Animal Aid of Tulsa’s Longest-Serving Volunteer, Dewey Dean
WRITTEN BY: Lauren Cavagnolo
The phrase “faithful man” was once used in a write-up to describe Mr. Dewey Dean, a bit of an understatement when you learn he is Animal Aid of Tulsa’s longest serving volunteer. Dean is in his 59th year of service and in the last couple of years has joined the executive board.
“The fact that Dewey has been extremely loyal to Animal Aid, has not skipped a beat or a year, has been continuous since the time that he started, it means that you can always rely on him,” said Maxine Mackey, current president of Animal Aid.
The group was founded in 1961 by Helen Dawson with the mission of serving severely sick or injured animals without owners. It wasn’t long before expensive veterinary bills caused the group to seek creative ways to raise funds, according to animalaid.org.
What started as a rummage sale on West Archer soon turned into a thrift store in a shared building with a grocery store. Shortly after, the store relocated to a building on East Admiral across from Rose Hill Cemetery.
Dean’s mother was first involved with Animal Aid, though he says he can’t recall how she got started. Dean says he was “old enough to drive a car, probably 20-[years-old]” when he began volunteering with Animal Aid, but he isn’t exactly sure.
“I don’t even know how old my cat is. I don’t care how old anybody is. I don’t ask people how old they are, and I don’t know why they ask me,” he chuckled.
“I got involved shortly after [the store] moved to Admiral there behind the fire station. On my way to work, I went right past the bank that they were using at that time; it was Admiral State Bank, and they didn’t have anybody to deposit the money. So I said, well, I can do that as I go to work,” Dean said.
The store relocated a few more times before settling in its current building at 3307 E. 15th St. in the year 2000. And as far as Dean is concerned, “that’s kind of the whole story, and I’ve been doing it ever since.”
However, it is clear Dean’s role has evolved to become much more than simply making deposits. Over the years, Dean has taken on a range of tasks from building maintenance and repair to serving on the executive board and acting as a historian for the group.
He remembers each of the former building locations of the Animal Aid thrift store and details about the various presidents, board members and volunteers through the years.
“He’s got them all in his head; he’s never written any of them down,” Mackey said. “He never will sit down and tell you stories. You have to ask him. He’s a character.”
Though the store has been closed since mid-March due to COVID-19, Dean continues to check on the thrift store nightly to make sure everything is in order and make deposits for the store.
“We’re closed technically, even though we have our garage sales. So we’re still bringing in some little bit of money that needs to be deposited. And even when there is no money, he still comes almost every night around a certain time to check on the building continuously. And I think he does that out of commitment and loyalty to Animal Aid,” Mackey said. “He’s in there enough to look around to report to me, to let me know if everything’s fine; you know, the air is going properly, or the heating or electricity is on, just double-checking things.”
Dean has also tracked the sales of the thrift store, recording the daily deposit amount in calendars.
“Over the years, he has always taken a calendar and documented how much sales the store made, and that’s his way of reporting the sales to us when we have our meetings. One day, I was cleaning up and organizing, and I came across all of his calendars. Some of them went back to the late 1970s, and I didn’t dare throw those away,” Mackey shared. “So I left them all together, I put them in numerical order, and I put them in a file cabinet that he knows where everything is. And to this day, he still writes down the sales on the calendar.”
Dean says the organization has remained true to its mission over the years, making a difference in the lives of homeless animals in the Tulsa community.
“Everything is a lot better now than it used to be. Not as many animals up for adoption as there used to be, keeping that cleared out,” Dean said. “I don’t have anything to do with that. I’m too tenderhearted, I guess. I don’t want to see sick or injured animals.”
Dean says he has one cat of his own, Little Two.
“I had a cat called Little One, and she died. I adopted this cat I’ve got now, and some friends said, ‘Just name this one Little Two because the two cats look alike.’ She’s my buddy; she waits for me when I come home.”
Much like Dean, Mackey says the customers and supporters of the Animal Aid Thrift Store have remained loyal, helping them to stay afloat during the current pandemic.
“Over the years, because we have continued the thrift store since that time, we have developed a family. People are very committed to us and loyal. They come not because we are one in the same as any other thrift store, they come because they care for our mission,” Mackey said. “They want to help out with the dogs and cats, and they have grown committed and have a relationship with us. It makes it feel very special.”
The thrift store is currently open for curbside pickup and is hosting outdoor garage sales twice a week. You can view items for sale on Facebook by joining the group Animal Aid Online Thrift Market. For more information, visit animalaid.org or Animal Aid of Tulsa on Facebook.
Animal Aid Thrift Store
Online Market Pickup Hours
8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesday to Saturday
Donation Drop Off Hours
8:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Thursdays and Saturdays
Outdoor Garage Sales
8:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Tuesdays and Fridays