Pay It Forward: Warren County teen gives time, love to homeless animals

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HAWK POINT, MO (KPLR) - A Warren County girl,who loves animals so much that she spends her birthdays at a pet shelter, is our Pay It Forward Recipient for February.

Britney Gifford has just turned 13. For the past four birthdays, the Warrenton, MO, girl has refused gifts for herself. Instead she asks that donations be made to the PALS no-kill pet shelter in Hawk Point. Katie Ulibarri nominated Britney for FOX 2's Pay It Forward award, but she couldn’t be part of the surprise presentation of a $500 gift card from First Bank due to an illness. So Chad Ryberg, Britney's youth group leader from Living Word Lutheran Church in Lake St. Louis, did the honors.

"Hey Britney. On behalf of FOX 2 and First Bank, we want to present you with a $500 gift card for all that you do with PALS and everything. So here you go. Thank you."

Britney said, “It’s pretty crazy. I never thought that what I could do could be recognized. I was just doing what I love to do, help others and help animals."

Britney volunteers at the shelter once a week. She does everything from filling water bowls to mopping the floors, whatever needs to be done.

"I think it’s amazing work that she does here. She's actually brought other kids here to work and show her love and compassion for these animals," Chad Ryberg told Fox 2's Dan Gray.

Every year around her birthday, Britney prints fliers asking for donations for the shelter. She sets up three drop off locations and collects and delivers dozens of bags of pet food, toys, and supplies to the 501(c)(3) charity.

"I've always had a soft spot for animals. Just the thought of them being out on the streets or without a home or a loving family, it kind of just broke my heart,” said Britany.

Britney wants to be veterinarian. Her education already has begun with her shelter volunteering and taking care of her own pets.

"I have four cats, two dogs, eight chickens, four fish, and two turtles," the new teenager said.

The PALS pet shelter is a two person operation so Britney's weekly visits are critical to the manager and her staff.

Manager Carrie Walton said, "It’s a huge relief for us because we know they're being well taken care of on the other side when I'm dealing with the dogs and the sick animals in the back."

Another surprise during our visit came when the shelter manager gave Britney a birthday cake and a gift. The teenager says she would like to use the $500 to support the shelter and pay for training for her lab puppy to become a service dog for special needs children.

"Adopting a cat or a dog is just pure happiness," Britney said.

Our Pay It Forward award is brought to you by First Bank. If you would like to nominate a deserving person for the award, visit the Pay It Forward page at FOX2now.com.