by Heather Jahrling
Since 1970, the Waterville Humane Society (HSWA) has served as a safe haven for animals in need. With a current placement rate of 97.5%, HSWA takes pride in sheltering animals until they find a permanent home by educating the community and advocating for animal rights. However, to accomplish all of these goals, volunteers are much needed.
Through the Colby Volunteer Center, a student-run program called Paw Pals assists the humane society every week. Program leaders Olivia Wright ’19 and Sammy Attia ’19 started volunteering at the humane society their first year at Colby by walking dogs and socializing cats. As their involvement with the humane society grew, the students took on leading the program. As program leaders, Wright and Attia help students get involved in volunteering by providing information on organizations, volunteer applications, transportation to the shelter, and more.
On their reasoning behind contributing to the program, Attia remarked that, “the shelter is incredibly valuable to the Waterville community and helps tons of animals find permanent homes.” Paw Pals volunteers are asked to contribute one to two hours a week. Wright commented, “when you sign up for a volunteer shift, you can decide exactly what you want to help with!”
This flexibility allows volunteers to select what fits their availability and comfort zone the best. The types of volunteering include walking dogs, socializing cats, helping with laundry, cleaning, feeding, and more. Each position is valuable, and most require minimal training. For example, after attending one dog walking class, a volunteer can come anytime to the shelter to walk the dogs. Walking helps socialize and tire them out. Attia commented, “volunteers are crucial in making the animals more adoptable.”
If a student is not a dog or cat person, there are still many other opportunities available. Small animal care focuses on bunnies, guinea pigs, rats, and other small critters. This position entails cleaning the animals’ environment and feeding. Wright stated, “little tasks such as changing a load of laundry can help them in big ways, the shelter is always very busy so daily upkeep can sometimes be hard.”
If students want to take part in Paw Pals in a less conventional, but equally important way, they can help spread the humane society’s message, or assist in the office with mailings and phone calls.
Wright commented on the status of the shelter, saying “the shelter has seen a lot of change in recent years and has grown in a lot of different ways, with a new online volunteer signup platform, lots of fun activities to engage the community, and a lot more outreach to let everyone know what’s happening at the shelter.”
This past fall, Paw Pals organized a few events for Save Your Shelter Month to help fundraise. Facing possible closure due to low funding, the humane society depended on donations to stay open. To help keep the doors open, Paw Pals worked with the director of the shelter to bring kittens to campus as a stressbuster for students and a way to raise money.
Attia shared that “the event far exceeded our expectations, and we raised $400 in two hours, to add onto other funding from events throughout the month!” The shelter ended up raising its goal of $250,000 and will stay open.
Both Attia and Wright have enjoyed their experience so much at the humane society that both plan on finding a shelter to volunteer at post graduation. They encourage all who are interested in spending time around animals and giving back to the community to join. If you are interested in volunteering, email the program leaders for next year: Delaney Wood or Mairead Farrell.