Tom and Amanda Heldmann
What originally drew you to PAWS Chicago?
Tom: Amanda always wanted to be a veterinarian from childhood, but her schooling path did not lead her in that direction. Even though Amanda became a pharmacist, she still was very fond of animals. She began volunteering in PAWS Chicago’s Kitty City and then moved to the Rescue & Recovery Center at the Lurie Spay and Neuter Clinic. This is where she learned of the foster program, which became the focus of her volunteering. I started dating Amanda, this wonderful woman, shortly after she began volunteering at PAWS. We dated for a couple years and got married and moved in together in Lincoln Square which made it difficult for me to continue volunteering near where I lived. One day in January 2010, Amanda asked if she could bring home a foster cat and have him/her stay in our second bedroom and bathroom? Our first foster was Fiver and we found that we loved to foster kittens/cats from PAWS Chicago, and 170-plus fosters later we still do.
Do you have a primary focus when you volunteer?
Tom: I was raised, along with my wife, that community service was a positive and necessary part of life. Volunteering for PAWS Chicago allows us to indulge our love for animals. Amanda and I typically work with socializing the cats/kittens in getting them ready for adoption. We also observe and treat any medical conditions they may have or contract during the foster period so they are in perfect health for spay/neutering and adoption.
Is there a favorite experience that has stood out during your time as a volunteer at PAWS Chicago?
Tom: We got our first mom/kitten litter from PAWS and after two days the mom, Evelynn, would not let the kittens nurse. She hissed at her babies and ran away from them. Evelynn also scratched and bit my wife. We were close to returning the bunch, but on the third day, Evelynn curled up in my lap on the floor and allowed her babies to nurse in my lap for the first time. She was a great mother from that time forward and great cat. After we gave Evelynn and her kittens back, our house seemed very quiet. Amanda was crying because she missed the mom and kittens. That day forward, we decided the best way to handle this was to always have fosters in the home. We keep our second bedroom/bathroom set up just for fosters.
How does what do you do for careers apply to what you do as a volunteer? Tom & Amanda: Tom is a high school History/Science teacher for Vanguard School in Township High School District 214 Arlington Heights, IL. The school has a community service component that the students complete. This is a way for him to model what the school values. Amanda is a pharmacist for Walgreens. We commonly need to give medication to the fosters, and her pharmacy background allows her to understand what the medication is and how it assists in the treatment of the animal.
Why do you volunteer for PAWS Chicago?
Tom & Amanda: Each set of cats/kittens we bring home is different and wonderful in their own way. The most enjoyable part of our fostering experience is seeing the names of our foster cats removed from the adoptable cats list online because then we know they have their own new home.
Do you have pets at home?
Tom & Amanda: We have a cat named Frisky that Amanda found in an alley many years ago. We finally found him a buddy that was a PAWS kitten we fostered named Sateen. We have named her Zen. She is two years old and is an adorable grey cat that loves to play fetch with her toy mice, and get her belly rubbed.
Have you participated in any PAWS Chicago special events?
Tom & Amanda: We have supported numerous people that were running the marathon and attended their fundraising events to raise money.