Its National Volunteer Appreciation Week (April 10-16) and in recognition of our amazing volunteers I have been doing volunteer features throughout the week. SAINTS is physical. It is a place that exists on Dlugosh in Mission BC. It is there. But SAINTS is also philosophical and it exist outside of our physical location. It is bigger than what most of us see every day. Larger than the sum of its parts here at the sanctuary, it’s an idea, a lifestyle, a notion, a philosophy, a conversation--about valuing animals, caring for animals, and letting animals be who they are. While many of us are involved on the ground, operational level there are some who are also working with the bigger picture and goals, reaching out and networking, researching and seeking out information, bringing SAINTS presence in the urban Vancouver area....and still finding the time to get out here almost every week and help with the animals extra care needs like nail trims and ear cleaings and blood sugar checks.
Nicole M. is one of the bigger picture volunteers. She has a knowledge and grasp of what is happening outside of SAINTS. Her animal medical training and expertise are put to really good use on her weekly visits to the sanctuary and is only a phone call away when Carol is looking for advice on medical and operational things. She is a long-time board member and she is one of the founding volunteers. She created and manages the website and adds nifty buttons to the blog which is a vital communication hub for SAINTS that allows supporters both near and far to learn about and keep involved in SAINTS. She also runs our animal sponsorship program which is an important source of revenue. The great thing about Nicole is that she is always looking for new funding paths for SAINTS by applying for grants from various foundations and online challenges like the Pepsi Challenge which SAINTS won and received $25,000!
Because Nicole comes out to SAINTS during the week for hands on vet tech care things and does a lot of her stuff off site, we rarely see her and we miss seeing her so she should come out on the weekends more! She has taken hundreds of beautiful photos of our animals to share in the website photo galleries. and has taken home more SAINTS animals than anyone else and provided them with a great home and end of life care. It is always a nice treat to be able to speak and see her as she is such a bright and level headed person and she is also the brain behind many of the animals care plans. Nicole M. is quiet and unassuming but the positive impact she has on SAINTS daily life is truly great.
I started volunteering after a visit to SAINTS January 2006. Little did I know when Meghann and I were driving out there for the first time that SAINTS would soon leak into almost every part of my life (so cheesy!). Like Brenda, I too drive 75 minutes out to saints, but from the other direction (Vancouver).
My life outside of SAINTS is busy. I work fulltime as an Animal Health Technician at the Vancouver Animal Emergency Clinic in Kits. It is, in my opinion, the best job ever. I am proud new auntie to the most adorable little boy. And as most SAINTS people know, I have my own mini SAINTS at home (3 dogs, 3 cats and a turtle, plus 1 dog and 2 cats that live at my parents). So I don't have much free time. Oh and I try to fit in playing indoor and outdoor soccer where I can.
What area I volunteer in? I have no idea. Everywhere sort of but I don't rarely do cleaning unless we are short staffed during the week. I volunteer at SAINTS during the week and also from home. I do the website (please don’t point out that it’s not up to date!), sponsorship program, technician type duties, create print materials, transport of animals and donated items/food, Carol's computer/email fixerer (a constant job!) and other random jobs but my most favourite part of volunteering with SAINTS is getting to take home another animal. In the five years I've been with SAINTS I’ve gotten to take home: Ozzie, Honey, Sandy, Wesley, Millie, Thorney, Carley, Clara, Harvey, Shrek, Fiona, Emmeline Harris, Jenny, Taz ... and the list will continue to grow.
A memorable story/animal: I don't get quite as much time as I used to get to spend really getting to know the animals (last week I spent my entire visit at SAINTS in the shop organizing food) so most of my memories are of the Original SAINTS or the ones I get to take home. But some that stand out are: Shamus was the very first animal to pass away at SAINTS after I had started there. He definitely taught me to cherish the time with the SAINTS animals because you really don't know if they will be there the next time you visit. The progress that Honey and I made is something that I am so happy and proud of. She was such a great dog. The visit to the auction is up there on the list of memorable stories. I've been a vegetarian for 20 years but visiting the auction made me start to make a conscious effort to reduce my dairy consumption as I didn’t want any of my eating choices to part of that kind of pain/loss. Emily and Joy lucked out is all I will say of that. Much to my family's chagrin, I'm only my way to being a, gasp, vegan. dun dun dun. I'd like to say I'm pretty normal though.
Nicole and her Honey
For most people the hardest part about SAINTS is the losses, for me it isn't. For the animals that make it to SAINTS, we give them the good life for as long as possible. Losing a saint is never easy but at least we know that they had a good time while they were with us. Sure they may have a crappy history and their people gave up on them, but we try to melt that away when they walk through the front gate. The hardest part for me is that there are so many other animals that we just can't help. It really gets depressing if you think about it for too long. So lets not.
Let us focus on the fantastic ways saints has positively affected peoples’ opinions of animals who were unadoptable in the traditional sense. It worries me to think that SAINTS one day may not exist as I think the best thing about SAINTS is that it gives people a place to connect to senior and special needs animals. We get to tell their stories, share in the ups and downs of their lives. How many volunteers and visitors have had their opinions on farm animals change after meeting Percy and Ellie Mae. Or have decided to take home a senior even though they know they will have a tough lose sooner than they'd like. We get to share and give value to the lives of some pretty amazing animals. That I think is the greatest gift SAINTS gives to the community.
Percy and Nicole
Nicole for being the brain and visionary for SAINTS, our eyes and ears in the larger world, we thank you. Your hard work, dedication, and years of building SAINTS' profile on the web and in the larger community has helped SAINTS gain support and funds that are vital to our work. You have wrapped your heart around some many of our animals and made room for them to live out the rest of their shortened lives with a home, a family and a great deal of love. And you are one of the bravest people I know for your strides towards veganism but mostly for taking on Carol's email box time and time again ... what was it like over 1000 emails last time? It gives me nightmares just thinking about it.
In case you missed them check out the preceding Volunteer Features:
For information about volunteering please see http://www.saintsrescue.ca/helping/volunteer.htm