Volunteers of the Month single view | PAWS Chicago

Gina Sourelis

What originally drew you to PAWS Chicago?  

As an animal lover, I was searching for a place where people were passionate about the welfare of animals. Once I attended the PAWS Chicago orientation in 2008, I was hooked. There was such an energy, drive to educate and welcoming spirit that I knew I would find my niche somewhere within the organization. I started at the Lurie Spay/Neuter Clinic for a while. However, my prior work schedule impacted my ability to volunteer consistently so I took a hiatus. Now, I have been volunteering my time at the GusMobile Spay/Neuter Van since April.

Is there a favorite experience or fondest memory that has stood out or touched your heart during your time as a volunteer at PAWS Chicago?

While volunteering at the GusMobile Spay/Neuter Van, I met a senior who brought in 10 cats. With a smile, she shared stories about each of her cats' particular backgrounds, behaviors and personalities. I could see how impacted she was by their presence in her life and how they took up special place in her heart. However, she represents the experiences I've been privileged to be a part of with others who have brought their animal companions to the GusMobile Spay/Neuter Van.

How does what you do for a living apply to what you do as a volunteer?

I am a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and I work at The Ruth M. Rothstein CORE Center, which is a hospital-based clinic in Chicago. I provide psychotherapy services for persons affected by HIV/AIDS and other chronic medical conditions, mental health challenges and substance use. My patients face a myriad of life challenges including stigma and other psychosocial issues. Yet, they live courageously, finding ways to endure and live life abundantly. 

I do believe my social work skills and interests are applicable to my volunteerism. Similar to my work, I connect with folks and their animal companions at their point of need, with a non-judgmental and strengths-based approach. While at the GusBus Spay/Neuter Van, whether someone has questions about spaying and neutering, expresses ambivalence about the procedure, nervously brings their animal companion to their appointment for the procedure, or is fully engaged in the process, I am present to provide a listening ear, support and resources.

Why do you volunteer for PAWS Chicago? 

As a child, I had an innate love of animals and wanted to be a Veterinarian. I even directed my elementary and high school education toward that goal. However, other interests surfaced over time and my veterinarian pursuits were sidetracked. During the years since, I have realized that my love of animals and desire to work with animals has not diminished but has transformed into a desire to focus on the ways that people bond with their animals. PAWS enables me to be a witness to those bonding experiences. As a volunteer, I enjoy hearing people talk so lovingly about their animal companions and the ways they are impacted by the animal-human relationship.

Do you have any pets at home?

I have three feline friends at home: Fluffy (14 years old) who is very sweet, Raven (14 years old) who is very particular, and Simon (2 years old) who is full of antics. In the future, when I am ready for my first dog, PAWS will be my adoption home.

What value has volunteering at PAWS Chicago brought you?


I am grateful for the ways that PAWS Chicago creatively and resourcefully seeks to meet the needs of homeless animals in Chicago inclusive of all geographic locations not only through its shelter services but through advocacy and education. I believe PAWS Chicago seeks to serve the Chicago community at-large, wherever and however the need arises.