Volunteers of the Month single view | PAWS Chicago

Andrea Swiatkiewicz

What originally drew you to PAWS Chicago? 
After adopting my cat 3 years ago, I knew that I wanted to volunteer at a local no-kill animal shelter.  While attending a Billy Corgan concert at Ravinia, I stumbled upon the PAWS Chicago booth; I figured any organization Billy Corgan supported had to be top notch. Ultimately, my love of cats and Billy Corgan drove me to volunteer at PAWS Chicago in January 2015. 
Do you have a primary focus when you volunteer?
I am a Level 2 volunteer in Kitty City and I try to volunteer two mornings a week.  So much needs to be done before the doors open, so it is nice to be there to assist the staff. Every cat has a story, some better than others, and the least I can do is provide them with a clean, comfortable environment until they find their forever home.  And if I'm lucky, I get in a few cuddles before the end of my shift. 
Is there one favorite experience or fondest memory that has stood out or touched your heart during your time as a volunteer at PAWS Chicago?
I had a moment with a cat named Betty (pictured above). Sweet 9-year-old Betty that wanted nothing more than to cuddle on my lap which lasted about 1 1/2 hours! At that moment, I didn't know much about Betty, but only that she needed some love.  That's the kind of thing that keeps me coming back. It brings tears to my eyes, but I know that our Adoption Center will find her the perfect home. 
How does what do you do for a career apply to what you do as a volunteer?
I am a stay-at-home cat mom and now a professional volunteer. It's good for the soul.
Why do you volunteer for PAWS Chicago?  What do you enjoy the most about your experiences a volunteer?
I volunteer at PAWS Chicago because I adore cats and the experience brings me such joy.  The staff is kind and very appreciative of my help and that of my fellow volunteers. We are all working together for an amazingly great cause. The "Friday Morning Crew" has become part of my extended family.
Do you have any PAWS Chicago alumni pets - or any other pets - at home?
I adopted a 4-year-old tortie named Juliana a few years ago.  Her foster father named her after the Queen of the Netherlands.  Needless to say, she is living up to her title.

Have you participated in any PAWS Chicago special events that supports animals?

I am very proud to be associated with PAWS Chicago, so therefore I am happy to volunteer whenever I can at off-site events.  In 2015, I volunteered at the Shamrock Shuffle, Angels with Tails adoption events in Gold Coast and Highland Park, marched in the Highland Park 4th of July parade, participated in the Run for Their Lives race, set up for the Pawsta Party and was a greeter for the Chicago Marathon.  In 2016, I volunteered at the Live Grit and Shamrock Shuffle races.  I joined Team PAWS and will participate in the PAWS Chicago 5K and the Chicago Marathon. 

What value has volunteering at PAWS Chicago brought you?  Anything else you'd like to share regarding your experiences as a PAWS Chicago volunteer?  
It is a learning experience every time I volunteer in Kitty City.  Cat behavior is so interesting to me, and I found the Level 2 training course invaluable.  I will continue to volunteer at PAWS Chicago for years to come and support their mission of achieving a No Kill Chicago.