While ICAN has more than 200 volunteers dedicated to serving our mission, only a few gift us their time and talent AND work full time alongside our incarcerated trainers at our local correctional facilities.
One of those special individuals is Erin Silha, an ICAN furlough volunteer, puppy raiser, and Community Engagement Coordinator at Pendleton Correctional Facility (PCF).
Erin began her story with ICAN as an intern at PCF, where she was often asked to assist the inmate trainers practice calm and focused greetings with their dogs. In a men’s prison, there aren’t many females for the canines to interact with, so, eventually, Erin became their go-to helper.
It was this experience that made Erin realize she wanted to build her career around helping incarcerated individuals better themselves. And one way she was determined to do that was by continuing to work with ICAN.
Fast forward a few years later, Erin transformed her internship into a full-time gig and now helps inmates find purpose and hope every day through rehabilitation programming—one of which is ICAN.
“I just love ICAN. It’s my pride and joy,” she said.
Eventually, Erin took her passion for ICAN a step further and in 2022, became a volunteer furlougher and puppy raiser.
As a volunteer, Erin goes to work with her service dogs in training, just as many of our volunteers do. But only Erin has the unique opportunity to have 30 mentors in the handlers daily.
And by working directly alongside the incarcerated trainers, Erin learned early on in her career that “these guys are just people.”
Her dual roles also shine a positive light on prison and rehabilitation.
“It’s a humanizing organization,” she said. “One day, these guys are going to get out, and they will be our neighbors, our coworkers. There’s no reason not to want to make them the best possible version of themselves.”
Currently, Erin has furloughed five ICAN dogs and raised one puppy, ICAN Lima.
Puppy raising is her favorite though because she enjoys having hands-on experience with the dogs, teaching foundational skills, and seeing them grow and learn.
“It is a lot of work, but it is worth it. And you learn so much,” Erin said.” But best of all, “ICAN is just something good to be a part of. I’m grateful every day.”
You too can make a difference in the lives of Hoosiers like Erin by training a dog for someone in need. If you’d like to help unleash possibilities, contact ICAN Volunteer and Education Manager Julie Mathias at email@example.com.