LANCASTER, S.C. — Coworkers and family say when you call Mikala Steele on the phone you can't tell whether she's at home or out with the animals of Lancaster SPCA -- because in the background of both locations you'll hear several cats and dogs.
"She wears her heart on her sleeve, you can tell how much she cares," Lancaster SPCA board member Karen Nichols told WCNC. "It just kind of oozes out of every pore. She really has a heart for it."
On what was arguably one of the hottest August days of the Summer, Nichols and many of Steele's friends and loved ones gathered outside of the Lancaster Animal Shelter building to celebrate Steele as a Hyundai Hometown Hero. Nichols nominated Steele, who is a volunteer with the Lancaster SPCA, for the surprise to win a 2021 Hyundai Santa Fe in recognition of her volunteer work and the time given to save hundreds of cats and dogs in Lancaster County.
"Mikala is amazing. I mean she devotes so much time and energy to saving the animals and the county's a better place for having her doing that," Nichols said.
Just the day before, Lancaster SPCA took in 15 dogs in less than 24 hours -- something Lancaster County Animal Shelter director Alan Williams said wouldn't have been possible without Steele's perseverance.
"She's just the type of person that we really depend on," Williams explained. "Really I think sometimes we may depend on her too much because we'll just call her, and we stress her out."
When WCNC Charlotte and the Charlotte area Hyundai dealers unveiled the new car, Steele became overwhelmed with emotion and started to cry, thinking it was a joke at first.
"Are you serious?" she asked. "Oh my God! Are you serious? I don't know what to say! Am I being pranked?"
According to her peers, no one else is more deserving. After spending an afternoon with Steele it seems no one else loves the animals more.
"Oh my gosh they are my life," she said, "I just love them so much. Just ask my family. I've sacrificed so much time to care for them here."
Contact Fred Shropshire at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.