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SF Volunteer Uses Therapy Dog To Brighten Lives

SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX 5) There is one word that people keep using when describing when Shelley Gottlieb. They call her "phenomenal." KPIX 5 caught up with her and her canine pal Hank at the Jewish Home in San Francisco, a residential health care facility.

Recreation Director Jessica Brodie says many people look forward to their monthly visit with the retired special education teacher and her therapy dog.

"She brings a very friendly face and a great, bubbly personality," Brodie explained.

Gottlieb and Hank also bring smiles to schools and hospitals, and fulfill special requests for comfort.

"We were the last wish for a family with a son who was dying," Gottlieb recalled. "They were getting ready to take off life support."

Besides her service with Hank, Gottlieb also volunteers as a Court-Appointed Special Advocate. As a CASA, Shelley is a mentor and advocate to foster children, who are often abused or neglected.

"It's really about them," she explained. "Them understanding I will do what I can for them."

Gottlieb often goes the extra mile: she once flew to Nebraska and drove a moving truck hundreds of miles to help a teenager from the Bay Area settle into a new residential treatment center.

Before Carla Jordan-Swan adopted her son, Gottlieb was his CASA. He was an angry 13-year-old who'd spent 10 years in foster care. But Jordan-Swan said Gottlieb got to know him and fought to get him into schools that would help him thrive.

"She's just an amazing, outgoing, dynamic person," Jordan-Swan said. "The love she shows for my son is palpable."

CASA program director Erika Dirkse marvels at Gottlieb's deep commitment and compassion for children who are hurting.

"Shelley's phenomenal. She's one of those volunteers you wish you could just coin," Dirkse said.

Gottlieb has also headed the board of directors of the ARC, serving those who are developmentally and intellectually challenged.

So for caring for her community, from SPCA volunteer to children's advocate, this week's Jefferson Award in the Bay Area goes to Shelley Gottlieb.

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