 12 years volunteering. She just does a wonderful job with animals."
And that explains why Ascentra Credit Union is stopping by the shelter.
"Dusti, I want to give you this $300 to "Pay It Forward" to BreAnne," said Jennifer Naeve, Ascentra Credit Union. "She's obviously a great example of listening, caring and doing what's right."
Moments later, Dusti makes an emotional presentation to her cousin.
"On behalf of WQAD News Eight and Ascentra Credit Union, here's $300 to 'Pay It Forward.' That's for everything you have done for the community," she said.
Furry shelter residents know that they have a great friend in BreAnne. She speaks for those who can't.
"To be able to know what it means to feel the love of an animal, I mean, it's the gift that keeps on giving," she said.
The shelter needs cash, volunteer support and supplies to continue and thrive. Call (309) 852-0040 or check the Kewanee Animal Shelter's Facebook page to learn more about upcoming events and ways to help.
After going through her most stressful year, battling change and illness, she's making a lot of progress.
Looking ahead, her five year plan includes creating a sanctuary for senior animals.
"As I reflect, it's like we really are making a difference out here," she concluded. "I could not imagine anything different."