We’ll take any opportunity to celebrate our volunteers, but National Volunteer Week gives us an extra chance to show them off and share their incredible impact! This year’s theme for National Volunteer Week is “Volunteering is Empathy in Action.” We couldn’t agree more, and we see it day after day with our hundreds of dedicated volunteers.
MEOW Foundation has been largely volunteer-run ever since our founding in 2000. Whether it’s keeping the Adoption Centre clean, feeding the cats, representing MEOW at events, fostering cats in need, creating MEOW merchandise by hand, or one of the many other tasks that keep us going, our volunteers are the glue that holds MEOW together!
No matter their role in the organization, empathy is the common denominator for all our volunteers. They are united by their love for cats and their incredible dedication to helping us Make Each One Wanted.
Caring for the cats
Of course, with MEOW being Calgary’s longest-running cat rescue, the first thing people think of when they think about volunteering with us is working with the cats. Every morning and evening, volunteers come to the Adoption Centre to clean and to feed the cats. Volunteers must commit to the same shift each week; some have been showing up week after week for years!
Seeing familiar faces is great for our cats – particularly the shy ones – and our volunteers love seeing the cats’ progressions from intake to adoption room to finding their forever family. Caring for animals is emotional work, and it’s hard not to get attached, but our volunteers love nothing more than to see an adoptable cat find their people; in fact, some of our Adoption Centre volunteers routinely check for cats who are trying out a new home!
Sue started volunteering at the Adoption Centre in the fall of 2021 at one shift a week, and recently picked up a second weekly shift! “I feel in love with ‘the boys’ as I affectionately call them in the office area. Marty, Heathcliff and Jer make my day every time I come in. Working the isolation area is fun because most if the cats in there just want love.
“The reason I stay is I love the staff I get to work with, they are all amazing. Having an opportunity to get to know the shy cats and see the progress with them makes everything worthwhile.”
Beyond the Adoption Centre
But there are so many more volunteer roles that are essential to our operation! Many people are surprised to learn that MEOW owns and operates our own thrift shop. MEOW Charity Thrift Shop is an important source of revenue for us and our volunteers help us maximize every dollar. From sorting donations to assisting customers to creating displays to sweeping the floor, our amazing volunteers keep the shop running!
As a cat and thrift store lover since childhood, Claudia was a natural fit for the thrift shop. “I was taking SAIT courses and did a project on MEOW. The more I got to know MEOW, the more it impressed me. SAIT always recommends volunteering and the boredom from a COVID wave was killing me! So, I joined. I haven’t regretted it since. The people here are warm and welcoming and I look forward to all my shifts. It fulfills everything that I love: cats, the retail aspect and the reuse of items.”
Claudia lost her own cat in December, “but being here and listening to other people’s stories really helped me through that. I keep coming back because of the great work and the people. It’s just a fun place to be!”
Showing up in the community
MEOW is lucky to be located in Calgary, a city with so many local markets where we can showcase our work and generate revenue through selling our merchandise. It’s a fun way to get to know other local businesses and spread the word about MEOW!
Lori is a long-time volunteer and has tried her hand at every role you can think of! In the last year she has been an integral part of our events team, making sure our booths are well stocked and setting up and tearing down for so many markets!
“My favourite venues last year were the pet markets; it was great seeing loads of dogs (and some cats too)! We have at least 3 market booths this year at events with pets, so I am looking forward to being at those and seeing all the furry friends.”
Giving a temporary home to cats in need
Most cats settle in at our Adoption Centre and thrive here until they find their forever homes. However, whether it’s taking in kittens, a cat with special medical needs or just a cat who doesn’t enjoy being around other cats, our foster homes play a huge part in getting many of our cats to their adoptive homes.
If you’re on Instagram, you probably know Barb – or @kitten.retreat as she’s known online! Barb has taken in many pregnant moms and litters of kittens for us over the last few years, giving them the utmost love and care.
“This summer marks five years of fostering with the amazing MEOW Foundation. This equates to 115 mama cats & kittens. I feel like fostering has been a real win/win/win situation; helping cats and kittens in need, resulting in them finding families who love them and having the lives they deserve. The people who adopt who are brought so much joy from adding a kitty to their family.”
Sewing up a storm
Part of what makes MEOW unique is our huge and varied selection of handmade merchandise. Whether it’s items for your pet or for yourself, our crew of crafters are always busy making one-of-a-kind items which we sell online, at our thrift shop and at markets around the city.
A lifelong cat lover, Carol is one of our dedicated crafters. “I adopted my first MEOW cat, Chloe, about 10 years ago and my daughter and Chloe bonded so closely that she wanted to give back to MEOW by volunteering to foster, so we became MEOW fosters 8 years ago. Shortly afterwards I also joined the Crafting Crew.
“I love to sew, but a house can only use so many quilts and it seemed like a good idea to put my sewing skills to use in a good cause. During COVID, we produced thousands of face masks, filling a need when masks were virtually unobtainable. My own cats appreciate having an inexhaustible supply of fleece to lounge on and insist on supervising my efforts and testing the results – they especially enjoy being on quality control detail with the catnip harvest!”
“Thank you” is not enough
To say our volunteers support our operations is a vast understatement. They keep us running! Between our Rescue and Adoption, Trap Neuter Return and Spay Neuter Assistance programs, MEOW Foundation cares for thousands of cats each year, and we simply wouldn’t be able to do it without our volunteers.
So, on National Volunteer Week and every other week of the year, a huge thank-you to our volunteers! We appreciate you more than you know.
Interested in volunteering with us? Visit our volunteer page for current opportunities.