As I reflect on my nearly eight years as president of the Animal Rescue League of Boston (ARL), I keep coming back to something that is vital for any nonprofit organization – the power of volunteering.
This is usually one of my favorite times of the year, as normally ARL would be poised to celebrate National Volunteer Appreciation Week (April 19-25). During this week, we typically gather at our Boston, Dedham, and Brewster shelters to salute the amazing accomplishments during the past year of our more than 550 volunteers. Unfortunately, we are not living in typical times, and due to the COVID-19 outbreak, we made the decision to postpone these special events.
In 2019, ARL’s volunteers generously donated more than 38,000 hours of their time – that is the equivalent of 18 full-time staff!
Volunteers are mission critical for ARL, whether serving as ambassadors for the organization, working with behaviorally challenged animals, comforting a frightened cat or dog, mucking horse stalls, changing litter boxes, or performing a myriad of other tasks, volunteers have one thing in common – a selfless compassion to give back.
Normally our animal care and adoption centers would be bustling with dozens of volunteers every day, but these are not normal times. For health and safety reasons, a handful of volunteers are still pitching in each day at our locations and we have a dedicated network of foster families who continue to make tremendous contributions.
Community service is of upmost importance to ARL during this health crisis, and in this spirit, ARL has placed approximately 160 animals into the loving care of ARL’s foster care network. Removing these animals from a shelter environment has tremendous benefits for the animals in our care and also allows ARL to free-up kennel space in the event that animals need to be surrendered or temporarily housed by those affected by COVID-19.
Animals in foster care receive a respite from the shelter environment, can recover from a medical procedure in a quiet, calming space, and can benefit from one-on-one interaction to help overcome behavioral challenges. Additionally, animals in foster care give ARL’s animal care associates a better idea of how animals behave and act in a home setting.
For the humans involved, fostering is a wonderful way to give back, and offers the opportunity to help an animal in need and to enjoy the pleasure of having an animal in the home, if only for a short while.
About 63 million people, or 25 percent of the population, donate their time and talents to worthy causes. In addition to making a difference in the community, volunteering has been shown to improve a person’s health by increasing physical activity, enhancing your mood, and decreasing stress. Another bonus? The majority of hiring managers nationally see volunteerism as an asset in candidates seeking employment.
You have read here about the impact that volunteers have on ARL being able to fulfill its mission. If you are able, I would certainly encourage you to consider donating your time to a worthy cause like ARL, or any cause that you are passionate about. The benefits are endless!
To the readers of A Moment of Paws, this is my last column, as I will be retiring on May 1, 2020. It is an honor to have served as ARL’s president for the past eight years; it is an organization that works to keep animals safe and healthy, living in habitats and homes.
This column is a wonderful vehicle to provide information to assist people caring for animals, to champion all those who give generously of their time and resources to animal welfare, and to highlight the need for public policies to protect animals from abuse and neglect.
Fortunately, “A Moment of Paws” will continue under the able pen of ARL’s incoming president, Dr. Edward Schettino. He has served as ARL’s VP of Animal Welfare and Veterinary Medicine for the past six years and he is well poised to advance its vision to reach animals and people most in need.
I look forward to reading future columns and joining the ranks of so many who care passionately about animals and who advocate for a more humane society where people, animals, and the environment are valued and protected.
Thank you all.
Mary Nee, a Dorchester resident is the outgoing president of the Animal Rescue League of Boston. Pet questions? Email ARL at firstname.lastname@example.org.