Community organizations across the country are gearing up for National Volunteer Week, April 6-12, 2014, the 40th year of a program designed to inspire people to make a difference—and recognize those who do. The Friends For the Dearborn Animal Shelter salute the many volunteers who support its organization, including inspirational volunteer Sue Barna, who turned a job loss into an opportunity to give back and has been rewarded “immeasurably.”
When Barna was laid off from Roush Enterprises in 2009, she was devastated. For 18 years, she had devoted her time and talents to the automotive supplier, charged with everything from race hospitality to HR.
Though she wouldn’t be retiring from Roush as she’d planned, Barna and her husband, Serge, had been saving diligently for retirement. That meant Barna didn’t need to work if she didn’t want to. She decided she did want to—just not for pay. So she rolled up her sleeves and looked for volunteer opportunities that would match her passions, determining not to be unemployed but rather fun-employed.
Barna’s heart led her to an elementary school near her home in Livonia, to a hospital, and to the Dearborn Animal Shelter.
Five years later, Barna treats her twice-a-week shelter gig like she’s earning a paycheck. She steadfastly shows up every Tuesday and Friday to tend to the Cat Community Center (cage-free living space for shelter felines), filling food and water dishes, cleaning litter boxes, and sweeping and mopping the floors. Instead of cash, she’s compensated with purrs and furry affection.
“My favorite part is sitting down at the end to connect with the cats,” she says. “They crave human affection. And I get as much love as I give.”
Last December, the Friends For the Dearborn Animal Shelter thanked Barna for her dedication by surprising her with its highest volunteer honor, the Heart & Soul Award.
“Sue is the kind of person that every volunteer coordinator dreams of,” says Mary Sheridan, who fills that role for the Friends. “She is an extremely hard worker with a good attitude who really embodies the spirit of the shelter.”
Although this was not Barna’s first Friends award—she was honored in 2010 and 2011 for most in-shelter hours—she says she was “absolutely stunned” to hear her name called during the annual volunteer ceremony. “Knowing I’m making a difference in the lives of the cats and helping the incredible shelter staff is all the thanks I need,” says Barna. “My life has been immeasurably enriched.”
Interested in honoring National Volunteer Week by following in Barna’s footsteps? There are numerous ways to lend a helping hand—or paw—at the Dearborn Animal Shelter. Volunteers do everything from walking appreciative dogs and stuffing fundraising envelopes to counseling adopters and transporting animals to veterinary appointments. Helping out can also take place from the comfort of home by fostering puppies or kittens on a short-term basis or promoting adoptable animals on Facebook and other social media sites. In addition, students under the age of 18 are welcome to earn community-service hours for school or church by joining the shelter’s Kid Crusaders team.
As for Barna, she was immediately drawn to the shelter’s Cat Community Center and the way it allows older, social cats to enjoy a homey environment. “My husband’s only concern when I began volunteering is that I’d feel sorry for the cats and want to bring them all home with me,” Barna says, noting that she and Serge are at cat-capacity with two of their own. “I’m certainly happy when they each find their forever homes, but I never feel bad walking out at the end of the day because the shelter is caring for them so wonderfully.”
To find a warm-and-fuzzy volunteer position of your own, visit DearbornAnimals.org and click the Volunteer button, email Volunteer Coordinator Mary Sheridan at volunteers@DearbornAnimals.org or call her at 313-943-2697, ext. #3555. The Dearborn Animal Shelter is located at 2661 Greenfield Road, Dearborn, and is operated by the Friends For the Dearborn Animal Shelter, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. Follow the shelter on Facebook or Twitter.
Source: Dearborn Animal Shelter
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