Friday, April 15, 2011

Go. Do.

This is National Volunteer Week. I know because there's a big sign out in front of the shelter announcing the fact and thanking their volunteers. There are cookies and brownies in the staff kitchen and we all got a great e-mail from the staff talking about what a great job we're doing.

And I'd have to agree. Our shelter would close without our volunteers. Like all non-profits, there's just not enough money to pay for the staff necessary to keep us up and running. At our shelter we never turn away healthy animals. And 100% of our adoptable pets get adopted. We will keep them fed, housed, and loved until they find homes. It may take months or, sadly, in some cases years. But we'll get them there.

None of which could happen without people willing to work their butts off for no pay, just because they love animals.

I've worked in a lot of non-profits over the years, mostly doing AIDS work. And I know just how important it is that there are people who volunteer. And I'm proud to be one of them. I miss earning a salary. And I hate knowing that my lack of a job means Husband has to work harder and we have to live with less. But knowing that I'm doing something, however small, for the good makes me wickedly happy.

I urge all of you to find a cause close to your heart and give of your time. You don't need to give tons of time. At the shelter we ask for only 2-hours a week. Most organizations would be happy with that. And the opportunities are endless. You can use your personal skills: got a way with words? Volunteer to work on a local non-profit's newsletter. Like to work with your hands? There's probably a Habitat for Humanity build going on near you. Or just go with your heart and do what needs to be done. You can even just sign on for a one-day project. Signing in walkers at a local charity fundraiser. Serving meals at a local food bank.

Don't want to make a commitment? Then just do something good. Take a garbage bag to your favorite park and clean up trash. Clean out your closets and take the extras to the Salvation Army. No time? Write a check. Just one. For the cost of a pizza you can feed a child, a senior, or a litter of kittens for a week.

People probably think I'm insane for quitting a 6-figure job as a manager at Apple to work for no money cleaning out cat kennels. And maybe I am. But I'm happy I did it. I'm happy knowing I'm making a difference for the better. OK, I'm not Nobel Peace Prize good, but I do what I can and I get so much more out of it than I put in. It's more rewarding than anything I've done. And while it's not like I needed a reason to love Husband more than I do, I'm grateful beyond words that he's willing to support us while I do what I love.


Duke said...

Well said Decca.

I wish we had a shelter like yours. Our tax supported shelter kills everything that moves. If it isn't a kitten or puppy it won't last a week. Older animals are put down almost immediately since they know it's hopeless finding a home in a couple of days. It's the same old story of no money, no space, and no staff plus the shelter is the first item cut when the budget gets tight.

We have a few non-profit places that don't kill but they are mostly run from someone's home and not professional. They are also crammed with animals and won't take any new ones. You can't get them to talk to you or return your calls.

Our only option here is the main shelter although it's a automatic death sentence. A sad situation.

Decca said...

I couldn't work at a shelter that routinely put animals down. Too hard. We do euthanize if the animal is sick or if the behavior problems are so bad there's no chance of adoption. But even there we try everything first. Special training. Foster care. Extra socialization and special exercises.

We lose a few litters out of the kitten nursery each summer -- mostly to feline leukemia which has no cure. It hurts to lose any animal. We all get attached to our shelter critters so I think volunteerism would drop off dramatically if you kept coming in to find some sweet 10 year old cat had been put down only because she'd been there 6 months with no takers.

We'll keep them as long as needed and keep giving them love. And they'll keep giving it back.