by Aggie Swituszak, Product Specialist
The holiday season tends to remind us what it means to spread kindness. No matter the hardships faced during the year, the month of December is prime time to reflect on family, friends, and giving back. Despite being in a pandemic, there are still ways we can help out communities and organizations that help others around the world. Volunteering provides not only the opportunity to help others, but to help yourself. Personally, I am reminded of all the memories I have of volunteering and giving back to my community at our local animal shelter.
I had started volunteering when I was 16 at my local animal shelter in Pomona, NY. I had no idea what I was doing and definitely caused more harm than good, pestering staff with questions and walking aimlessly around looking for someone to give me something to do. After going every week for about two months, the staff trusted me enough to give me tasks that most volunteers were not allowed to do. I had begun to bring friends to volunteer with me, it had started to become something that was normal for us to do. Overall, I had volunteered 70+ hours there for over a span of two years. I had befriended all of the staff and all of the animals.
Volunteering at someplace as random as an animal shelter still taught me invaluable things about life and the world around me. I saw animals that were there before I started and were still not adopted by the time I stopped volunteering. I learned about the underfunding animal shelters have and how much they truly rely on volunteers and donations to stay afloat. I was able to interact with the animals that were stuck in cages all day, letting them out and playing with them. Spending time and playing with the animals builds their play skills and in turn the likelihood of their adoption.
The world may not always be fair and just, but even my small contribution to the shelter made a large impact on both the animals and the staff. Although I won’t ever know, I like to think that all the animals had better days when I was there to look after them. Volunteering is not always fun and easy, it was also cleaning litter boxes and kennels, cleaning sick cats, and washing piles of food bows. Something I live by is that the greatest gift you can give is your time. This holiday season, think about places in your community that could greatly benefit from your time, think about those who have struggled this year and are in need of some charity. Through this difficult year, we must foster a sense of community, now more than ever.