This past Tuesday, as I was dropping off our daughter at her Pre-K school, a voicemail message popped up from my boss, PHS/SPCA’s president. I turned down KOIT radio (all Christmas, all day long), and pressed the iPhone’s speaker button.
Ken sounded like Abe Vigoda after smoking a pack of Marlboros, but I got enough of the message to know he was knocked out by a flu and that emcee duties for that night’s annual PHS/SPCA Volunteer Appreciation Party were all mine. Audrey had the simple solution: “His mommy needs to make him chicken soup.”
Ken may have downed some soup, but that didn’t change matters. In all honesty, I was looking forward to the evening, a chance to play Colin Kaepernick. Joking aside, it’s not about the presenter scrambling, improvising and throwing deep. It’s about shining a light on volunteers and their incredible commitment to the animals.
Weeks before the party, staff submitted nominations for Volunteer of the Year. Their write-ups were compiled then presented to staff, without volunteer names attached, for a blind vote.
In the end, Rick Obwald, a retired postal worker, was chosen as Volunteer of the Year. During our event, I called Rick to the stage and read parts of his nomination:
Some people can do it all, and this volunteer is one of them…many departments lay claim to this volunteer, including Wildlife, Retail Services, Humane Education and Behavior… For years the wildlife department relied on weekly boxes of produce donated from local supermarkets to provide fresh veggies for our rehabilitating songbirds, raccoons, squirrels, and opossums. This past spring we lost this valuable resource as all of the local supermarkets began to participate in a composting program. This volunteer pounded the pavement asking every local market he could find to pull a small portion of their produce. After months of no’s, he convinced Whole Foods in San Mateo to donate a box of produce to the wildlife program each week. Now he picks up the produce every week, unpacks it and chops it up into bite-sized morsels for the sick, injured, and orphaned wildlife in our care…When our Lantos Center opened he was ready to help wherever needed, including the retail store, a new program for us. …whether it’s helping the education department with a herd of children or helping the behavior department with a herd of puppies, this volunteer is up for the job. He is willing to go above and beyond for this organization and do anything he can to help both the animals and people in our community. PHS/SPCA is fortunate to have him!”
During last Tuesday’s awards ceremony, I also shared what staff wrote about top nominees:
- Karen Montague: “…impossibly cheerful and kind, to staff, other volunteers and the animals. She comes in 3-4 days per week minimum to walk dogs…she happily spreads the love between large and small dogs alike - no discrimination! When this year is up she will have taken over 400 dogs out for walks. …”
- Cathy Goldschmidt: “This volunteer helped the small animals (rabbits) and staff immensely…We are so lucky to have someone like her who will help educate the public, assist staff with animal care, and give so much of her love to animals in need. When you take a minute to look at the rabbits running, jumping, and playing happily, you are seeing Cathy’s work and love…”
- Maxine McKernan: “She worked behind the scenes tirelessly bathing, clipping, and trimming our pups, with hopes that an extra trim here or bath there will give them a better chance at being adopted. Not only this, but many animals come to the shelter in very poor condition including painful matts from head to toe; she strives to not only help the dogs look their best, but also feel their best by relieving some pain and discomfort…”
- Annamarie Azevedo: “This volunteer often spends 40 hours per week at PHS/SPCA! While much of her work is hands-on with dogs, we also count on her to help with special events or fundraisers! She assists with spot cleaning, holding dogs for medical checks, separating dogs in kennels or dorms, purchasing special dietary treats for overweight dogs. No job is too minute or non-glamorous … staff see her as not just an invaluable volunteer, but a devoted friend.”
Lastly, we presented the Janessa Greig Jr Volunteer Award, named in honor of a young volunteer who, with her mother, died tragically during the San Bruno gas explosion. Brandon Davis was this year’s recipient for his countless hours providing TLC for shelter dogs and cats.
If your New Year’s resolution includes volunteer work, please consider joining our special group. To get started, call650/340-7022, ext. 328 or shoot a message to bprobst@PHS-SPCA.org.