Every year, we honor PAWS volunteers as our Volunteers of the Year. While every single volunteer is absolutely vital to the work we do, these nine special individuals went above and beyond in lending a helping hand to Chicago’s homeless animals. Watch the video below to help us celebrate 2020’s winners and hear a little about what makes them so invaluable to PAWS!
Congratulations, Donna, Marie, Chris, Eileen, Kent, Alice, Lauren, Beth, and Laura!
Volunteer All Stars
Chris Scronce is a L2 Kitty City volunteer, member of the Jackson Galaxy Cat PAWSITIVE training team, foster counselor, adoption matchmaker and so much more! Chris spends countless hours working with the cats & kittens of PAWS Chicago, and spends even more time working with potential adopters to help them find the best feline match for their home and lifestyle. What’s more, Chris used her ingenuity and incredible organizational prowess to help PAWS foster parents by pairing them up with donated items like cat trees, baby gates and more to make their foster experience easier. She organizes, sorts and distributes all donated items that come to PAWS from the community – streamlining the influx of items and helping to ensure each donation is used by the programs in need. Thank you, Chris!
In 2020, Lauren Acre was a volunteer superstar. She logged hundreds of hours packing up supply kits for our Mobile Pet Food Pantry, ensuring that PAWS for Life clients still received the items that their pets needed despite the COVID-19 pandemic. As a TLC volunteer at the Medical Center, Lauren also works with pets in isolation – giving them the love and enrichment they need to thrive while they recover from sickness or injury. And Lauren served as a volunteer lead for the Medical Center, acting as an extension of the volunteer staff by mentoring and training many new volunteers ready to help at PAWS Chicago. We appreciate you, Lauren!
With 1169 volunteer hours logged in 2020, Eileen Johnson was an instrumental part of the PAWS Chicago volunteer team. Almost every morning, the staff at the Medical Center could count on Eileen to be there – folding hundreds of loads of laundry and washing thousands of dishes – truly doing whatever was needed to keep the shelter operations running smoothly. Beyond her in-building work, Eileen went the extra mile (and mile, and mile) to rescue PAWS pets in our Hurricane Laura rescue effort. And, Eileen lives and breathes our philosophy of “once a PAWS pet, always a PAWS pet.” She’s traveled far and wide – from Connecticut to Florida to California – to rescue surrendered PAWS pets and bring them safely back to Chicago to find their new homes.
When the COVID-19 pandemic began, Donna Bailey leapt into action to ensure our Pet Food Pantry could continue to run by coordinating all mobile Pantry operations. Donna called clients to understand their needs, organized deliveries and completed all administrative functions to keep the Pantry moving through the pandemic. Beyond this, Donna was a constant presence as an Intake volunteer – for hundreds of animals, Donna is the first human welcoming them off the transport van into their new journey as a PAWS pet. What’s more, Donna is often the first welcoming face for our newest volunteers as a virtual New Volunteer Orientation trainer. Her infectious smile and passion for animals inspires countless others to volunteer their time to support animals.
Every Saturday morning without fail, Alice Hunt is in her green apron at the Medical Center. You’ll find her washing dishes and doing laundry, mentoring new volunteers, walking dogs – or doing whatever tasks the day happens to unfold! Alice is always there with a smile and positive spirit, and in 2020, she extended her work beyond the Medical Center into our adoption program. As a virtual adoption matchmaker, Alice helps place the dogs and cats that she once cared for at the Medical Center into their adoptive homes. Thank you, Alice, for everything you do!
Beth Foley’s compassion and empathy radiate from within when she is working with both adopters and pets. As a virtual adoption counselor and adoption matchmaker, Beth places PAWS pets in their new homes and provides the new adopters with the information and resources needed to care for a new pet. In Kitty City, Beth’s work with some of our longer-term cats helps prepare them for adoption – from structured play and enrichment to cat clicker training – Beth’s special loving touch makes a difference for each and every cat she cares for.
Marie Kukielka’s passion for homeless pets seemingly knows no bounds! As a L3 Dog Town volunteer, Marie works tirelessly to ensure the dogs of PAWS receive enrichment and exercise through rooftop playgroups, training walks and more. At home, Marie processes foster applications from eager new PAWS supporters, enabling more dogs and cats to get out of the shelter and into loving foster homes. During the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, PAWS Chicago received an outpouring of support from the community wanting to foster, and Marie and the foster application team processed thousands of applications in a few short weeks! And as a L2 trainer, Marie helps to train additional volunteers to advance at PAWS and provide more support in Dog Town! Thank you, Marie, for giving so much to help homeless pets.
Laura Bergman has been a PAWS volunteer for more than a decade, and in that time she has filled SO many roles: North Shore Adoption Center L3 volunteer, adoption counselor, PAWS Ambassador, New Volunteer Orientation trainer and so much more. In 2020, Laura became an integral part of the virtual adoption process as a virtual volunteer matchmaker. By placing dogs, cats, puppies and kittens into loving homes, Laura helped those pets thrive – while at the same time enabling PAWS to pull in more animals and save more lives.
When Kent Vaubel walks in the door of the Lincoln Park Adoption Center, the dogs perk up and the morning crew is filled with gratitude! A pandemic volunteer hero, Kent’s steadfast presence throughout 2020 helped ensure that the busy morning shift ran smoothly and that the dogs received morning walks and enrichment. Kent’s compassion, energy and enthusiasm for shelter dogs were felt throughout the Lincoln Park Adoption Center on so many mornings in 2020, and we appreciate everything he does for the dogs of PAWS!