Springtime is usually a very exciting time for volunteering at Animal Friends with an increase in the number of volunteers who are taking advantage of the nicer weather and longer days to come and spend some time with our animal residents.
As the spring and summer months arrive, we offer educational opportunities, training activities and special events that ensure our campus is bustling with activity. At Animal Friends, we rely on our volunteers to share their time and talents in so many ways and we look forward to recognizing their hard work with special activities like Volunteer Appreciation Week where we show thanks for everything our volunteers do to support our lifesaving mission.
But this year, spring took on a very different look. An event that was circled on our calendar – the annual Volunteer Appreciation Dinner – was put on hold and we shifted our focus to the health and safety of our dedicated volunteers and staff.
To help flatten the curve and limit the spread of COVID-19 in our community, we had to ask many of our volunteers to simply stay home. Our goal was to limit the number of people on our campus in order to reduce the potential spread of the virus among our helpers. We knew that our volunteers wanted nothing more than to be spending time with their favorite dogs, cats and rabbits, but if everyone became ill, there would be nobody to care for the animals!
As days turned to weeks, we continued to receive letters, calls and emails from new and long-term volunteers alike asking how they could help. Some made handsewn masks at home while others collected donations for our Chow Wagon Pet Food Bank and helped with fundraising. Dozens upon dozens of others stepped up and opened their homes to foster animals – even further reducing the number of animal handlers on our campus. As an added bonus, this time away from the kennels gave the animals a well-deserved break from the daily stress of a shelter environment while they waited to be adopted!
Even with all of these efforts in place, there was still a need for volunteers to be on campus supporting our lifesaving work and providing direct care to the animals who remained on-site. So, our animal handlers worked together with staff to create teams that would work opposite schedules. This was another way to limit interactions between volunteers and ensured that each of the animals would continue to receive the care they needed. Some volunteers took their commitment a step further to organize and coordinate their peers and to communicate information so that the newest health and safety protocols were followed.
Our volunteers are involved in every single part of our lifesaving mission at Animal Friends. Their dedication is always on full display – and it has been especially clear as we navigate this crisis together. Thanks to our volunteers, Animal Friends continues to weather the storm while making every effort to keep each member of our team safe and healthy.
We look forward to the day where we can all be together to celebrate, but until then we want to say thank you to our helpers.