By David Greisman
Some of the animals were given up. Others were abandoned, left to fend for themselves in the wilderness as strays.
No matter their stories — and whether they were cats, dogs, rabbits, ferrets, guinea pigs, gerbils, hamsters, or even reptiles — the Animal Advocates of Howard County are there working with Howard County Animal Control to care for them and find them new homes. The organization also spays and neuters animals and helps pay for emergency medical treatment when their owners can’t afford it.
And all of that is thanks to a community that is generous with its time and money.
“We would not exist without volunteers and donations,” said Paula Schultz, volunteer coordinator for Animal Advocates of Howard County. “We are an all-volunteer organization. No one is paid. That’s the bottom line.”
Many of Animal Advocates’ volunteers come from the Volunteer Center Serving Howard County, a Columbia Association program that connects more than 1,200 individuals a year with organizations that are seeking help. The Volunteer Center’s website — VolunteerHoward.org — includes an easy to navigate the online system.
“The Volunteer Center connects us with a significant number of volunteers for our two major fundraising efforts each year, which are critical to our ability to provide our programs,” Schultz said.
A broad array of organizations and agencies from Howard County and beyond post on the Volunteer Center website, which means that those looking to help out can easily find an opportunity to contribute.
For example, some listings as this article was being written sought mentors and tutors for young students; musicians, singers and holiday decorators for an adult daycare; assistance at a horse rescue; people to sew labels on blankets given to children who were born premature and those who have been seriously ill, injured, or traumatized; and various volunteer roles at a charity race.
Taken together, they reflect an inspiring commitment from these organizations to keep Howard County one of the best places to live in the United States — while also recognizing that, even in our community, there are those who are struggling and need help.
It’s also good to know that there are so many volunteers who want to help.
Volunteering can be fulfilling. There are also opportunities that are just plain fun.
For example, volunteers with the Howard County Conservancy are able to get outside and enjoy being in nature. The organization — which is dedicated to environmental education, land preservation and modeling responsible stewardship of the environment — has nature centers in Woodstock and Elkridge, hosts educational field trips in nature for about 20,000 students a year, leads hikes and talks year-round, and monitors more than 1,700 acres in Howard County that are under conservation easements.
“We always need a strong cadre of volunteers to help us meet our mission,” said Allison Anderson, the conservancy’s assistant director. “We couldn’t do a third of what we do if we didn’t have the volunteer support we receive from the community. It’s really crucial to our success.”
Help for the holidays
Many people tend to think about volunteering during the holiday season. That’s why each year the Volunteer Center Serving Howard County releases its Annual Guide to Giving.
Within this year’s guide, more than 40 organizations provide a brief list of how people can volunteer and what they can donate — both for the holidays and beyond.
“We certainly do hope that the Guide to Giving is a spark for giving in the community,” said Pamela Simonson, the volunteer center’s executive director. “It’s a great resource for the entire year.”
This year’s guide can be seen online at volunteerhoward.org/guidetogiving.