Published March. 19, 2015
New volunteer group offers
Ambassadors, Junior board sponsor new events to help raise
and raise money
By Pamela Lannom
Most nonprofit organizations will say they would be lost without their volunteers.
The Hinsdale Humane Society is no different. Volunteers walk dogs, socialize cats and provide foster homes for animals who need them.
And, as of last year, the organization has two new groups that are working to spread awareness about the humane society and help raise money to support its operations.
“The Ambassadors and the Junior Board are vital to our efforts to build awareness of the many programs and services Hinsdale Humane Society provides in the community,” said Lori Halligan, executive director.
Joining the Junior Board was a natural for Katie Callahan of Hinsdale, who had been volunteering as a dog walker for the humane society.
“I really want to be a vet when I’m older, so I figured by helping out the humane society as much possible I’d get to see the animals, and I love raising money and volunteering a lot,” the Hinsdale Central senior said.
She was involved in planning one of the group’s inaugural events, Petapalooza, in September.
“We had bands from schools around here come and they played and we did raffles and raised a ton of money for the humane society,” Callahan said.
The event also was a great learning experience for the students involved.
“It’s a lot of hard work. Getting everything organized takes some time,” she related. “You really have to work hard if you want to go through with it.”
And that’s all part of the plan, said Kym Iffert, humane education director.
“The junior board started as a way to try to find new ways to engage teenagers, let them volunteer, teach them what it takes to be a not-for-profit and also teach them about animal advocacy,” she said.
The group started with about six teens and now has a membership list of 30, Iffert said, although some are more active than others. Junior board members also have gone Christmas caroling at The Birches, conducted a pet supply drive and volunteered as counselors for the society’s summer Animal Awareness Camps.
“In a year’s time, they have been solely responsible for at least $2,000 worth of donations that have come in and they have helped with at least nine different events,” Iffert said. “Just being a support system for the events we put together at the shelter has been really nice.”
Central freshman Ian Stevenson joined the board in time to participate in Christmas caroling and volunteer at some other events. He got involved because he believes in the humane society’s mission.
“I myself have three dogs, one of them being a shelter dog, a puppy mill dog from the Hinsdale Humane Society,” he said. “I just feel like how they take these animals in and take care of them and give them good homes is good.”
People have been receptive to the junior board’s efforts, including the pet supply drive, he said.
“Lots of people were very willing as they were going through the store to buy things and drop them off in the bin,” he said. “It was great to see how supportive people were of the cause.”
Stevenson plans to stay involved and, as one of only three guys on the board, encourage his friends to get involved.
“I know they would be sympathetic with what they do,” he said.
Iffert said she is most proud of the fact that the board is changing the teens’ perception of what a volunteer is.
“They are learning marketing skills and public relations, and they learn organization and time management,” she said. “Those are things I know I didn’t get through high school volunteering.”
And as the board continues to grow and develop, so will opportunities for it to support the shelter.
“We have a long way to go to get to where we think we can go,” Iffert said.
Mutts & Margaritas, Photos with Santa and this fall’s Black Cat Ball are all events that would not have taken place had it not been for the efforts of about 30 women known as the Ambassadors.
Kate Hunley and some of her friends from the Hinsdale Junior Women’s Club were looking to get more involved with Hinsdale charities when her good friend Christie Cuthbert suggested they look into the humane society.
“We only live a few blocks away, so I had always seen people out doing work,” she said. “As a mom, I thought that was a great charity that was in the area.”
Hunley is currently co-chairing the silent auction committee for the Oct. 30 Black Cat Ball, a task she enjoys.
“It’s just fun to get together with a group of girls, and it’s for a great cause,” she said.
Plus the group provides flexibility for women to volunteer in ways that fit their schedules, she said.
“As a working mom, it’s just a great way to be involved,” she said.
Fellow co-chair Ali Rago has been familiar with the humane society since she was a child growing up in the village. But that’s not true for all Hinsdale residents, she said.
“It’s absolutely such a great opportunity to help the animals but also just raising awareness in the community about the humane society,” she said. “Some people know about it, some people don’t — especially new members of the community.”
The Ambassadors also are getting their kids excited about volunteering for the humane society as well.
Like junior board members, Rago has been impressed with the community’s response to the group’s efforts, especially Mutts and Margaritas.
“I was truly amazed. That was our first real event as Ambassadors and with social media, those tickets for that party sold out probably within half an hour,” she said. “It was so exciting to see how many people were ready to enjoy a night by helping the humane society.”
The women enjoy working together and are able to capitalize on the relationships many formed in Hinsdale Juniors.
“We were a team already,” Rago said. “It didn’t take a lot of effort to get the ball rolling on things.”