Monday, December 7, 2015

Volunteer Appreciation: Linda J.

December is a very special month for many of us. It is the core of the western holiday season and it can inspire us to feel gratitude for the good things of the year. At the same time, we can look ahead and set up some resolutions for the new year that is to come.

This volunteer appreciation post has a bit of everything that makes December so special. Its core goal is to show our gratitude to one of Berkeley Humane’s most amazing volunteers. It also has wise words for those of us who rank ‘volunteering’ (with Berkeley Humane) under our New Year’s resolutions..

With that said, we would like to introduce you all to Linda J. who has provided the content for this post by being submitting to a Skype call at 8 AM.

Linda's 'foster failure', the charming Gracie.
Linda is an experienced and long-term volunteer who does… well... almost everything. It was graduate school that led her to the Bay Area, and she has been here ever since. Her loyalty to Berkeley Humane is as steadfast: for twenty years or more, she has adopted all her pets from us, including her current bunch: little Gracie the dog (a foster failure: our favorite kind of failure) and the feline brothers Lewis and Morse.

And then, four to five years ago, when Linda was still working in healthcare administration, she started volunteering for the old PAWS program, which worked with seniors and people with disabilities to help them keep their pets. Thereafter, she started coming in once a week for a shift as a canine volunteer. When the practice she worked with was taken over by a larger company, she decided the time had come to retire. Her employer’s loss proved our gain, because soon Linda started taking on other duties alongside her work with Berkeley Humane’s dogs.

The famous duo Morse (black) and Lewis (white).
Currently she leads orientation sessions for new volunteers in the adoption center twice a month. She helps our volunteer manager with administrative tasks and regularly represents Berkeley Humane at special events, such as multi-day adoption events and the famous Solano Stroll. More down-to-earth work like doing laundry, making runs to BACS with overflow supplies, she does with a smile.

Over the years, Linda has seen how Berkeley Humane continues to develop its policy for recruiting and retaining volunteers. She really enjoys the amount of trust she has won and how much freedom to do her chosen work she gets in return. She has also noticed a continuous effort to improve communication with volunteers and ongoing gratitude from Berkeley Humane’s staff. Across the organization, she feels supported – people really make volunteers feel like a vital part of the organization. These last two years Berkeley Humane even organized a Holiday Party for all volunteers, where Linda was surprised with an award for her years of service!

Linda (right) receiving an award from board member Tamara Stanley.

When asked what it takes to be a good volunteer at Berkeley Humane, Linda said: “If you want to do it, you have what it takes.” She mentioned the extreme flexibility offered, where you can volunteer in a two-hour shift once a week, or come in as much as you want. There are even people who make volunteering a family activity: a great way to teach your child the basics of animal care and compassion is to become a parent-child volunteer team. It helps, she says, to be a good team player, to be communicative and ask questions and to take initiative where needed, but the quality you most need, is to be reliable. In return, you will get a lot of gratitude and you can deepen your understanding of animal welfare in a wide variety of ways.

Linda herself says that she has definitely learned a lot: from training in animal handling to getting better at understanding animal behavior, but also the human side of things: how incredibly hard it is on the staff to make tough decisions about animals, and how much it hurts to surrender an adopted animal because of an incompatibility with existing pets. At the same time she says that volunteering at Berkeley Humane has cemented her belief that what pets really want is to be loved. She has also become convinced her that there really is a home for every pet: no matter how eccentric or special, once an animal finds his or her family, it is clear to see that they truly belong together.

With that resounding conclusion, we wrap up our interview with Linda, Berkeley Humane’s truly invaluable volunteer. 

Linda: we are so grateful for all the things you do for the animals in our care, for your fellow volunteers and the assistance you render to our staff. You are amazing! We hope that your wise words will inspire many new volunteers to join the cause of getting more and more animals into families. 

Do you, dear reader, want to know more about volunteering at Berkeley Humane? Look here for more information. We hope to see you at our volunteer orientation soon!

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