Alaqua Animal Refuge founder Laurie Hood wanted to pay it forward in the best way possible after finding out her organization had received a grant to purchase a new vehicle.

FORT WALTON BEACH — It didn’t take Laurie Hood long to figure out what the next move would be after her Freeport-based Alaqua Animal Refuge recently received a grant to purchase a new vehicle.


She wanted to pay it forward. And she knew exactly how to do it.


Wednesday, Hood and the Alaqua Animal Refuge donated their used transport van to the Panhandle Animal Welfare Society (PAWS) at Preston Hood Chevrolet. The van came with new tires, an oil change, transmission work and a new bumper compliments of Hood and her husband, Taylor Hood.


PAWS Executive Director Dee Thompson was on hand to accept the keys and the title for the van, which has two front seats and an empty cargo space to secure crates to transport animals.


“This is so big for us, so important for us,” Thompson said. “Laurie just called out of the blue and said they had a van to donate to the shelter … and they did all this stuff to get it ready for us to use as well. When we try to transport animals to events or when we try to take them to foster families or rescue families, we can put up to 10 to 12 animals in there instead of just one animal in one of our personal vehicles.


“Or in the event where we have to go somewhere to pick up a lot of animals at once, this just really helps us to have another vehicle to use for that type of situation.”


That it happened around the holidays was just icing on the cake for Laurie, who founded Alaqua in 2007. According to its website, Alaqua has found homes for approximately 15,000 animals since it opened its doors.


“We appreciate what PAWS does so much and we’ve worked closely with them for years,” Laurie said. “We love what Dee and their team do on a daily basis, and we see how many animals they’re required to take in … it was an honor to do that for them. It’s a good feeling to help pay it forward to somewhere you know really deserves it and I hope they get a lot of good use out of (the van).”