Donna Kavanaugh, LAA’s Volunteer Coordinator

LAA always needs good volunteers. We can’t grow without volunteers to help do the things that need to be done, so the more volunteers we have, the more we can do. There is never a shortage of things to do.

Founded in 2008 by a group of people who wanted to reduce the number of homeless animals sent to shelters and euthanized, Lincoln Animal Ambassadors focuses on three major initiatives.

  • Its Pet Food Bank was first established at St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church, which served as a drop-off and pickup location for donating and picking-up food. The program has steadily grown and changed over the years, at one point being housed at The Cat House. The group now distributes several thousand pounds of food every month from space donated by Superior Veterinary Clinic.
  • Its low-cost spay/neuter program recognizes that “the best way to reduce the number of homeless animals is to prevent them in the first place”. In partnership with several area veterinary clinics, LAA offers low-cost spay/neuter procedures. LAA has funded 2,294 S/N surgeries to date.
  • Its education program takes various forms. Initially, volunteers offered presentations upon request. While this remains an option, LAA also as an information table at Petco locations and at various animal welfare events such as I Love My Dog Expo. For the past two years, humane education has also been presented at LAA’s blog.

DonnaKavaugh_CroppedNone of these services would be possible without volunteers. For my final article in this series about LAA, I’m turning the spotlight on Donna Kavanaugh, who is LAA’s volunteer coordinator.

Despite having allergies, Donna grew up owning and loving pets. “We always had pets growing up. I don’t remember ever not having both cats and dogs.” Naturally, when her children were old enough to care for themselves, Donna began to volunteer to help animals. “Animals deserve to live and be happy, not endure abuse and be mistreated and killed due to human indifference and ignorance.”

I feel humans are supposed to take care of animals. That’s what we try to do in LAA.

“When my dad died, my mom was staying with us and then subsequently had to go to a nursing home due to health issues, and Razzie stayed with us. We call him our strange little man, as he’s a little quirky. He loves his blanket and drags it out of his crate to lay on if he gets cold. He sleeps in a recliner, which we call ‘Razzie’s chair’.”

When she became unhappy with the first organization she volunteered with, Donna sought out other opportunities. This is how she found LAA. Initially, the group asked her about taking on a phone shift, a duty for which volunteers are always needed. Four years later, Donna still has this task, but has also grown in her involvement. She accepted a request to sit on LAA’s board. Next, she took on the role of newsletter chairperson. Most recently, when the role of volunteer coordinator became available, Donna was asked to switch positions, and she did.

Her role as a volunteer coordinator requires Donna to work with a lot of people. She responds to people inquiring about volunteering with LAA. Those who are interested in helping with telephone calls are referred to either Mary or Pauline for training. (Mary trains the pet food bank phone line volunteers and Pauline trains the spay/neuter phone interviewers.) In addition, Donna assists with the coordination of volunteers for shifts at the pet food bank.  Specifically, she sets up the volunteer sign-up sheet and supervises the on-site volunteers. Last but not least, Donna helps coordinate volunteers for LAA’s fundraising events.

As part of her involvement with LAA, Donna has grown not only in her awareness of the plight of homeless animals but also in her abilities as a volunteer. Through her phone shift duties, Donna’s learned a lot about pet food bank recipients and her knowledge of how to best help them. Through her responsibilities as a volunteer coordinator, Donna has also become better able to talk to people about how they can help, which she says ultimately helps others. “While it takes compassion to deal with what we do, it also takes a firm ability to know when we can and can’t help, the best way to help, and how that fits into what we do, so I’ve had to strengthen my ability to deal with people.”

“Spike has these stiff tufts of fur on his head, like a mini-mohawk, and on the side of his face. I’m not sure if he had the name ‘Spike’ or if the humane society gave him that name, but we kept it because it fit. Spike also has ‘his’ place on the couch and if another pet is occupying that space, he gets nervous and paces until he can have ‘his’ spot back.”

I asked Donna what she most enjoyed about volunteering for LAA. She responded that some of her most enjoyable moments have been when she and Ron are volunteering together–going to pick up donations, working together at the pet food bank during distributions and taking care of organizing and cleaning the pet food bank. She also mentioned LAA’s fundraiser events, Wine & Howl and Meow & Chow. “These are where you see the culmination of all the work needed to organize a fundraiser. You see people having a good time and participating for the good of companion animals. And there’s usually good food involved, so that’s always a plus!”

We all do more than one thing.  I think that’s a given in a small organization; we multi-task or we wouldn’t be able to accomplish what we do.

I asked Donna what advice she would give to future volunteers. In a nutshell: “Get involved.” Donna elaborated by saying that it doesn’t matter what your skill or interest is, LAA will find something for you to do. I certainly can attest to this! As an introvert, phone lines and fundraisers weren’t for me, whereas I love to write and so I became their main blogger. Donna wrapped up her advice by saying, “The more involved you become, the more you learn, and the more you see how you’re helping with what you do. Don’t be afraid to jump in, as you’ll learn as you go and we are all willing to help you.  The most important thing is to have a willing attitude.” I can also attest to this! After blogging a year for LAA, I’ve begun to accept other responsibilities such as helping out at fund-raisers. In response, I’ve always received lots of encouragement, support, and gratitude from the LAA board.

Catnip and Simba
“Catnip (the gray tabby) was a barn cat at my parents’ place. When dad died, we brought her to our house. Ron patiently created a space for her where she’d feel comfortable and secure. At first, she was very difficult to even pet. She still doesn’t really like to be picked up, but she loves to sit on my lap when watching TV. She’s bonded with our newest cat, Simba (the Red Maine Coon mix). We adopted Simba from a family who had gotten him as a kitten and couldn’t keep him. He’s very social, vocal, and inquisitive cat. If you set something down, he’ll be checking it over and sitting in or on it if possible.”

Over the past few weeks, I’ve written about LAA’s three main initiatives (spay/neuter, pet food bank, and education), and how ones can help with them. I want to reiterate the needs of the pet food bank. One is a bigger physical space where LAA could more easily store donations and provide quicker service to even more clients. The other is donations of pet food, litter, and other supplies. Accepted items are listed at: Donate Pet Supplies.

If getting involved with LAA’s three main initiatives options has limited appeal to you, please check out LAA’s long list of ways you can volunteer: What You Can Do

The list will show you that Donna is correct when she says: “Get involved” and “There’s never a shortage of things one can do” Interested? Fill out an application here: Volunteer

It is rewarding to know that you are helping others.  Whether or like to help people or animals, with LAA you get to help both.



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