Humane Society gradually restarts volunteer program
October 20, 2021
Inside the Champaign County Humane Society is a chorus of meows, barks, chirps and squeaks. Volunteers lead dogs in and out for walks, and staff arrange for a cat to be adopted by a family.
However, the CCHS wasn’t always such a hub of activity. The CCHS has constantly adapted its programs and services to combat against the pandemic.
“We did have to shut down the (volunteer) program for several months because we wanted to be responsible and make sure that we were taking every precaution to keep our volunteers and staff safe,” said Breanne Tabbert, volunteer coordinator and animal behavior specialist of the CCHS. “Just recently over the past couple of months, we’ve been able to kind of restart the program with volunteers that were previously active and slowly having them come back.”
One such volunteer is Bruce Goettel, who primarily helps with adoptions and walks dogs for CCHS. Goettel has worked with CCHS for 14 years and has seen many safety changes throughout the pandemic.
“We cleaned the rooms where people met the animals and went about a month and a half without wearing masks, which was nice,” Goettel said. “We also required people to make an appointment to come in and limited the number of people at a time. We haven’t had any volunteer orientations since the pandemic.”
Tabbert said the operations for the CCHS are more difficult because of changing COVID-19 safety protocols.
“It has been challenging to figure out the safest way to move forward because things change so often, like do we wear masks inside?” Tabbert said. “Do we not wear masks? Because our shelter is relatively small, how do you go about being able to socially distance, while also helping out and spending time with the animals? But as things change in the grand scheme, we’re doing our best to stay up to date with that.”
Tabbert hopes to open up the volunteer program in the next coming months.
“I do look forward to it and even throughout the pandemic, certainly people have still been interested in coming out,” Tabbert said. “So, I know that the interest is still there and I know that people still want to give their time. It’s just trying to figure out how to do that safely. That’s certainly been the most difficult.”
Volunteers can work with dogs, cats and small animals. They also have a foster program and host special events offsite.
“(Volunteers) also don’t have to work with every kind of animal,” Tabbert said. “It’s very much a pick and choose your own adventure of what species you prefer best.”
Goettel’s decision to volunteer for CCHS stems from the experiences he’s had with them in the past.
“I retired at a fairly young age and was looking for something to do — not stay home and watch television,” Tabbert said. “I’ve adopted some pets from (CCHS) before, and it’s a nice place to adopt from.”
Tabbert reflects this sentiment by setting a goal for how every volunteer’s time is spent.
“A long-term goal, I would say for the volunteer program, is just to continue to have a really healthy program that people do feel supported by and that they can come out and volunteer their time and feel like they’re getting something out of it,” Tabbert said. “It’s certainly something that I want to make sure everyone feels that they are getting as much as they’re giving, because everyone’s time is precious.”
Tabbert said she enjoys seeing the people find happiness while working with pets.
“Whether that be with our dog walking volunteers, when they tell me about a favorite dog that they have, and this really cool thing that they taught them outside, or cat socializers that like to give me updates that the more temperamental cats are still having really great interactions with people and that they are excited when they see them go home,” Tabbert said. “It’s just kind of the camaraderie of finding them homes.”