SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) -- For the last two decades, San Francisco woman has made it her life's mission to rescue as many animals as possible.
Pali Boucher provides a loving home for every four-legged friend she can through Rocket Dog Rescue Urban Sanctuary in East Oakland.
Board member Christine Garcia-Kelly says Pali has led the nonprofit for 20 years with a selfless, generous heart.
"She'll literally give you the sweater off her back," Garcia-Kelly said. "The generosity goes to people whether you're a friend, homeless person or street dog."
Because Boucher herself was once an underdog.
"I was out there with my mom and my baby brother on the street," Boucher said.
They were homeless. Her mother died when she was 10 years old.
"At that point, I was out on my own," Boucher said,. I was living out of old, abandoned train cars and junkyards on the outskirts of town."
She found peace walking through animal shelters. When she was older, she adopted Leadbelly, a black and tan hound dog about to be euthanized.
That changed everything.
"In taking care of him, I took better care of myself and made better choices," said Boucher. "And that saved my life."
She got clean and sober in rehab and founded Rocket Dog in 2001 in honor of Leadbelly, who died of cancer. With a network of foster parents and volunteers, Rocket Dog provides a peaceful, safe place for animals in danger of being euthanized.
Boucher hopes to wash away the pain of neglected, abused animals the same feeling she knew as a child.
"I look at these animals. That feeling is there. I see it reflected in their eyes. I see their fear," Boucher said.
LEARN MORE: Jefferson Awards for Public Service
In all, she says Rocket Dog has rescued and found homes for more than 13,000 animals. Her mission to provide for homeless, abuse survivors, and others in need resonates with volunteer Randy Scully.
"Somebody in need can knock on the door, ask for a leash, they can ask for a toy, they can ask for food."
Overseas, Rocket Dog also raises funds for rabies vaccines for dogs in the Tanzania, and volunteers support spay and neuter clinics in Puerto Rico.
"This is a life well-lived. How could you do anything better than this?" Boucher smiled.
So for saving thousands of animals and providing them safe, loving homes through Rocket Dog Rescue Urban Sanctuary, this week's Jefferson Award in the Bay Area goes to Pali Boucher.
Note: Boucher is rebuilding Rocket Dog's volunteer base and donations, which she says dropped 85 percent in the pandemic.
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