Personality: Lucia Medek
Spotlight on co-founder and president of Salem’s Light
4/28/2022, 6 p.m.
A chance encounter led Lucia Medek to take up the cause of animal advocacy in Richmond in a major way.
Ms. Medek discovered a pit bull-type dog living chained up in a backyard a few blocks from her house. The dog had limited shelter and was underfed. Unable to stand the conditions he lived in, Ms. Medek would sneak into the yard to feed him periodically.
Eventually, Ms. Medek managed to get the dog out of that yard with the help of local rescue groups and animal control. The dog, whom she renamed Salem, lived the rest of his life in comfort with Ms. Medek before dying at age 7 from an aggressive form of cancer.
The experience, Ms. Medek says, left her with an awareness of the poor conditions some pets live under that she became committed to addressing.
“This experience opened my eyes to the fact that countless animals were living in my city, lonely and suffering, hidden away from view with little to no help available to them,” Ms. Medek says. “We use Salem’s story and his inspiration to be ‘light in the dark’ for animals that are suffering due to lack of care.”
The lack of care usually is due to owners not having the resources to provide the basics for their pets, including supplies, shelter and medical care, which can be costly.
That’s where Salem’s Light, the nonprofit Ms. Medek co-founded in 2019, comes in. The organization works to build a network of community resources for pet owners, from low-cost veterinary care to free supplies such as food, collars and dog houses.
The goal is to improve the lives of animals through community outreach, education, advocacy and proactive spaying and neutering.
Ms. Medek believes the experience of having a pet and building a relationship with a four-legged member of the family is a deeply valuable one.
Pets, she says, “are the true meaning of unconditional love. Animals live in the moment. They don’t worry about what happened yesterday, hold grudges or worry what tomorrow brings. We can learn a lot from that.”
While the pandemic has left Salem’s Light unable to host many community events, Ms. Medek remains hopeful that the nonprofit will be able to provide vaccine clinics and similar outreach programs in the future. In the meantime, the organization continues its work, with volunteers coordinating advocacy and education efforts and community donations used to fund veterinary care and the building of dog houses.
Ms. Medek has several adopted pets and foster animals in her care. They provide her with a sense of love and companionship that she says is comforting and motivating in her life and work.
“They remind me tomorrow is a new day, no matter how wonderful or horrible the current one is, that another is coming and that I need to live it to the fullest,” she says.
Meet a friend and advocate for mankind’s best friends and this week’s Personality, Lucia Medek:
No. 1 volunteer position: Co-founder and president of Salem’s Light.
Occupation: Registered nurse.
Date and place of birth: Aug. 22 in Bratislava, Czechoslovakia (now Slovakia).
Where I live now: Richmond.
Education: Bachelor of science degree in nursing.
Salem’s Light is: A 501(c)(3) nonprofit with the mission of improving the lives of animals through community outreach, education, advocacy and proactive spaying and neutering.
When and where founded: Founded in 2019 in Richmond.
Co-Founder: Clair Tetrick.
Salem’s story: I found Salem accidently. He was living at the end of a heavy logging chain attached to an old jukebox in a dusty, dirty backyard a few blocks from my house with no shelter, food or water. I just could not forget about him. I used to sneak into the yard to feed him and bring him presents. It took me more than a year to get him out of there, with the help of local rescue groups and animal control. Salem became “my little buffalo” and lived the rest of his life with me in my home, on a soft bed, loved, warm, dry and fed. He had doggie buddies and hiked the trails around the James River. Salem passed away from an aggressive cancer at age 7, and I am convinced it was, in part, due to lack of care during the first few years of his life. This experience opened my eyes to the fact that countless animals were living in my city, lonely and suffering, hidden away from view with little to no help available to them.
How Salem is still inspirational: We use Salem’s story and his inspiration to be “light in the dark” for animals that are suffering due to lack of care. This can be due to intentional mistreatment or, more often, owners that lack resources to provide basic supplies, shelter and/or medical care to their owned and loved companion animals.
Salem’s Light and community outreach: We use a “boots on the ground” approach by going into and working directly with our community to identify needs and make contact with animals in need and their owners.
No. 1 goal or project for Salem’s Light: To alleviate the suffering of unwanted and/or improperly cared for companion animals.
Strategy for achieving goal: Outreach, education, advocacy and spay and neuter.
Top three areas to educate pet owners: The reasons to spay and neuter companion animals; the importance of proactive health care, such as vaccinations, heartworm, flea and tick prevention and proper nutritional intake for companion animals; and the need for adequate shelter throughout the seasons.
Resources Salem’s Light provides: Funding of spay and neuter surgeries; assistance with veterinary care; assistance with proper, safe sheltering by building dog houses or offering crates to bring animals inside; supplying basic supplies such as food, toys, collars and leashes; adoption information and assistance; and education via media outlets or speaking/presentations to schools and the community.
Why pet ownership is not for everyone: Companion animals require money for proper care and time. We need to educate ourselves on the responsibilities of pet ownership. During different phases of our lives, we may not have the space or ability to care for certain types of animals. A large, young, working breed dog needs to be exercised and be in a home that has space. An apartment may not always be the best fit in this situation. Rentals or homeowner associations may have restrictions on breeds or sizes. Animals need and thrive on companionship, and working often out of town or long hours can make this difficult. Small children must be monitored with animals both for the safety of the pet and that of the child. Animals need food, toys, beds, leashes, collars, vaccinations and at times emergency care, among other things. We need to be prepared for those costs to keep our animals happy, healthy and safe.
Pets are irreplaceable because: They are the true meaning of unconditional love. Many studies have shown the positive effects on mental and physical health. Animals live in the moment. They don’t worry about what happened yesterday, hold grudges or worry what tomorrow brings. We can learn a lot from that.
Salem’s Light partners with: Local animal welfare groups, local municipal shelters, low cost spay and neuter clinics, veterinarians, schools, businesses and anyone who shares in our beliefs and has the desire to improve the lives of the animals in our communities.
Ways to become involved with Salem’s Light: We depend on volunteers for our community-based initiatives. Opportunities for involvement include outreach initiatives, vaccine clinics, advocacy and education efforts and administrative support. Donations of supplies such as dog and cat food, leashes, collars, toys and blankets always are needed and welcome, along with monetary donations that will fund veterinary care and the building of dog houses.
A perfect day for me: Knowing we have helped an animal stay in a home with their lov- ing owners after they feared they may not be able to keep their pet because of a lack of a resources. Sometimes it is as simple as fixing a hole in a fence or suppling food or vac- cines after an owner has found themselves dealing with a sud- den financial hardship.
What I am learning about myself during the pandemic: Being a hermit is enjoyable sometimes.
Names of my fur babies and the unconditional support I receive daily: Where do I start? Demi, Zucchini, Gilbert and Willa are my own dogs, and Ernest, Baloo, Nigel, Bucky and Chico are my foster pups. They make me laugh every day. They know when I’m sad or anxious and just need a snuggle, kiss or warm, furry body next to me. They get me up and moving, even on the days I would rather not. They teach me responsibility, forgiveness, unconditional love and kindness. They remind me tomorrow is a new day, no matter how wonderful or horrible the current one is, that another is coming and that I need to live it to the fullest because we never know how many more we have to be together.
Something I love to do that most people would never imagine: Sew.
Quote that inspires me: “Men have forgotten this truth, but you must not forget it. You become responsible, forever, for what you have tamed.”
Friends describe me as: The unluckiest lucky person in the world.
At the top of my “to-do” list: To be sitting in the cool, salty water of the ocean.
Best late-night snack: I must be craving salt because the only thing that comes to mind is sea salt and vinegar kettle chips.
Person who influenced me the most: My little sister. Life recently dealt her a hand that would have taken many down. She never had a doubt in her mind that she was going to make it through. The power of positive thinking and a refusal to be knocked down.
Book that influenced me the most: “The Little Prince” by Antoine de Saint-Exupréy.
What I’m reading now: Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association: 7th Edition by The American Psychological Association.
Next goal: Finish grad school!