Location: Clearwater, Fla.
In 2006, after a career change and a divorce, Alicia Smith needed to get out of Detroit. She packed up her bags and her two German Shepherds for sunny Florida. Smith, a senior project manager at Tech Data (No. 107), began volunteering at the local animal shelter, where in the face of the recession, she saw countless families surrender their pets because they couldn’t afford their animals’ medical bills. Then, Smith, herself, received a bill for $500 for a routine medical visit for her two dogs—“Luckily I can afford that, not that I want to,” she says. “But I realized that so many people, like single moms, can’t afford a $500 vet bill.”
In 2012, she founded Canine Care Tampa Bay, a non-profit organization that helps pet owners struggling to pay veterinary bills. Her first client was the owner of a Lhasa Apso named Simon. She had recently lost her job and was having trouble finding money to treat Simon’s skin condition. “Our goal is to get people over the hump,” Smith says. Many of her clients recently lost their jobs or are elderly people on fixed incomes whose pets are their only companions. Since starting Canine Care, Smith has helped 120 dogs and cats stay with their owners and receive the medications they need. “For a lot of our clients, their Chihuahua or Yorkie or Lab is their life,” she says. “All of us go through rough times at some point in our lives, and giving someone hope, that means so much.”