On a cold Saturday morning just after the adoption center opened, Ginny Phillips, one of Berkeley Humane’s feline friends volunteers, greeted me with a warm smile. When she retired six years ago, she knew she wanted to be actively involved with animals. A coworker who had fostered animals before recommended Berkeley Humane as a great organization, and the rest is history.
Her volunteer routine is nothing but exciting. Usually, she volunteers ten hours a week. Since she is retired and only responsible for herself and her cat, her routine hasn’t changed much and it was easy for her to adapt as a volunteer and even help during special events. Although, laughing, she admits: “I get up really early now, around 8 o’clock.”
Phillip’s role as a volunteer is truly special. Not only does she help kittens, but she also interacts with people during adoption events with other rescue organizations several times a year. In addition, she helps sell the organization’s souvenirs and T-shirts and helps out in the warehouse where they receive food donations that they later give out to people who are struggling to feed their pets.
Her mission is clear and admirable as she says, “Whatever needs to be done, I’m always able to help.”
Nevertheless, there are also hard days. Phillips remembers certain cases, “Occasionally, we lose a cat or kitten. You know, there are natural causes … and, especially if they have been here for long, you see them decline. That’s hard. Sometimes we receive very sick cats.”
Although her eyes reflect sadness at first, she looks up again and her eyes begin to display optimism. “I think this has given [me] perspective. Before, I used to agonize all the time when my cats got sick,” she giggles. “I used to think they were going to die! But now that I’ve seen so many cats and kittens recover from some pretty bad things because we have good vets. I feel more confident taking care of my cat.” Returning to her warm smile, she tells me the second hardest part of her role: cleaning the litter boxes.
When I ask her about her impact on the community, she humbly replies that community members contribute thanks to the organization, members, volunteers, and specialists who periodically teach classes to educate pet owners and provide services the community needs. She mentions, “If they can’t keep their animal, the animal is going to end up in a shelter, and maybe come to us. So, we prefer for the animal’s safety and the family’s safety for them to stay together.”
“No matter how bad the world seems, when I come here, even if I’m not fully awake, by the time I leave, I just feel more hopeful.” She continues, “These wonderful creatures that we get to share our lives with just bring me hope.”
As we walked to the cat area, she couldn’t help but smile when talking about her routine—which begins with cleaning up the litter. “Sometimes you get your hands dirty!” she laughs. She puts on her gloves and proceeds to introduce me to the kittens. They are charming and seek attention, even when lying on their blanket after being spayed or neutered. “Something we do here is help the community by also keeping down the population. We neuter cats and dogs and even offer these services at a low cost so the community can access it,” she affirms.
Ginny changes her gloves and washes her hands before going to the next kitten. “We want to be extra careful,” she explains. The next kitten meows when she picks it up to take photos, although this kitten prefers to play with her rather than be a model.
She then introduces me to one of their adult cats who, surprisingly, has been at the shelter for a long time even though he is known for being very sweet. However, as we take pictures and play with them, a member of the shelter comes up with the “I am adopted” sign. Phillips gasps and claps, looking like a scene out of a movie. Her beloved kitty now has a home.
Meeting Phillips and the Berkeley Humane team was one of my most enjoyable experiences this year. They are a private organization that has been helping the East Bay and Central Valley community for over 125 years. Its mission is to serve the people and animals of our community by providing life-saving programs for cats and dogs, cultivating compassion, and strengthening the human-animal bond.
As Phillips and Morgan Pulleyblank, the Director of Development and Communications tell me, they never turn away an animal. “We have an adoption center, a full hospital, and a safety net center that includes a food pantry, training programs, a lost pet support group, and even more community resources.”
Pulleyblank adds, “We have the best volunteers in the whole world! They are just a fantastic group of people that are here to make the world better for the dogs and cats in our community. It is inspiring to have a group of volunteers who give everything they have to make this happen and help these animals. We love our volunteers, they are amazing.”
After this experience, I can confidently say that she is not wrong.
For more information about this organization, the adoption center, or ways to get involved, you can visit their website: https://berkeleyhumane.org/.