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Arnold volunteer helps give animals chance to live

Orphaned animals are fortunate to have Stacy Berkoben on their side.

Berkoben of Arnold is the winner of the 2011 Direct Energy and Trib Total Media Pittsburgh Volunteer Citizen Award for her work with Animal Protectors of Allegheny Valley, a New Kensington animal shelter.

"There are no words to express how happy I am," said Berkoben, 40. She will receive $1,000, and Animal Protectors will get a $5,000 donation.

Berkoben will be honored at 2 p.m. Feb. 10 at the StrongLand Chamber of Commerce HOMEXPO in the Pittsburgh Mills mall in Frazer.

For more than a year, Berkoben has been working to raise money for the shelter by selling raffle tickets, representing the shelter at local events, and making and selling animal beds, toys and clothing, according to Pat Presutti, a member of the shelter's board.

"She's brought in so much money for us, in so many ways," said Presutti of Springdale, who nominated Berkoben for the award. "The fact that she can make time to do this with her work schedule is amazing."

Berkoben, a saleswoman at Jo-Ann Fabrics & Crafts in Lower Burrell, handmakes all of the animal products she sells and donates every dollar to the shelter, Presutti said.

"If she charges $20 for a pet bed, all $20 of the sale comes to us," he said. "She doesn't even get reimbursed for the material."

Berkoben said she likes to help the shelter because of what it teaches.

"We're a no-kill shelter, and there aren't many of those around," she said. "The amount of animals we are able to get adopted, combined with the fact that we're a no-kill shelter and teach about spaying and neutering really makes it worthwhile."

Lindsay Berdell, director of promotions and marketing for Trib Total Media and a judge for the contest, said Berkoben's dedication set her apart from many other nominated volunteers.

"Stacy's touching story, partnered with her unwavering commitment to helping give animals a chance at life they might not otherwise have, really makes her a valuable asset to our community," Berdell said.

Cory Byzewski, vice president and general manager of Direct Energy, said he was impressed with Berkoben's desire to help the shelter.

"Stacy's dedication and support for a shelter that does not receive state or federal funding truly is remarkable," he said.

Berkoben, who owns a dog and three cats that she rescued from the shelter, said her drive to volunteer comes from her love for animals.

"You just can't help but fall in love with them," she said. "That's probably why I have four (animals) of my own."

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