In this new series for LAA Pet Talk, I will be shining a spotlight on some volunteers who are helping animals. My first guest is Jodi Lee, whom I first met when I attended one of her Cats and Craft nights, a fundraiser for The Cat House.
What comes to mind when you think of ways people can make a difference in an animal’s life? Volunteering at a shelter or rescue? Jodi has done that. Fostering or adopting? Jodi has done that too. But I bet hosting a crafts night didn’t make your list. I chose Jodi as the subject for the first article in this series because of the innovative ways she is making a difference in the lives of animals.
For starters, Jodi is an art teacher. According to her, it was just something she was born to do.
I always loved being a leader as a kid with my brother, and I loved to learn. After I had worked in Graphic Design for a few years, I realized I wanted to do something that made a difference. I wanted to make the world better, and so, with my love of art I took the risk and went back to school for teaching. And I love it.
If you were to visit Jodi while teaching (something I hope to do one day!), you would see a very busy classroom. She teaches seven different grades every day, which means there’s a lot of switching out of students. A lot of little lessons on media and techniques are taught first, so students become comfortable creating art and showing their own ideas. According to Jodi, she wants her students to “make their thinking visible.” She doesn’t teach assembly design lessons, where each artist’s piece has a similar result, but instead she suggests ideas, shares stories, asks big questions, and has students respond through their art.
What, you might ask, does being an art teacher have to do with helping animals? In fact, I posed that very question to Jodi, who told me: “There is always an opportunity to give education on social issues.” She then gave me an example of a time when the class created origami cats: “I made sure all students drew claws on the cats and told them the importance of cats having claws.”
Here, she paused, and then explained that it’s more than just the lessons. She shared how one day the kids were talking about big cats at zoos: “I asked how they would feel if they were taken away from their family and put in a small room and stared at all day. I didn’t say it was wrong or right, but just put the question out there for students to reflect on. I also mention the positive side, like how there are wild animals that need rescue such as big cats and places like sanctuaries exist.”
What inspired Jodi to become an artist? She loves the process of creating. “I love getting lost in a painting or clay and having it become something. It almost takes on a life of its own when I’m in that process. I just love it.”
To train to become an artist, Jodi got her Associates and her Bachelor of Arts in Commercial Art and Graphic Design, which took her about four years. As part of her studies, Jodi took several courses in all types of art-making. Watercolor was an early favorite. Later, she also discovered clay. “Surprisingly, I only took one ceramics class during my art training. The first summer [that] I was not either working part time or in a graduate school I took a clay class. And. Fell. In. Love.”
What, you might wonder, does being an art teacher have to do with helping animals? I posed this question to Jodi, who shared: “I see a HUGE need for animal education in our society. I started noticing this after a few years at The Cat House. I knew I could teach and tie in education. I also wanted to contribute.”
Cats and Crafts night started four summers ago. Jodi creates a flyer for each event, which she shares in the PAWS PAGES for the Lincoln Journal Star, on the TCH website, and Facebook. Flyers are also available at most informational and/or fund-raising events attended by The Cat House volunteers. At one point, the kids’ night was the most popular, but now the adults love the crafting nights too. Jodi donates all her own art supplies, with all proceeds going straight to The Cat House. Over $3,000 has been raised since Cats and Crafts started four summers ago.
To date, I have attended three such nights. Two were held on separate years just before Christmas, during which time I created greeting cards, gift bags, bookmarks, and name tags. Some attendees also made ornaments. There were oodles of supplies: card stock, cutouts, stickers, and so much more. I enjoyed customizing cards for family members and friends.
At another event, held just before February, participants brought a donation and a piece of glassware to paint. Pictured below are some samples that Jodi displayed. Stencils and drawings were provided, along with brushes, sponges, paints, and again oodles of other supplies.
I spent most of the evening decorating a champagne bottle to give to my husband as an anniversary gift. By the time I got to my vases, so much time had passed that I decided just to go for an abstract look.
Ever since I started looking for ways to help animals a few years ago, and discovered that traditional ways weren’t always going to work for me, the dilemma of how exactly to be of service has been on my mind. As you can see, right now I’m using my love of writing. I hope Jodi’s story will inspire you to find your own path too.
Over the upcoming weeks and months, I’ll post additional articles about people who are helping animals in both unique and traditional ways. If you are a volunteer, I’d love to hear from you and to share your story right here at LAA Pet Talk.
If you can help, then help. It’s what we should do as humans, help one another if we can and when we can. If you can’t help, and not everyone can, at least don’t harm.