Volunteers are Vital!
About five years ago, I was invited to sit on a panel at a conference of humane organizations in Virginia. I was one of six panel members to discuss the challenges shelters face. At the start of the session, we were asked to give an overview of our organization. The first woman said her shelter was very busy, taking in about 2,500 animals each year with a small staff of 15 employees and about that many volunteers, on a budget of about $1 million. The audience gasped, wondering how that many animals could be handled in a year. The next director said they take in about 3,000 animals, with a staff of 35 and about 45 volunteers, on a budget of $2 million. Again, audience members were appalled about the number of animals. I heard comments like, “How can they take care of that many animals?”
Each director said they operate the shelter, and do no rescues, investigations, or any work other than taking care of shelter animals.
Down the line the introductions went, until it was my turn. When I said we take in 5,500 animals with a staff of six and a small number of volunteers (we’ve expanded since then), with a budget of $250,000, people could not believe it. Then, when I added that we do conduct investigations, our employees do assist with rescues and picking up hurt, injured, or unwanted animals, the audience clapped. The board president and I went home feeling that our employees should be applauded for working the miracles they do each day. We also realized that our volunteer program needed to be expanded.
Since that time, we have come to rely even more heavily on volunteers. Volunteers walk dogs, bathe them, let cats and kittens have play time outside of the cages. Others help with fundraising. We had one volunteer who, until her husband became ill, came every Thursday and helped with the laundry. Other volunteers love to help with our off-site (and on-site) adoption fairs. One young man helps empty trashcans.
Our board president, Lynn Shelton, leads by example by volunteering over 1,200 hours each year. The shelter manager, April Hogan, and assistant manager, Lisa Hannaford, volunteer their time off to help with adoption fairs and fundraising events. In fact, through the years, most of the employees have been willing to donate time to help the animals.
Volunteering for the animals is truly an act of love, and gives the animals an even greater chance of being adopted. We currently have need of more volunteers to help with taking pictures for Facebook, transporting puppies to Martinsville, and helping us raise money.
We have a volunteer orientation the last Wednesday of each month at 4:00 at the shelter. This brief session introduces volunteers to our policies and procedures, as well as volunteer guidelines. We would love to have your help!