Interview with Voice for Companion Animals

Voice for Companion Animals was founded in 2011 to help ensure that companion pets in Nebraska are able to remain with their owners during financial hardships. Often times when an unexpected crisis strikes, pet owners are left with no means to provide for their animals. The non-profit provides pet food and supplies, some medical care, and education to support pet owners throughout Nebraska.

The programs offer only a temporary help; pet owners are asked to take steps towards being self-sufficient. Responsible ownership is encouraged through education on spay & neutering, follow-up with families to ensure appropriate vaccinations are given, and education on how to properly house and feed their pets.

Robyn Mays has been the president of Voice for Companion Animals since 2014. She said that she had been standing in her kitchen and was in shock when founder, Gayla Hausman, called her about taking over. Mays knew that in taking on this role she had “big shoes to fill,” but she’s proud of what Voice for Companion Animals has accomplished for Grand Island.

ALLISON: Why does Voice for Companion Animals focus on prevention?

ROBYN: After over five years in an animal shelter, I was able to see and hear the needs of those pet owners who were looking for options other than surrendering their beloved pet. Many did not want to do it, but they weren’t aware of any other options. Bad things happen, and we wanted to give those people a way to keep their pet. Shelters and rescues are always full. The pet needs to stay in their own home if at all possible.

ALLISON: How many pet owners does your pet food bank serve?

ROBYN: There are 65 pet owners who are served directly through our AniMeals program. We also assist the Howard-Greeley County Food Pantry and our local Salvation Army by providing pet food next to their other food pantry.

ALLISON: How much pet food do you give out per week?

ROBYN: We give out over 700lbs each month in our AniMeals program. We also donate to the other 2 food pantries when we have extra donations.

ALLISON: Do you hand out any other supplies at the pet food bank?

ROBYN: We also provide kitty litter, soft food and treats when we can. Also, we do a holiday gift bag once a year where they also received a pet bed/blanket, toy and treats. Last year, we had volunteers make pet toys. It was a win-win. The kids loved it and the pet owners really enjoyed them.

ALLISON: Share some memorable or touching moments.

ROBYN: A memorable moment involves our holiday gift bags for each of the pet owners in our AniMeals program, the program where we deliver to a senior or a veteran. One year we recruited other volunteers to deliver with us. One individual returned with tears in her eyes and said, “Now I get why you do this. They’re so grateful. It’s awesome!”

ALLISON: Share a little of your background with animals.

ROBYN: Our family has always had pets when I was growing up. I loved cats, but there were other family members who were allergic, so I waited until I moved out before adopting one or two (or three or four).

Then when a new animal shelter was built in Grand Island, I applied to volunteer in the office. During the application process, I was hired as an administrative assistant instead.

Within the next five years, I grew into an Associate Director position. Those five years were spent being involved in just about every aspect of an animal shelter, from assisting with their care, to fundraising, to adoptions, to animal control calls.

ALLISON: Share a little of your background in volunteer work.

ROBYN: I’ve done other volunteering in the past, but animal welfare is who I am. Voice for Companion Animals is an all-volunteer nonprofit, and we are all about the animals and the people who love them. It’s a great day when you get to see the impact we are making in the community, and the community’s response to our mission.

ALLISON: How have you grown in your volunteer abilities?

ROBYN: In the past, I’ve definitely been an introvert. I was happy to be at a desk job and be left alone to do my work. Within the last several years, I’ve changed. As everyone knows, to grow a nonprofit or business, you better get out there. You have to be marketing, administration, and caregiver rolled into one. It’s been an adjustment, but a good one.

ALLISON: What have you learned about animals from being a volunteer?

ROBYN: If we slow down and observe them, they teach us so much. How they feel, who they trust, their likes and dislikes. Mostly, they don’t lie. It is what it is with them.

ALLISON: Why should other pet lovers volunteer?

ROBYN: When looking for a good volunteer or employee, it seemed everyone was saying, “I want to work/volunteer here because I love pets.” That didn’t always equate to a good worker. Some people thought all we did was play with kitties and puppies all day.
One day of volunteering was sometimes all it took to open their eyes. It is work. And sometimes it is awful work.

But then there are days that are completely awesome. Saving a life that would have been euthanized, or seeing a puppy mill dog walk on grass for the first time. These days more than make up for the bad.

ALLISON: Give a tip to future volunteers.

ROBYN: Check your ego at the door. Everyone does whatever it takes, whether loading or unloading donations, delivering food/supplies, cleaning out litterboxes, or doing laundry. The work needs done and the animals are depending on you.

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