Thursday, November 26, 2015

Volunteer Appreciation: Cliff

Happy Thanksgiving! Berkeley Humane is grateful for so much: the support of our wonderful community, the chance to help adoptable animals, dedicated staff who love what they do, and amazing volunteers who help us fulfill our mission. Today we'd like to give thanks to a special volunteer: Cliff.

Two years ago, Cliff and his wife dropped by Berkeley Humane for an event and ran into their friend and Berkeley Humane volunteer, Romy walking a dog as a “canine friend”. Cliff had a lifetime of experience with dogs, he and his wife having welcomed seven rescues into their family over the years. Cliff had trained dogs and knew his way around their behaviors. Talking to Romy about her experiences with Berkeley Humane, he thought he’d found the perfect new opportunity for himself after a thirty-plus year career as a building contractor—working as a Berkeley Humane volunteer.

Cliff signed up and attended a volunteer orientation session. What he remembers from that first meeting was the bathroom. He’d gotten a glimpse of it during the facility tour and could see that the room was in desperate need of help, so far gone that staff and volunteers barely used it. He shared his background as a building contractor with the volunteer coordinator and asked if Berkeley Humane could use any help in that area. Could we? You bet ... and the rest is history. Cliff has been a volunteer with us for the past two years.

After giving the bathroom the TLC it needed, he turned his attention to an under-used space jammed with ancient appliances, no longer in use. Cliff turned the space into a laundry room with shelving to store the tools and parts (nails, screws, nuts & bolts) that he uses in his facility maintenance work.

“Being organized is important,” he said. “If you can’t find something, you end up buying it twice. It's small stuff, but it can drain a budget pretty quick.”

Budget is important for a non-profit organization like Berkeley Humane, and Cliff’s keen eye for organizing and for salvaging items that can be reused, helps make sure that every penny counts towards the Berkeley Humane mission: serving the people and animals of our community by providing life-saving programs for cats and dogs, cultivating compassion, and strengthening the human-animal bond.

While most days you’ll catch Cliff with a hammer in his hand instead of a leash, it doesn’t mean that he has no interaction with the animals. He shared the story of “Meaty”, a love biscuit at Berkeley Humane a couple of years ago with a “head like a cinder block” who greeted everyone with big, loving thwacks from his beater of a tail. Cliff also talked about repairing slip strips on a ramp and having a dog on a walk take a detour to shower him with licky kisses.

Meaty the Greeter

Cliff is as popular with the humans as he is with the canines. His extensive knowledge has made a big difference tackling the problems of the eighty year old building that houses Berkeley Humane.

“It’s like this,” he said. “You go to hang a picture on a wall, only there’s no studs. And then you find out the wall is rotten. And then ...”

Well, and then—Cliff fixes it! It goes without saying that having someone with Cliff’s level of skill is a huge asset.

Cliff looks at it another way. He calls Berkeley Humane his “home away from home”. He talks about how his work at Berkeley Humane helps him keep his skills sharp, and how the organization has made him feel like he’s part of something valuable.

I asked Cliff if he had any advice for folks who were thinking of volunteering at Berkeley Humane. He encouraged people to “just join”—sign up for a volunteer orientation session and don’t be too concerned about defining a role beforehand.

“It’s like life,” he said. “It just happens. Show up and the right role for you will show up too.” 

He commented on how Berkeley Humane is an organization that understands that volunteers “make the place run” and that Berkeley Humane goes the distance to show how much they appreciate the people who donate their time.

What about the other side of the equation—the reward? Cliff said that for him, the reward is just being there.

“Doing something outside of yourself. I get a lot out of it,” he said.

And we are SO glad that you do Cliff. Thank you!

If you’ve got an interest in volunteering, we’ve got a lot of roles at Berkeley Humane—one of them might just be the perfect fit for you. Check us out—we’ll give your skills a good “home away from home.” Learn more about becoming a volunteer on our website. 

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