ALIVE has a variety of volunteer opportunities and programs that benefit our community. The "Reach Out" program is a way for us to connect with people who could use a visit from our volunteers and pups to brighten their day. We are so fortunate to have Rickey on our team leading this amazing program. She is always encouraging more volunteers to join and the feedback we get on the visits, lets us know she is the perfect fit to lead the way. Rickey tells her volunteer story and the impact of the "Reach Out" program below....
"I started volunteering at ALIVE back in 2013. I was looking to volunteer at a rescue and my daughter said “call Kristen - She runs a great shelter.” One of the best decisions I ever made! I volunteered a few times a week — walking pups, playing with kittens, cleaning up, folding laundry, etc.
One day in 2016, we went to CACC to take 14 dogs for their Freedom Rides. One of them was a sad, sick little guy named Chutzpah. I fell in love with him. He was in and out of the ER for a month with canine flu and pneumonia. When it was time to take him home, Kristen asked if I could take him. He needed nebulizer treatments 4 times a day and some TLC. After about 5 days of fostering, some people put in adoption papers for him. I was already over-the-moon mad for him and couldn’t let him go. I renamed him Charley and became one in a line of many ALIVE Rescue Foster Fails. He is my BFF and pretty much always by my side.
Caroline (Jones) introduced me to the "Reach Out" program as she was running it at the time. It sounded wonderful and I decided to join. Initially (before Charley), I took one of my daughter’s dogs (she has 4) to the program. After Caroline sadly passed away, Kristen asked if I would take over as coordinator to continue the program. I’ve been leading the program ever since.
The "Reach Out" Program is a wonderful way to give back to the community. We visit senior homes, rehab and mental health facilities. Some residents suffer from dementia, some are old and feeble... and some are sharp as a tack but have physical ailments. What they all have in common, is the joy they show when we visit. To see a dementia patient who doesn’t speak or make eye contact, cuddle a dog on her lap is one of the most heartwarming things I’ve ever seen. Patients may not remember their names, but they remember cuddling and love. Every once in a while, a patient will start talking about the dog or cat she had as a child. That’s amazing.
Our "Reach Out" visits last an hour. They’re always on a weekend, since that’s most convenient for our volunteers. Generally, residents are gathered in a community room so we’re all together visiting as a group. Sometimes we’ll visit individual rooms if a resident is bed-bound.
We have a core group of volunteers who show up at most visits (you know who you are). But we always welcome new people who want to join us. The pups love the attention and the residents love the pups. Some of them also enjoy the adult conversation. If you look at the pictures from previous visits, you’ll get a good idea of the joy our pups bring too residents.
Every time we leave a facility, someone asks:"when will you be back?" It’s heartwarming to see that one hour can make such an impact in a resident’s life. And we usually get a thank you email from the facility director telling us how much residents love the program.
I think it’s safe to say that all of us who take part in "Reach Out" visits leave feeling like we’ve helped brighten someone’s day. Seniors, physically challenged and people with mental health issues relish this kind of outreach. I hope people will continue to support this program. We can do double the number of visits if we can encourage more volunteers and leaders to join in! This is a wonderful way to honor Caroline’s memory and all she did for ALIVE.
To become a Reach Out volunteer, requirements are simple.
- Attend a volunteer orientation (without your dog)
- Your dog must be friendly to people and other dogs
- Your dog must be up-to-date on vaccinations and hopefully have nails trimmed
- Find out more details on our program page at www.aliverescue.org."