For the past year, I’ve had the pleasure of managing the Baltimore Humane Society’s volunteer program. Managing volunteers entails working with dedicated individuals and groups who want to enrich the lives of shelter pets. People from all ages and walks of life are volunteers at the Baltimore Humane Society.
While 90% of Americans say they want to volunteer, and 25% say they don’t volunteer because they’ve never been asked. I used to be one of those Americans. While I always loved animals, I was never asked to volunteer until I got an 11th hour plea to foster a tabby cat named Aaron. Aaron was a frightened, young kitten who just needed a chance. At the same time, my father got involved in greyhound rescue and adoption in Maine. When I visited him and his new pup, we volunteered together with a greyhound rescue. It was my first time inside a kennel, and I got an insider’s view into the incredible amount of labor that goes into keeping the dogs healthy, happy, and adoptable.
Four years later, I still have Aaron and my father, who has joined me in Maryland along with his rescue greyhounds, he volunteers at Greyhound Pet Adoption Maryland. Prior to joining BHS, I worked on political campaigns, in community advocacy, and volunteer management. I was trained in volunteer management by Volunteer Maryland, which is an 11-month program run by the Maryland Governor’s Office of Community Initiatives.
What do you like most about being the volunteer manager?
In addition to the opportunity to work with animals, the best part of my role is working with our volunteers! BHS has hundreds of dedicated volunteers who spend their free time making life better place for shelter pets. Our volunteers have huge hearts, and their dedication equates to almost $500,000 in labor annually. Their dedication allows us to rescue and better care for more animals. One of the most common challenges for anyone coordinating volunteers is setting expectations. Some volunteers have the misconception that they’re just going to pet puppies or cuddle kittens, but the animals that need our volunteers most are long term residents who tend to be older and be under more stress. While there are many benefits to volunteering at a shelter, it can also be physically and emotionally exhausting.
Can you share the benefits of being a volunteer for both the volunteer and the animals?
Volunteering truly helps shelter pets remain adoptable. When our shelter pets are exposed to new and different people, they come to have positive associations with new people – including potential adopters! Our volunteers become part of a community of animal lovers and develop friendships with one another. In addition to social benefits, volunteering is linked to better physical health – adults who volunteer on a regular basis are less likely to develop high blood pressure and likelier to have longer lifespans. (https://www.health. harvard.edu/blog/volunteeringmay-be-good-for-body-andmind-201306266428)
Do you need more volunteers?
We always need more volunteers! We need more people to bring our animals to adoption events, fundraise, keep our 365 acres in beautiful shape through trail maintenance and grounds work, and provide care for our shelter pets until they go home.
What ages can volunteer?
BHS has volunteers as young as 6 years old! Just like adult volunteers, our youngest volunteers keep shelter pets clean, healthy, and socialized and provide animals with positive exposure to children!
Is there anything you would like the readers to know about volunteering?
Please consider this article your “ask” to volunteer with animals! Learn more about how you can become a part of BHS’ volunteer program at www.bmorehumane.org/volunteer. If you live far away from BHS, consider fostering, adopting, and volunteering for your local shelter.