Written by Shannon Junior, Aquatic Ecologist, Regional Manager
About 15 years ago, my friend Tara described how rewarding it was to volunteer at a nursing home once a week. I told her that I would love to do something like that, but that I was too busy to volunteer. I still remember her response: “Everyone has time to volunteer — they just prefer to spend it doing other things.” Tara was a new mom and was just beginning her career at an environmental consulting firm. She was a busy lady, and I couldn’t understand how she found time to help out in her community.
But when I started volunteering at my local animal shelter about five years ago, I realized that it does not seem like a sacrifice to prioritize doing something I enjoy above the other things I used to do with my “spare time.” I have always lived by the mantra “Work Hard/Play Hard,” and my weekends were reserved for recreation, with minimal time set aside for chores. Now, I have rearranged my life to accommodate my rescue work, but I don’t regret one “lost” minute.
Most of the readers of this newsletter know about The SOLution program. SOLitude Lake Management encourages all of our staff to become involved in our communities to “Create a Better World.” In 2012, I was the first recipient of our Volunteer of the Year Award, and I wrote an article similar to this one, describing my efforts to transform my local animal shelter into a No-Kill facility (formally defined as a 90% live release rate). I am still trying; I take photos of the homeless and surrendered pets and post them on the Madison County Animal Shelter’s Facebook Page (PLEASE “Like” us!). I bring shelter dogs to PetSmart on Saturdays for adoption events, and I organize several fundraising events each year. I have recovered from my shyness about asking for help and donations; people are always eager to pitch in, and it has been humbling to see the selflessness and generosity of my community.
But because we have not yet achieved No-Kill status, I am still searching for new strategies. A couple of years ago, I thought it would be fun to make tie-dyed t-shirts for all of the volunteers to wear at a fundraising event to help us stand out. The shirts were well received by the volunteers and the attendees, and several people asked if they were available for purchase. I decided to make a few shirts and doggie bandanas to sell at the next event, and Dog Dayz Dyes was born. I was able to donate $150 to the shelter in addition to the other money that we raised at the event. I now have a page on Etsy where I sell tie-dyed t-shirts, bandanas, and onesies, and I donate 100% of the proceeds to the shelter (www.etsy.com/shop/DogDayzDyes— Shameless plug, but it’s for a good cause!).
I also recently submitted a proposal to the County Board of Supervisors that would allow the shelter to use fundraising money to establish a low-cost spay and neuter program. After showing proof of rabies vaccination and County tags, pet owners could purchase a surgical voucher from the shelter for $25 that could be redeemed at the local Humane Society. Most of the stray and owner-surrendered pets that come through the shelter have not been altered and many are pregnant, so this program would help to solve the problem of unwanted pets in our community. Cross your fingers that it’s approved!
I am so thankful to SOLitude for the continued support of my volunteer efforts. Many of my coworkers have participated with me at fundraisers and adoption events. Employees, vendors, and clients have adopted pets from my shelter and have helped me network to find homes for needy animals. I received the Volunteer of the Year Award for the third time in 2014, and through SOLitude, made a donation of $2,600 to the shelter. Some of my coworkers joined me and donated their own SOLution volunteer rewards to the Madison County Animal Shelter, too. I am fortunate to work with such a generous group of people, and I can’t wait to see who is inspired to take the award in 2015!
Volunteering is hard work, and it does require sacrifices of our personal time. My husband often joins me at PetSmart so we can spend more time together. Sunday Fun-Day used to mean hiking, brunch and wineries. Now, it means laundry, cleaning and errands. Or sometimes I just let life happen and leave the dirty clothes and dog hair until later. Please don’t judge me for the mounds of t-shirts and bandanas in various stages of processing covering every surface in my home. And that’s not dirt under my fingernails, it’s dye. Things at the shelter are still not exactly how I want them to be, but they are getting better every year. In 2014, I helped find families for about 90 homeless pets. For me, that’s 89 more reasons than I need to keep doing what I’m doing. Find your reason!
Contact the experts at 888-480-LAKE (5253) for all of your lake, pond and fisheries management needs.
The SOLution is a company-wide program that encourages the company and all employees to strive to “create a better world” through volunteerism, community outreach, sustainability and environmental consciousness. SOLitude’s company leadership feels it is important to not only be good stewards of the environment and good corporate citizens, but also to fulfill company core values to “take action and be accountable” and to “protect and respect nature.” To participate or share a non-profit's goals for consideration in The SOLution, contact Tracy Fleming at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Shannon Junior is an Aquatic Ecologist and Regional Manager with SOLitude Lake Management. Since 1998, SOLitude Lake Management has been committed to providing full service lake and pond management services that improve water quality, preserve natural resources, and reduce our environmental footprint. Services are available throughout the Eastern United States. Fisheries management consulting and aquatic products are available nationwide. Learn more about SOLitude Lake Management and purchase products at www.solitudelakemanagement.com.