In a world filled with overbooked and hectic schedules, some individuals stand out for their unwavering dedication to positively impacting their communities. Ellie Joos visited Aiken when close friends living in Spartanburg recommended the town to her and her husband. Upon their visit, they were enamored with Downtown Aiken, its rich history and horse district. They returned for a second visit, spent a dazzling New Year’s Eve at the esteemed Willcox Hotel, and knew that Aiken would be their forever home. After working with a local realtor, they found their dream home and moved to Aiken in 2013.
Not long after settling, Ellie knew she wanted to find an avenue to serve her new community. Ellie’s love for animals soon led her to volunteer with FOTAS, Friends of the Animal Shelter, located in Aiken. She began spending time walking dogs at the shelter and offering her skills and boundless compassion to furry friends in need. As she continued to volunteer, her roles included helping with pet food drives, fundraising, organizing and working at adoption events and educating on the importance of spaying and neutering pets. Over the years, she has watched their mission grow and expand to its present-day operations. FOTAS has a 90% save rate, and the staff works diligently with foster families to help prepare animals for their permanent homes.
Ellie especially loves it when kids come in and read to the dogs at the shelter. This beautiful time between children and their furry companions provides a soothing reprieve for the animals and encourages literacy in local students. Her wish for FOTAS is to see more volunteers helping at the shelter, fostering puppies and kittens, and increasing food and monetary donations to support this mission’s impact.
Ellie stayed busy with FOTAS, but a chance meeting at the Aiken Chamber breakfast led to her learning about Joye in Aiken, a nonprofit organization that brings world-class performing artists, musicians, dancers and actors to the community. When Ellie learned about their involvement in local schools to encourage budding young musicians, she knew she wanted to be a part of this musical mission.
Ellie found the skills she acquired from her successful career in public relations would be invaluable to her volunteer work with Joye in Aiken. She found herself working as a production assistant, festival volunteer, social media specialist and as a board member and secretary. Her passion for music truly drove her to support this nonprofit, especially as she witnessed firsthand these high-caliber musicians taking time to perform in local schools and help students refine their skills and gain confidence in their musical abilities. The musicians and artists with Joye in Aiken have impacted over 47,000 kids in our area, and several continue to return year after year to reach the next generation of young musicians. The impact of Joye in Aiken goes beyond music; their commitment to inclusivity is a universal language connecting people of all ages and walks of life who wish to experience world-class art in their hometown.
Ellie’s dedication to animal welfare and passion for spreading the gift of music exemplifies the transformative effect of selfless giving and the belief that everyone has the power to make a difference. Her service reminds us that community involvement comes in many forms. Whether volunteering at an animal shelter, mentoring young musicians or supporting a cause that resonates with you, your actions can inspire others and cause a ripple effect of positive change.
As we celebrate contributions to our community like Ellie’s and organizations like FOTAS and Joye in Aiken, we are reminded that a stronger, more compassionate community is built upon one act of kindness at a time. Ellie’s hope is that we all will be encouraged to find a way to give back and make our community a better place for all.