Volunteer All Stars
Hugo began his journey with PAWS several years ago after he and his wife adopted from one of their dogs from LPAC. He started to volunteer as a way to give back to organization that brought them their new family member. He quickly became an indispensable part of the Volunteer Team by becoming a a Medical Center Level 2 Dog Handler, a PAWS Ambassador, a weekly Transport Driver, an events volunteer, and a Community Outreach Volunteer, assisting pet owners in need in the Englewood and Back of the Yards communities. Hugo also encouraged his wife, Elizabeth, and son, Max, to volunteer and has a goal of surpassing the number of hours he completes each year! On top of that, he and his family adopted their second PAWS pet, his namesake, Hugo the dog! The cutest black lab you’ll ever meet! Hugo’s commitment to PAWS Chicago’s animals and the pets of our PAWS For Life clients in Englewood and Back of the Yards embodies the PAWS Chicago Volunteer spirit and for this we nominate him the New Volunteer of the Year!
Our next volunteer of the year is Tom Hehir. Tom is a huge presence in Dog Town – he Leads evening shifts, walks & shows L2 dogs and is a critical part of our mentoring program. Tom also teaches our Dog Showing Workshop to new Level 1 volunteers – often, when I sent out the invitation email for this workshop, volunteers respond by saying “Tom was my mentor! I’d love to attend this workshop with him!”. That enthusiasm is a testament to the amazing work he does with our newest volunteers. Tom is also participates in off-site adoption events and is trained as a media spokesperson -- I can’t think of a better person to represent PAWS Chicago and our mission.
Beth Robitaille is a force of nature at the North Shore Adoption Center. A L2 volunteer at North Shore for the past four years, Beth is well known as "The Opener." You’ll find her in Dog Town multiple times a week at 8:30am for opening - working side by side with our animal caregiver to make sure all the animals are fed, cleaned, and walked. There is no job too large or too small for Beth - she rolls up her sleeves and makes sure what needs to get done, is done. Outside the Center, she’s a regular face at off-site adoption events and a constant ambassador for our North Shore facility. Beth couldn’t join us tonight due to another commitment, but we are so grateful to her for helping North Shore run smoothly!
If you’ve volunteered for an Intake at the Medical Center over the last 3 years, you’ve probably worked right alongside Heena. She uses the skills that she’s learned from Joan and Jen in Level 2 and our pioneer Level 3 class, and from working alongside our Intake team, to ensure the newest PAWS Chicago pets are safe and comfortable as they arrive at the Medical Center for the first time- even if that means carrying a 40-pound hound up a flight of stairs. Her experience and know-how have helped us to refine our processes and make “Intake” the exciting volunteer experience it is today. She doesn’t let this stop her from completing her regular Friday Lead shift or her Sunday TLC shift! Heena recognizes how important the first few days in the shelter are for our dogs and she does everything she can to ensure they’re receiving the love and attention they deserve at the Medical Center.
Dolores provides help multiple times a week! Whether it is helping the TNR team, assisting with our Pet Food Pantry, or our offsite Outreach events, you can count on support from Dolores! If we ever have a last minute need, Dolores will be there with a smile on her face.
Our next volunteer of the year is Alex Chwastek! Alex is the volunteer who originally kept our team company each Tuesday night at the Medical Center working with our animals, who then expanded picked up an extra one, two, or three shifts a week to help train other volunteers to be as great as herself. Last year, Alex became a TLC volunteer – working with our animals in quarantine while they recover from illness or injury. She then became a TLC mentor, helping other volunteers to work with these animals in need. Now, Alex teaches our TLC training class – explaining shelter illnesses, demonstrating how to “gown up,” and ensuring that TLC volunteers are equipped with the training they need to safely interact with these cats and dogs. As the Medical Center volunteer program continues to grow, we are so grateful to Alex for helping to train and inspire other volunteers to dive deeper and help more animals.
Our next volunteer of the year is Andy Lane. Andy has been a L3 volunteer for more than a decade, and he is a steadfast presence for the early morning opening shift. He has nearly 5,000 lifetime service hours – and his time with us pre-dates the database, so his actual service is most likely double that! He’s in the halls of Dog Town 3-4 days a week, working with the dogs who need him the most. Andy is a true leader in Dog Town – someone the morning crew looks up to, and the staff know they can count on. Andy is known for his kindness, his calm presence, his humor and his gift with animals. I truly don’t know what we would do without him! He wasn’t able to join us tonight, so his morning pals and I held a mini-party for him yesterday morning where he received his award and our gratitude.
Whether she is staying a few extra hours to help care for our dogs until the next shift of volunteers comes in or she is bringing in cookies for the other volunteers, Chris’ compassion is always on display at the Medical Center. Chris currently does 3 weekly shifts at the Medical Center, giving lots of love to our doggos, helping to lead new volunteers on their “First Shift,” and even assisting our Intake Staff with SAFER Assessments. There is nothing she won’t do and is always offering to assist with an Intake, a transport, or fostering a little fluffy creature that needs some extra attention. Chris was an obvious choice for our very first Medical Center Dogs Level 3 class and we all breathe a sigh of relief when we are a full house at the Medical Center and Chris is on the schedule. Chris’ selflessness is contagious and inspiring to us all.
Bobbie Edelman is one of the sweetest people that you will ever meet. The volunteer staff and her fellow volunteers are so grateful for the gentle presence and kind demeanor that she brings to all things PAWS – whether it’s counseling new families as they prepare to bring a new cat or kitten in to their home, or hosting visiting volunteer groups at both Lincoln Park and the Medical Center. Bobbie is also a PAWS Ambassador, attending various tabling events throughout the city on behalf of PAWS Chicago. We are so appreciative of her service over the past five years.
If you pop into the North Shore Adoption Center on a Wednesday or Sunday, you'll likely be greeted by the infectious smile and contagious enthusiasm of Lisa Shuma. Lisa has been volunteering at NSAC since we opened in 2014, and she is a true extension of the staff at this location. She’s well known among the North Shore volunteers as a bonafide dog whisperer, but she’s equally skilled in working with people – making adopters feel comfortable and matchmaking countless dogs. And this past year, Lisa entered a new frontier. She’s trained to become a Location Manager at North Shore, a role in which she as a volunteer runs the Center without any staff present. We are so grateful to Lisa for putting so much into her volunteer experience these past five years, and we are looking forward to seeing what she will do next!
If you volunteer in Kitty City, or off-site adoption events, or special events, or as an adoption counselor, you’ve probably run in to Loren. He is a critical part of the volunteer team, acting as a Level 2, Lead, Location Manager (both on and off-site), Adoption Counselor and mentor. Loren is also a foster counselor and a long-term foster himself. We are so appreciative of his presence in Kitty City, but if it’s possible, we might be even more appreciative of his quiet wit and vast knowledge of the Game of Thrones universe. Thank you, Loren!