This morning I attended an orientation meeting to learn about volunteer opportunities at the Arizona Animal Welfare League (AAWL).  Since moving to Arizona over 3 1/2 years ago, I’ve wanted to find an organization I could volunteer my time.  However, everytime I told myself, “Yes, I am going to research places to volunteer,” something comes up, like work, other interests or just plain laziness.  And in the end, I would just put it off. 

So why now?

I think right now I’m in a “can do” stage in my life.  Volunteerism is something I’ve wanted to do since moving to Arizona and so I’m doing it.  

In high school, I volunteered in Central Supply and moved on to become a candy striper for Des Peres Hospital in St. Louis, Missoui.  Wednesday afternoons I would go to the hospital and help fill supply cart orders.  When that got to boring for me, I decided to become a candy striper.  I thought I would be handing out water and talking to patients, but I was surprised at some of the things they had me do.  This story was probably the most memorable and the reason why I stopped volunteering for the hospital.  One day a nurse asked me to remove a heart monitor from a patient.  I had no idea they stuck those pads other than a persons heart.  As a high schooler and bit of a prude, I did not want to see that area of a man and of a man my dad’s age.  Needless to say, my time as a candy striper was short-lived and so was my volunteer time at the hospital, it ended after nine months. 

I love to volunteer, but I will also be honest.  I have never had a volunteer experience where I have solely dedicated my time to only one organization.  Volunteerism has been a part of my life.  But for the most part, it has only included one time, special events or organized projects.  All four years of my undergrad years at Creighton University, I was part of Alpha Phi Omega, the community service fraternity.  But I participated in volunteer activities that were coordinated by the fraternity and most of our committments were one time or short-term activities.

Up until I graduated from college, I saw volunteer work as a way to build my college/work resume.  I really didn’t take volunteerism seriously.  Now that I’m older and I have extensive experience in  nonprofit, I understand the importance of volunteerism.  Every organization I have worked for has utilize volunteers in some capacity.  Whether it is helping in program functions, clerical duties or to fundraise, volunteers are essential to a nonprofit’s existence.  But in my experience, the volunteers that truly make a difference are the ones that have a passion for the mission of the organization. 

So, why the AAWL?  My decision to volunteer grew out of my passion to help and my love for dogs.  In orientation today, I found out that approximately 102,000 dogs and cats were taken into the Shelter system last year.  Of those dogs, 53,000 dogs and cats were euthanized.  With education and awareness,  the number of animals that go into shelter care and are euthanize can be greatly reduce.  That is  strong educational component of AAWL and that is what I admire the most about this program.

In addition, after I put my dog, Loco, down in December.  There’s been a void in my life.  It was a very difficult for me to put Loco down, but she was very sick.I know that right now I do not want to get another dog.  Due to my hectic work schedule, I know it wouldn’t be fair to subject a dog to my long hours away from home.  However, I believe the AAWL is a great way to fill my void and it works into my crazy schedule.  I love the fact that the AAWL is right down the street from where I work.  Once I’m trained as volunteer, I can go in before work, on my lunch break or after work. 

I also hope that I can bring happiness and comfort to a dog while they stay at the shelter.  I want to learn more about the AAWL and be a good representative for this organization.  As much as I know my work as a volunteer will be fulfilling for me, I hope that my contributions will be helpful for the organization.

I know there are many organizations looking for volunteers.  I work for Crisis Nursery and I know we constantly need volunteers.  Please if you have ever thought of volunteering, don’t “put off.”   Figure out what your passion is and research opportunities in your community.  Here are some helpful volunteer match links.

Compassion in Action  https://ktvk.angelpointsevs.com/handlers/login.aph

Idealist http://idealist.org

Volunteer Match  http://www.volunteermatch.org

If anyone knows of any other websites, please let me know.

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