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Humane Society volunteers receive recognition

April 21, 2004|by Alicia Notarianni

alician@herald-mail.com

Up until a year ago, the Humane Society of Washington County had three official volunteers. Since then, a brood of no fewer than 99 volunteers have logged a total of 7,464 hours of service to the shelter.

On Monday, April 19, beginning at 6 p.m. at the Maugansville Ruritan building, the volunteer crew had a chance to sit back and lap up dinner and entertainment, as the paid staff of the Humane Society expressed their appreciation for all the help with a Volunteer Appreciation Party.

Debbie Porterfield, 44, animal care supervisor at the shelter, said volunteer assistance has had a huge impact on the overall environment at the shelter, resulting in happier animals and staff. She said the volunteers free up time so staff can do more for and with the animals. The dogs at the shelter get out of their cages for individual attention more frequently than before, and, as a result, are happier, quieter and calmer.

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"The volunteers' work has helped to reduce the stress level tremendously," Porterfield said.

Margaret Rhodes, volunteer coordinator for the Humane Society, has spearheaded volunteer recruiting and training efforts. Potential volunteers first view a video detailing the history of animal shelters, then learn about each of the Humane Society's programs. They go on to meet with Rhodes for a one-on-one interview, discussing individual interests and abilities. Volunteers are then matched with the tasks to which they are best suited.

For tasks from washing feeding bowls to bathing dogs to data entry, volunteers train by working side-by-side with experienced shelter employees, Rhodes said.

She said Humane Society programs such as off-site adoption and the pet food bank have blossomed, and tasks like staffing the front desk at the shelter and managing data have become far more feasible with the drastic growth in volunteer services.

Dubbed by her peers as "the dirtiest woman of the year," Holly Saporito, 35, was recognized for clocking the most volunteer hours during the year - 497 hours, to be exact.

"Some say I need to get a life," Saporito said. "For me, this is it."

Saporito is a trainer for other "dog walker" volunteers. She also assists with matching pets for adoption. She said knowing the animals can't speak for themselves keeps her at the shelter as much as she is.

"People can tell me exactly what they want and, knowing the animals, I can help them to see beyond what they see when they look at the cages," she said.

All volunteers younger than 16 are required to be accompanied by an adult - so 10-year-old Alicia Thompson got her whole family involved in helping out at the shelter, bathing and walking dogs and caring for cats two to three times a week.

"I really love animals," Thompson said. "I'm even a vegetarian because of it."

Paul Miller, executive director of the Humane Society of Washington County, said the group will respond to the needs of about 6,000 animals this year through its shelter services, as well as about 3,000 calls for animal control issues in the community.

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