HAWAIIAN HUMANE SOCIETY
Sung Ju Park, who volunteers as a dog walker at the Hawaiian Humane Society, helps Nalu burn off some energy. Volunteers routinely walk dogs through the Moiliili neighborhood around the shelter.
Humane society will honor its volunteers
National Volunteer Week begins Sunday, celebrating the contributions made by people who are paid with a simple mahalo.
During this week, the Hawaiian Humane Society honors its volunteers for contributing to the quality of life of Hawaii's people and pets. This special group receives a sincere mahalo, plus the added incentive of unconditional love from tail-wagging, purring animals and the grateful families that adopt them.
With a staff of 55, the humane society is fortunate to have hundreds of dedicated volunteers performing tasks that range from customer service and animal care to administrative work and adoption counseling. The commitment is usually a three-hour shift once each week for six months, though many stay on for years.
According to Gayle Puou, coordinator of volunteers, about 750 people volunteer their time and talents to the society. The number of hours they put in equals that of 75 full-time employees.
"We always need more willing hands to keep our busy shelter and innovative outreach programs running smoothly," Puou said.
"We are very fortunate to have so many terrific volunteers, but I can easily find work for more. Every position contributes something important to our mission. Our greatest need is always for volunteers who have especially strong people skills."
Both Puou and Yvette Dante, customer service manager, said most volunteers interact with the public as well as the animals. But some, such as Heidi Sakuma, an animal lover with pet allergies, contribute, too. For five years the University of Hawaii graduate student has helped place digital photos on the society's Web site. The "Pets of the Week" section is the most visited page on the site.
The humane society has an extensive orientation for new volunteers and specific training for each job. Adoption assistants, for instance, work 10 three-hour shifts with a more experienced volunteer or staff member before they tackle the challenging task of matching dogs or cats with new owners on their own.
Barbara Monahan started volunteering at the Incoming Animals desk in June 2000. Using that experience and additional training, she now helps resolve animal behavior issues as a Helpline volunteer. She spends her three-hour shift on the phone chatting with the families of adopted pets. Besides keeping animals in their adoptive homes, her recommendations often improve the lives of both people and pets.
One job that offers great satisfaction matches up lost-and-found cases. Dante said the adoptions staff and volunteers keep track of animals that have returned home, which are still missing and which have turned up at the shelter. It's a heartwarming scene when tearful owners and wiggling pets are reunited.
"I recently introduced a pet owner to the dog he had lost six years earlier," said Dante. "This little miracle was possible because of our adoptions staff researching the microchip ID. What other job gets you doggie kisses as a thank-you?"
Lend a hand
Open volunteer positions at the humane society:
» Greeters and parking lot helpers
» Database and administrative assistants
» Park Pals to monitor the dog park
» Adoption assistants
» Dog walkers and exercisers
» Foster caregivers
» Pet lost and found
» Special-events volunteers
» Facility and grounds maintenance
» Pet groomers
» Humane educators to work with children
Another benefit of volunteering is the friendship that blossoms out of a shared interest in animals. Parents and their children ages 7 to 13 get closer by volunteering as a team. Both attend training classes and participate in activities together. Anyone age 14 and up may volunteer on their own.
Jean Kimura is an active senior who volunteers at her church as well as the society. An administrative assistant at the shelter, she has handled mailing, filing and phone calls. Several years ago she took on the task of maintaining and organizing the society's microchip files, an awesome task involving more than 100,000 records.
"Jean started with us in September 1999," said Puou, "and this year, we nominated her for the Mayor's Recognition Awards for Senior Volunteers. Whether she wins at the April 24 event or not is irrelevant -- she is treasured here at the humane society."
Volunteers also receive a quarterly newsletter, invitations to seminars on animal care and a discount on pet supplies from the society's store.
To volunteer, call Puou at 356-2216 or visit the Volunteer section at www.hawaiianhumane.org. Fill out the application, then mail or bring it to the society.
"Pet Ohana" runs the first and third Fridays of the month. The Hawaiian Humane Society, 2700 Waialae Ave., is a nonprofit agency dedicated to preventing cruelty to animals. Call 946-2187.