Thursday, February 28, 2013

February's Volunteer of the Month



It's hard to miss Eleni at the shelter. It seems like she's at the host desk every time I walk in. And she's a major player in the new Friends of BACS non-profit group. Read all about it right here!

What do you do when you're not at the shelter?

I direct what’s known as a “funder affinity group.” In less cryptic terms, I facilitate a network of private foundations to help them engage in deeper learning, collaboration and field building around environmental sustainability and the emerging area of “New Economy” issues. If you’ve ever seen the “Story of Stuff” video by my friend, colleague and Berkeley resident Annie Leonard, then you’ll be familiar with the issues I work on. I’m lucky in that I work with fabulous, interesting colleagues and get to travel to some amazing places throughout the year. In my leisure time (when I'm not at the shelter!), I love to take walks with friends' dogs at Point Isabel and the Bulb (since I don't have my own), take pottery classes, cook, hang out with friends and travel.
Why did you initially decide to volunteer at BACS?

I was a long-time volunteer at San Francisco Animal Care & Control (and board member of their “Friends of” organization). When I moved to Berkeley a couple of years ago, I wanted to get involved in the local shelter, so I signed up for the trainings and started walking dogs and visiting cats. Soon after, I learned about efforts led by volunteer DeAnna Dalton and others to form Friends of Berkeley Animal Care Services. I joined the Friends Board last year and we’ve all been working diligently to raise much-needed funds for BACS! (Get ready for another major fundraising party in the fall!).
What are your favorite things about volunteering?

Not surprisingly, I love visiting with the animals! But my focus more recently has been on people: a couple of months ago Amelia Funghi and I worked together to develop a Shelter Host program. We felt that it was really important, particularly in light of the new shelter opening, to have volunteers in the lobby who not only welcome visitors, answer all sorts of questions and help them find their way, but to help take some of the burden off of the (wonderful) folks working the front desk, who are often multitasking to the extreme, taking calls from the field, processing licenses and adoptions, etc. So far we have six active hosts and will be training more volunteers in the coming months. Being a Shelter Host is very fulfilling, because I feel it helps provide a positive impression of the shelter to visitors and will hopefully go a long way in engendering good will with the Berkeley community. And because I’ve been involved in animal welfare volunteering for a long time (over 20 years), I love it when I’m able to help visitors find the pet that’s right for them, or answer questions about how adoptions work.
Another favorite thing about volunteering at BACS is the staff –they are really terrific and their love for animals is genuine and palpable (I’m talking about you, Tim, Amelia, Marcie, Kate, April and many others!).

Who are your favorite dogs and cats, past and present?

I love them all, but I had a particular soft spot for the dogs Boi Boi, Cream Cheese, Demetri and more recently, Aquaman and Xena. Currently, I think the cats Tinku, Batman and Gity are all awesome, as are the dogs Philip, Chloe and Ferdinand. But my favorite pets above all are my cats Dora (nickname: Miss Monkey) and Teddy (nickname: Sasquatch or the Yeti), both adopted from the SF shelter in 2008.


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