They tirelessly give their time and effort to help the province’s most vulnerable animals, often working in non-glamorous roles to lend a helping hand. April 6-12 is National Volunteer Week in Canada, and the BC SPCA is celebrating, recognizing and thanking the more than 4,000 volunteers who help the non-profit organization function each and every day.
“We wouldn’t be able to properly do our job without our wonderful volunteers – they never cease to amaze us with their work ethic, positive attitudes and genuine passion for the BC SPCA’s mission,” says Lorie Chortyk, general manager, community relations, BC SPCA. “As a non-profit organization that relies mainly on public donations to operate, I can’t stress enough how much we appreciate our volunteers and how grateful we are for their hard work.”
Dog walking may come to mind when the SPCA comes up, and while that volunteer option is certainly important and necessary throughout the province at all of the BC SPCA’s branches, it is just one of the many crucial tasks that volunteers perform on a daily basis throughout B.C.
At the BC SPCA provincial office in Vancouver, Pat Mitchell has volunteered for several years, putting her office administrative background to good use in helping with a wide range of administrative and clerical work.
“I wasn’t sure if the shelter was where I could be most useful, so I asked if I could help anywhere else,” Mitchell says. “The people are great. I feel like I’m helping a fantastic organization that I support. They say when you volunteer you get back more than you give and that’s true here.”
A supporter, volunteer, donor and fundraiser, Mitchell has been actively involved in helping the BC SPCA for many years and also volunteers for the Alzheimer Society of B.C. She has adopted two cats from the SPCA who have since passed away, and when she’s not travelling, she volunteers as a foster pet guardian to help.
“Pat is invaluable to us. She is not only a huge help, she is a positive presence in the office, always coming in with a smile on her face and often, with fresh-baked treats for the staff,” says Rosemary Conder, chief development officer, BC SPCA.
On Vancouver Island at Wild ARC, the BC SPCA’s Animal Rehabilitation Centre, wildlife rely on more than food, shelter and medical care – and that’s where the facility’s volunteer enrichment team comes in. To help the centre’s wild patients live in a natural environment and also, develop their climbing, foraging and social skills, the team is constantly busy. Tracel Carolsfeld, who has volunteered for more than five years at Wild ARC, puts her crafty skills to good use, creating puzzle boxes, quilting nests and sewing squirrel hammocks, while constantly looking to expand or improve existing materials. Another enrichment team member and volunteer for several years, Amanda Sather, regularly scours local fields, forests, beaches and mountains to sustainably salvage the natural materials that help wild patients feel more at home and prepare them for their return to the wild, whether it’s leafy greens, kelp, shells, pond plants or whatever the centre’s current patients need most.
Dog walking is an important part of everyday life at each BC SPCA shelter, and in Vernon, Tony MacNeill is “the” dog walker extraordinaire, showing up rain or shine when he’s at home and not working out of town, often taking the larger dogs in pairs or even threes, up to the hills and surrounding mountains for hours at a time, invariably coming back with a wildlife story about deer or hawks or roaming cows.
“Tony always comes back with a big smile,” says Chelsea Taylor, branch manager, Vernon and District BC SPCA, noting that MacNeill has helped create new trails around the shelter for other dog walkers to enjoy and that he’s always ready to help with branch maintenance. “That means he’ll run down to the hardware store to buy items to fix plumbing problems or come with his chainsaw to prune trees. He even showed up with his truck full of sand to fill in huge pot holes in the shelter parking lot. He’s incredible.”
MacNeill also brings in human treats for staff and has adopted two senior dogs he couldn’t help but fall for while enjoying their walks together.
Volunteering at the BC SPCA isn’t just about helping the animals – it can be about helping their guardians, too. At Charlie’s Food Bank, which operates out of Mission Possible on Vancouver’s downtown East Side, a dedicated team of volunteers has been spending every Thursday morning helping low-income animal guardians provide care and nutrition for their pets. Every Thursday morning, these volunteers help unload a truck full of pet food and supplies and sort the food into smaller bags that can be handed out to people who may have otherwise not been able to feed their pet that week. They often offer nail clipping, provide pet guardians with pet care information, and register unfixed pets for the free, once-a-month spay/neuter clinics held at Charlie’s.
“We could go on and on about our fantastic volunteers – there’s photographers and videographers and veterinarians and contractors – the list is almost endless,” Chortyk says. “We are so thankful for them and everything they do.”
The British Columbia Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals is a not-for-profit organization reliant on public donations. Our mission is to protect and enhance the quality of life for domestic, farm and wild animals in B.C.