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Local pet owners know Dr. Holly Woltz or “Doc Holly” maybe from her veterinary practice, where she has been looking after Aikens cats and dogs for over 30 years. Others may remember seeing her name in the Aiken Standard, where she wrote funny and insightful columns about life as a veterinarian and pet owner.
But Woltz is also known in the community for her volunteer work and mentoring.
The vet was one of the founders of GEM (Guide, Encourage and Mentor), a group that connects mentors with teenage girls at Aiken High School. Woltz has also given something back to the Aiken community by participating in several committees – currently the Aiken Symphony Orchestra and Hopelands Gardens.
Woltz’s journey to Aikenite began in her hometown of Bethesda, Maryland.
“Bethesda, Maryland is a suburb of DC,” said Woltz on a quiet, muggy afternoon in Hopelands Gardens. “It’s crazy. It’s expensive. There are millions of people and they’re grumpy.”
Growing up, Woltz didn’t know that one day she would become a vet. However, she liked science and medicine. She said she was a “Miss Goody Two-Shoes,” someone who obeys the rules and wants to be good at everything she does.
Her mother and father, who both died, were wonderful role models, said Woltz.
“They were involved in our lives. They helped us, they disciplined us, they suggested things, they were just fabulous,” said Woltz.
When it was time for Woltz to begin her career, she decided to pursue an apprenticeship – one of the few areas in which women typically had jobs at the time, Woltz said. She was also a computer programmer and technical writer.
After all, Woltz was dissatisfied with her job and her life in Bethesda.
“My husband and I had a heart-to-heart conversation … I said, you know, I want to be a vet,” said Woltz. “And bless his heart, he said, ‘Let’s do it.'”
The couple, married for 47 years, moved south, where Woltz began studying at the University of Georgia. She said the people from the south were friendly and hospitable, and the weather was perfect for them. In her free time, she enjoys working in the garden and going to the beach.
Woltz said she was a late bloomer in veterinary medicine and graduated from veterinary school by the age of 35. The process of becoming a veterinarian was not an easy one.
“It took me three times to get to the veterinary school,” said Woltz. “It’s a difficult thing. But I persevered and I had a fabulous career. So if you fail, you learn from it.
In 1987 Woltz bought Veterinary Services from Aiken, where she has been working ever since. The clinic building used to be the PoFolks Restaurant, said Woltz.
“I’m an opinionated, strong person, so I wanted my own practice,” said Woltz.
As a veterinarian, Woltz wears a lot of hats. Compared to human doctors, veterinarians aren’t that specialized – they take care of the care a pet needs. Veterinarians also teach constantly, said Woltz.
Woltz works as a veterinarian with several generations of families. She said the job was compassionate and loving, and she loved helping sick pets get better.
“There is great joy and great sadness, and it’s kind of a roller coaster ride,” said Woltz. “The emotions and commitment that you have with the family and the community … is huge. It is fun. It’s fun, it’s a challenge. You meet great people – and of course grumpy and mean people, but stick to the positive. It’s just fun. “
Woltz mainly works with cats and dogs and has often had colorful stories from their practice for more than 30 years.
A family once brought a bloodhound and complained that the dog jingled when they walked. It turned out that the dog swallowed a couple of Chinese medicine balls – which were successfully removed, Woltz said.
Outside of her veterinary practice, Woltz is a passionate volunteer who strives to give something back to the Aiken community.
Together with Linda Strojan, who was a career counselor at Aiken High at the time, Woltz started the GEM program about 10 years ago. Woltz retired from GEM two years ago, but the program is still active.
GEM connects girls in need of advice with mentors who meet once a month to help them develop a plan for the future and develop basic skills. The group has awarded thousands of dollars in scholarships to the girls in GEM.
Supervising the students is a teaching process, said Woltz.
“Some of these girls don’t know how to dress for an interview, so they put together a résumé,” said Woltz. “Sometimes they don’t know how to say ‘no’. We encourage them. And we tell them our stories. “
The girls in the show sometimes come from broken families, said Woltz. Many of them have extracurricular jobs, a burden that Woltz did not have to compensate in their youth.
GEM had volunteer mentors in a variety of professions, including hairdressers, educators, computer programmers, and engineers.
Seeing the young women make positive decisions about their future is rewarding, said Woltz.
Many of the program’s graduates have attended USC Aiken, USC Salkehatchie, USC Beaufort, Aiken Technical College and Cooking School, and the US military.
Woltz believes that by helping others, by joining a volunteer or philanthropic organization, you can become a better person.
“You should do that. You should help people. It’s easy,” said Woltz.
In her free time, Woltz enjoys reading, gardening, writing, exercising and being in contact with friends and family.
“Being a vet is a wonderful job and I’m really grateful. And I hope that I could touch my patients and customers and show them kindness, and that’s what we should do, “said Woltz nicely.”