The Barnes & Noble at Vanderbilt University recently went to the dogs — and that was just fine with the bookstore staff and the students of Vanderbilt University. That’s because the bookstore hosted the Nashville Humane Association and their adoptable pets as part of The Big Payback, a 24-hour campaign to increase philanthropy in the 40 counties served by The Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee. More than 700 people attended the event for an opportunity to cuddle with adorable canines for a great cause.
The partnership between the Humane Association and bookstore was an organic one: John Lasiter, communications manager at the Barnes & Noble at Vanderbilt University bookstore, is a longtime supporter, having gotten involved with the organization after adopting two dogs through them: Maddy, a dachshund mix, and Piper, a basenji mix. No stranger to helping to raise money for its good works, Lasiter served on the planning committee for its annual fundraiser, Unleashed: Dinner with your Dog.
When he heard that the Humane Association needed a host for The Big Payback, it seemed a natural fit, especially because many Vanderbilt students work as volunteers for the organization. “The Humane Association tossed out the idea, and we jumped on it,” Lasiter said.
Always looking for ways to support the local community, the bookstore offered its patio to the organization for the event. “We have a great outdoor space and were able to park the Teddy Wagon right outside of the store,” explained Lasiter. The mobile pet-adoption unit, known as Teddy’s Wagon, travels throughout Davidson County on weekends to raise awareness and encourage adoption of the dogs and puppies in their care. The mobile unit came complete with a meet-and-greet room and a volunteer force of certified pet-adoption volunteers. “It’s big and colorful — like having a billboard — but it also is really helpful for those who can’t come to the center,” explained Nashville Humane Association’ s Kenneth Tallier.
Vanderbilt University students have actively volunteered with the Nashville Humane Association for several years. “We have a great relationship with Vanderbilt students, many of whom volunteer with us,” Tallier said. That relationship extends to fundraising as well. The Vanderbilt chapter of Alpha Tau Omega fraternity presented the Humane Association with a check for $3,600 at the bookstore during the event. “We get a lot of support from this community and this event provided even more exposure for us to let people know who we are and what we do,” Tallier added. “It was great working with the bookstore. They really helped to make this a successful event.”
In addition to Teddy’s Wagon, the Humane Association set up a puppy kissing booth inside the bookstore, offering kisses in exchange for donations. “If students couldn’t adopt, they could support our mission with a canine cuddle and smooch,” Tallier explained with a laugh. Visitors, many of whom learned about the event through the bookstore’s social media channels, flyers and digital publicity boards, ventured further inside the store to shop for books and merchandise, and sample special drink promotions at the bookstore’s café.
“Our Bookstore Manager, Beth Cain, allowed us to go a little out of the box on this one,” said Lasiter. “It turned out to be a huge success and I’m glad she had faith in us and in this partnership. This is something near and dear to me, but it’s also very important to our community and the students of Vanderbilt.”