Humane Society of South Mississippi wins contest and $10,000

The voting ended Sunday at midnight and volunteer Wendy Kennedy won $10,000 for the Humane Society of South Mississippi.

Kennedy finished second in the voting for the national Hill's Pet Nutrition Shelter Hero contest. The top five finishers all receive $10,000 said Maren Slay, marketing specialist for the local Humane Society.

"We're so excited," she said. "We've been monitoring the voting all week, We've been addicted to our phones and computers."

Carla Gerrard of the Pearl River County SPCA also was one of the five winners in the contest.

Kennedy has volunteered at the animal shelter for four years and is one of hundreds who volunteer.

"She first came here when she came to adopt a dog -- and never left," Slay said. A retired veteran, she now spends hours every day at the shelter.

She began photographing dogs and cats to help get them adopted through better exposure on the website and social media.

"It did not take long for Wendy to discover and plan new ways to improve the shelter environment in which she found herself immersed," her nomination for the contest said. "Often, volunteers can be discouraged by the financial constraints of a nonprofit organization, but she refused to allow a lack of funding to discourage her. Rather than accepting her situation, Wendy made it her goal to create and fund programs throughout the shelter. She has directly impacted the lives of thousands of homeless shelter pets through her own life-saving programs."

Slay said several people at the shelter received emails about the Hill's Pet contest and Kennedy was their choice to represent the local Humane Society. Following Kennedy around to shoot the video gave her an insight into all she does, from caring for the pets to fundraising.

The $10,000 will go into the general fund to cover daily costs, but Slay said winning is more than the money.

"It's nice to be able to recognize a volunteer like that on such a large scale," she said.

Kennedy's achievement may inspire others to volunteer, and Slay said orientation programs are held frequently. Those who want to volunteer can call 863-3354, ext. 3816, or email or register on the website at