We had the good fortune of connecting with Susan and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Susan, what role has risk played in your life or career?
I’ve always been a risk taker. Most of the jobs I have held have been jobs that I have created, either within an organization, or on my own. Canine CellMates was not different – it was a risky venture, but one that has been hugely rewarding!
What should our readers know about your business?
I am Executive and Founding Director of Canine CellMates. I think one thing that sets me apart of is my widely varied professional background. I was in the military, I managed health clubs in the DC area, I ran the marketing department for the largest Steelcase dealership in the SE for 7 years and an insurance MGA, I worked as a consultant doing accounting work and I was a business owner for 10 years. I think that all of these brought me skill sets and experience that I have used in the conception of, founding of, and running of this unique program. Canine CellMates has been running inside Fulton County Jail for 7+ years now. It was a very difficult program to put place, and grow, inside of one of the largest jails in the southeast, because it was very far outside the culture that existed there. We have overcome many obstacles in the last 7 years, and are proud to be partnered with Fulton County Jail and Fulton County Sheriff’s Department in bringing the opportunity for positive change to so many men since we started. The unexpected gift of this program is the opportunity to know, and love these men. I knew that I would fall in love with every dog that we brought into this program – I did not know that I would love these men. I think that love is the factor, outside of the love of the dogs, that differentiates our program from most other rehabilitative programs. These men understand that they are loved by the volunteers who spend time inside the jail, and for many, that is what brings about the desire for change, and the ability to open their minds and hearts to possibilities for something different.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
If my best friend were visiting,I would take them to see the skyline of Atlanta from some of the best vantage points – coming in from the west side of Atlanta on I20,and coming down Marietta on the west side of Atlanta. I would take them to Stone Mountain to hike to the top, and to the Botanical Gardens to see the beauty. I would take them to Lake Oconee to ride jet skis, and paddle board, and see the amazing sunsets. Most importantly, I think I would bring them to the jail, to the Canine CellMates program, in the hopes that they can see the magic that I see happening there.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
Chief Mark Adger and Sheriff Jackson – for being “outside the box” thinkers, and being open to the possibilites of a program like this inside the walls of Fulton County Jail! We could not have done it without their support.
Kelly Kline Photography Blair Devereaux