Volunteer of the Month – August 2019

Summertime’s in full swing, which means our Operations Centre is busier than usual. With cats and kittens going in and out and foster’s stopping by to get supplies, there’s always something to do and our reception team is on top of it!

This month we’re celebrating Margot Kubale, a volunteer who’s been part of our Ops reception team since September of 2017. Here Margot tells us in her own words how she became involved with VOKRA.

You see I first heard of Vokra when I adopted a cat in January of 2006. Here’s the story of how that happened:

I had been without a cat for about nine months because the last of my two cats had passed away in March 2005. I was in no rush to adopt another cat but then met Karen Duncan, VOKRA co-founder, at a craft fair about two weeks before. I almost didn’t make it to the fair and 10 minutes or so before closing time noticed the VOKRA sign to a separate room from the crafts. I walked in and was greeted by Karen with a “Hello, would you like a cat?”.

The last thing I expected was to find a cat at a craft fair. Karen let me hold the big, full grown fluffy orange cat who was very affectionate and in need of a one cat home. I was reluctant to adopt so I opted to foster him in case things didn’t work out. He came home with me that same day and I renamed him Rusty in keeping with my personal traditional of naming red cats with a name that starts with the letter “R”.

Two weeks later I had guests for Christmas for dinner,  five adults and three children, all in a small one bedroom apartment. I was very surprised that Rusty spent no time hiding under the bed and chose be amongst the guests and do a meet and greet of all the adults sitting on the L-shaped couch. He just went from one to the next saying “hello”. It was just like a salesperson would do a meet and greet and I’d never seen a cat do that. He was not intimidated by all the people.

A few weeks later Karen called to see how it was going. I told her how Rusty had been with my Christmas guests and that I’d decided to adopt him. He turned out to be the best cat ever!!!   He was my wonderful four-footed furry friend until he passed in February of 2017. Shortly after that I decided to put in an application to volunteer with VOKRA in memory of Rusty and to give back for receiving such a wonderful cat.

Margot and fellow reception volunteer Dave providing some TLC

I’m very much enjoying my time volunteering in reception and there is no shortage of stuff to do. It’s interesting to talk to the various people that walk in and I like making up the variety boxes for the fosters, printing labels and signs on the computer and keeping the reception area as tidy as possible, and, if it’s slow, helping out with laundry.

One of the things I’ve learned to do better is how to put a cat into a carrier. When it gets busy at Ops I have sometimes helped out with putting the cat’s into a carrier when they’re ready to go out to foster. I remember Keegan was so eager to get out the kennel that he walked right into the carrier without even any kibble inducement! That was fun… loading him so easily.

I also like combing cats and removing their mats if they are calm enough to allow that. I was able to do that once at Ops. In April of this year there was a fluffy black cat in need of a little TLC.  He was very mellow and let Dave, who does reception on the same day as I do, hold him so I could cut out some mats. With a little teamwork we got the job done.

THANK YOU so much Margot for all the time and energy you put into helping out everyone at VOKRA. We very much appreciate your dedication!

As a volunteer-driven non-profit, we clearly couldn’t do what we do without our extremely dedicated and hard working team of volunteers. Thank you to each and every one of you!

VOKRA is always in need of volunteers. If you’re interested in volunteering with us visit our website at vokra.ca/volunteer.

Volunteer of the Month – July 2019

It’s summertime which means there’s no shortage of work for our volunteers. With more than 450 cats and kittens “in-stock” everyone’s being kept very busy. This month we’re celebrating one of our volunteers who never has a shortage of tasks on her plate – Glynda Summers.

Glynda has been a steadfast volunteer with VOKRA for 12 years and has been involved in many different capacities. Currently she’s instrumental in managing our post adoption follow-up survey process and ensuring the information goes where it needs to. Glynda has a wealth of VOKRA history stored in her brain and is invaluable to all of us.

Here Glynda tells us in her own words how and why she got involved with VOKRA:

I went to a foster’s home to meet Othello in September 2007 after seeing him on Petfinder. When I arrived, the foster, Dania, had just received two little foster kittens and Othello was with those kittens.  We sat on her living room floor and watched the kittens scampering around. I decided to adopt Othello but I didn’t have the heart to take him away from the two wee kittens. So I ended up adopting all three of them – something unusual back in 2007 as not many people were adopting three cats at the same time back then. So I adopted Othello (a.k.a. Tellie), Tess and Violet on September 21, 2007.

Tellie, Tess and Violet

While Dania and I were sitting on her living room floor, she and I found out a bit about each and she brought me into VOKRA because of my business skills. She thought I would be able to help out with a database and I started doing data entries of cat bios and uploading photos. So that was my start with VOKRA. Hard to believe it’s close to 12 years now! I helped set up bio icons, font sizing, featuring cats on our website, organization charts, so many different things as our website and database developed and grew over the years. Then, in 2010, I started doing newspaper submissions for VOKRA adoptable cats in several local newspapers and today I still handle the cat bios that are sent to the North Shore News. These ads result in many adoptions and also help promote VOKRA.

All of Glenda’s cats

In 2016 I was asked to help with Post Adoption Follow-up Surveys for all our adopted cats. Originally, I had simply copied the current section from the Google spreadsheet containing the responses into an Excel spreadsheet . And then, once again, I developed a Microsoft Access database into which I upload the adopters’ responses. I can review the responses in the database, send requests to appropriate vets for any information that is missing (ie tattoo numbers, spay/neuter dates, etc) and keep track of when they send this in, notify Adopter Support of any issues the adopter may have, update information in the database and keep track of all this information. It makes it so much easier to check the adopter responses and monitor follow-up and recording. So I have added a lot of “geek” to the thank you survey follow-up process. But that’s me. A geek with seven cats!

I think that covers a good bit of what I have done for VOKRA as a volunteer over the last 12 years, a lot of which is in the “background” and not actually touching the cats. And I am very thankful for taking my touch-typing class in high school many, MANY years back so I can type around various cats in my lap while I do all of this.

THANK YOU Glynda for all your years of dedication and efforts on behalf of the kitties at VOKRA. We’re privileged and honoured to have you as a volunteer and couldn’t be more grateful!
As a volunteer-driven non-profit, we clearly couldn’t do what we do without our extremely dedicated and hard working team of volunteers. Thank you to each and every one of you!

VOKRA is always in need of volunteers. If you’re interested in volunteering with us visit our website at vokra.ca/volunteer.

Volunteers of the Month – June 2019

June is Adopt-A-Cat month so now’s a great time to celebrate our Foster Fail team! What’s a foster fail you ask? Well it really isn’t a fail at all! It’s the term we fondly use when a foster falls in love with their foster cat so much they decide to adopt. They may “fail” at fostering, but every adoption’s a win!

This month we’re honouring Antoniya Hristova and Chie Okumura. When a foster “fails” they step in and to do all the paperwork, etc. that’s involved in the adoption process.

Here Antoniya tells us in her own words why she volunteers with VOKRA:

I’ve grown up with cats. While still living in Bulgaria I rescued and found homes for several stray cats. When I moved to Vancouver, I searched online to see if I could continue helping cats and stumbled upon VOKRA. I started fostering in December 2016 and have had the pleasure to share my home with 10 fosters so far. I’ve learned a lot more about cats and especially how to interact with timid or semi-feral cats. I love that I have support and access to wisdom about feline care through VOKRA.

Every foster manages to surprise me with his/her uniqueness. One pair of fosters, Mike and Trixie, stayed with us for almost a year as they’re senior cats (10 and 12 years at the time) and very shy. It took Trixie five months to start trusting me and my partner and to admit she actually very much likes to be petted. After two unsuccessful viewings a young couple showed up and gave them a chance (although they barely saw them during the viewing). We became friends with their adopters and were pleased to see how Mike and Trixie (now named Kimchi and Sushi) blossomed into even bigger love bugs and became a lot more confident. There’s nothing more fulfilling and rewarding than seeing this positive change and knowing you had your share in it.

In July 2017 I started doing foster fail interviews which gave me the opportunity to meet the lovely and devoted Chie. It also give me the opportunity to get a glimpse of the vast numbers of cats that have access to VOKRA care.

And here Chie tells us why she’s a VOKRA volunteer:

Joining VOKRA was one of the best things I’ve done since moving to Canada in 1989. I’ve loved cats all my life and thought I knew them well, but I was wrong! I learned a lot more about kitties, thanks to VOKRA. It’s an amazing organization where all volunteers do their parts. There are volunteers for everything – trappers, medical care, the adoption team, cat care, drivers, fosters, foster coordinators, the finance team and event coordinators, to name just a few. We all work hard for one mission – to end cat homelessness.

Chie’s daughter Kiara with her prom date

Our family started fostering with VOKRA in January 2016 after we lost my 19-year-old kitty, Hana, who we had had since she was one. She was a cranky, quick-tempered but quietly loving kitty and the whole family took her loss very hard. The house felt empty without a cat’s presence, but we didn’t feel ready to adopt a new kitty so soon after her loss. This is what led us to fostering with VOKRA, where we could help cats in need while still giving us time to mourn Hana. I’m the primary caregiver, while my daughter takes the role of socializing with the kitties (a.k.a. having fun!) and my husband is the designated driver. Within a year, we had fostered 30 kitties… At one time, we had one mom who gave birth to seven babies in my bedroom, plus four older kittens upstairs = 12 kitties in our house! That was so much fun! And in January 2017, one of VOKRA’s amazing trappers, Janet, trapped a tabby cat from a snowy industrial area and, a few days later, her only surviving kitten was also rescued. Within two weeks, we foster failed and they were named Kinako and Anko (both are Japanese sweets).

Kinako and Anko when they first arrived at VOKRA

What’s a foster fail? Well, you’re supposed to adopt out your foster cats, instead you fail to do so and keep them forever! We say it’s one of the best failures you’ve done!

People often ask me how I can possibly let go of my adorable foster kitties. I think I set my mind firmly to get them ready to find their forever home when I foster. We still foster kittens from time to time as my kitties are okay with kittens, but not adult cats. I must admit fostering is addictive – I’m now learning from another foster, Andrea, how to bottle-feed babies so I can do that full-time when I retire.

Kinako and Anko today

After my own foster fail, I started taking a role in with the Foster Fail team. I thank Sharyn, who used to do everything by herself, for established what we do today. Now Antoniya and I work together as a team. Together we have done roughly 250 adoptions in the last two years. Through working together, we became pretty close despite of our age gap and cultural difference – in fact we’ve learned we have quite a few things in common, beside loving cats!

A lot of foster fails are kitties who have medical/behaviour issues or are too old and stay with fosters for longer periods as many people consider them “un-adoptable”. It’s heart-warming to learn that someone’s unwanted cat can be loved and treasured by someone, and he/she decides to give the kitty a forever home.  Although we do all processes electronically and I never meet the kitty or adopter, those special ones stay in my heart. One of them is Beamer, who was blind, deaf and had mobility issues. And even though Beamer is no longer with us, his short life was made better when he was adopted by his fosters Jen and Andrew.

I also do in-person adoption contract 1-2 times a week, through which I meet adopters and go through the contract and payment. It’s so nice to see happy and excited adopters, hear their stories of cats and share my knowledge with them. I get so emotional when senior cats or cats with medical needs are adopted I have to hide my happy tears in public.

I look forward to meeting more adorable kitties, great volunteers and adopters though VOKRA.

WOW! Thank you so much to Antoniya and Chie for all your dedication to VOKRA! We’re so fortunate and grateful to have volunteers like you who care so much for the kitties.

As a volunteer-driven non-profit, we clearly couldn’t do what we do without our extremely dedicated and hard working team of volunteers. Thank you to each and every one of you!

VOKRA is always in need of volunteers. If you’re interested in volunteering with us visit our website at vokra.ca/volunteer.

Volunteer of the Month – May 2019

This May we’re celebrating Robbyn Gulka, a volunteer who dedicates her time to ensuring our Operations Centre is spic and span. With so many kitties in our care, it doesn’t take long for the mess to pile up. Volunteers, like Robbyn, are vital to ensuring the kitties live in a clean and safe environment while they’re staying at Ops.

Here Robbyn tells us in her own words why she volunteers with VOKRA:

I began volunteering with VOKRA shortly after moving to Vancouver (from Ottawa) in October 2016. It’s hard to believe it’s already been 2.5 years!  I had spent several years volunteering for the Ottawa Humane Society, so when I moved here I wanted to continue with volunteer work in some capacity. I have always been surrounded by cats –  I grew up with them as a child and have adopted cats as an adult.

At VOKRA I work the Ops & Maintenance shift on Saturday afternoons. I undertake a lot of cleaning/washing/disinfecting (dishes, cat carriers, kennels and litter boxes) – as well as laundry and cat trees. I also support VOKRA by regularly mentoring new volunteers. On any given weekend new people will shadow me to review the Ops protocols and procedures. As I’ve been around a while, I’m happy to help in this regard.

The best thing about volunteering is the satisfaction I get from knowing that my time and efforts have a meaningful purpose. Aside from this, I love spending time socializing with the cats and it’s been an absolute pleasure meeting and getting to know the entire VOKRA team.

Rena

This past October, I lost my 16 year old cat, Maeve, to illness. It was a tough transition for me, as we had been together since I adopted her when she was 7. Just prior to her passing, I met Bumble one Saturday at VOKRA. I’m sure many people will remember Bumble. She was born in VOKRA’s care on April 2, 2016 (originally named Lavender) and then adopted by a family along with her sister. The adoption, unfortunately, didn’t work out for Bumble. After more than a year she was displaying behavioural issues and consistently peeing outside her litter box. She was subsequently surrendered back to VOKRA – and this is about the time I met her. Unlike a lot of the cats who arrive at the Ops Centre, Bumble was pretty chill. A little on the big side, she had to maneuver outside her kennel in order to be pet. She loved the attention. I think I was struck by her markings, but also by her stature. Aside from a few extra pounds, she’ very tall and long for a female cat. Anyway, I ended up keeping tabs on her as she transitioned to foster care, and eventually I tracked her down and adopted her in late December. She’s no longer Bumble (although sometimes I affectionately refer to her as such). Her name is now Rena and she has been a treat to have around. She’s a spunky three year old kitty… full of beans and energy. She loves food and her laser toy, and she’s a kneader. When she’s in the mood, she’ll snuggle up with me and knead endlessly. To save my skin, I have to wear heavy sweatshirts or sweaters:)

THANK YOU Robbyn for volunteering and for adopting Rena! All the time and effort you put in at our Operations Centre is very much appreciated.

As a volunteer-driven non-profit, we clearly couldn’t do what we do without our extremely dedicated and hard working team of volunteers. Thank you to each and every one of you!

VOKRA is always in need of volunteers. If you’re interested in volunteering with us visit our website at vokra.ca/volunteer.

Volunteer of the Month – April 2019

Spring showers bring flowers – and a big THANK YOU to our hundreds of volunteers!

This April we’re celebrating Heather Rossi, a volunteer who’s dedicated to helping ensure escaped kitties are found. A majority of the cats in our care are housed in foster homes and sometimes they manage to get out. Cats are very clever and sometimes they sneak out an open door or window. If this should happen Heather’s there to help.

Here Heather tells us in her own words why she volunteers with VOKRA:

I started volunteering with VOKRA in the spring of 2010 when I saw a post on their Facebook page. I was hoping for something I could do from home – telephone or computer work. I started out helping with the fundraising team looking for grants to apply for. The first thing I noticed when I started meeting other volunteers was their outright dedication to the cats. This is one of the main reasons I continue to volunteer. VOKRA is such an awesome organization, 100% committed to the cats.

For a few years I helped find barn or farm homes for street cats that had been trapped. I started coming to the monthly meetings and assisted with taking/distributing the minutes and meeting reminders.

One of my favourite memories of my early volunteering is while at a monthly meeting VOKRA co-founder Maria mentioned that she’d received a call about a mom cat and kittens someone had seen near the Port Moody train station. Maria was looking for someone to trap them. I live not far from Port Moody so I said I could, but I didn’t know how to trap. After the meeting, Maria showed me how to set up the trap – at the side of her van on Broadway in the dark! The next day, my kids and I set out to trap the mom and kittens and by supper had managed to trap all four of them.

Because I live in Port Coquitlam and am unable to foster, I had not been able to volunteer directly with cats – until VOKRA arranged to have cats at the Petsmart in Coquitlam. I signed up for cat care there and this was one of my favourite times volunteering. It’s a good amount of work cleaning the kennels and feeding the cats, but the reward was being able to spend time with each of the cats there. I did have a soft spot for Rena, Mouse and Timmy.

I have helped with trapping, driving, fundraising, events – any time there is a need that I feel I can help with.

In 2015, VOKRA was looking for someone to be the main contact for escaped foster cats so I volunteered for this role. When a foster cat gets out of the house I’m the one who receives the email information. I create posters, send information to the lost pet sites, post on social media, etc.. and provide information to the foster and update the trapping and foster teams. I’m always happy when I receive a message that a cat is back safe and sound. I love helping in this way and I can do all the computer tasks, freeing the trapping team and other volunteers to search for the cat.

I am extremely honoured to be associated with VOKRA and the dedicated volunteers.

THANK YOU Heather! We’re the one who are extremely honoured to have you as a volunteer!

As a volunteer-driven non-profit, we clearly couldn’t do what we do without our extremely dedicated and hard working team of volunteers. Thank you to each and every one of you!

VOKRA is always in need of volunteers. If you’re interested in volunteering with us visit our website at vokra.ca/volunteer.

Volunteer of the Month – March 2019

Iris with her kitty Sweetie

When we say VOKRA wouldn’t exist without our volunteers we really mean it! As a volunteer-driven non-profit, we rely on our more than 400 volunteers to ensure the kitties in our care get everything they need and are adopted in loving homes. But how do we find all these volunteers? That’s where our volunteer recruitment team comes in. This month we’re celebrating one of our volunteers who helps us find volunteers – Iris Chan.

We recently sat down with Iris to find out a why she volunteers for VOKRA.

How did you start volunteering with VOKRA?

Being able to do something for cats has always been something that I wanted to do, but work has always been so busy before. Now that I’m only working part time, I felt it was time to contribute to my furry friends so I started volunteering with VOKRA about a year ago.

Tell us a bit about your volunteer role?

I work on the volunteer recruitment team where we recruit for all the various teams and find the right candidates for the right positions. Basically, I talk to candidates and find out why they want to volunteer for VOKRA and listen to their amazing stories with cats.

What’s your favourite part of volunteering?

Being able to connect with so many cat lovers

THANK YOU Iris for all the time and effort you put into helping ensure VOKRA has enough volunteers to keep going!

As a volunteer-driven non-profit, we clearly couldn’t do what we do without our extremely dedicated and hard working team of volunteers. Thank you to each and every one of you!

VOKRA is always in need of volunteers, including are members for our volunteer recruitment team. If you’re interested in volunteering with us visit our website at vokra.ca/volunteer.

Volunteer of the Month – February 2019

Bob and Kaspurritto

It may be cold outside, but at VOKRA our hearts are always warm because we’re surrounded by our volunteers. This month we’re celebrating Bob Van Dusen, a volunteer who always brings a smile to our Operations Centre.

Here Bob tells us in his own words why he volunteers with VOKRA:

I’ve been volunteering with VOKRA for almost two years now. I first heard about the organization after the loss of my sweet Pippo after 16 years together. His sister Alexandra was still with us so we were thinking of getting her a little playmate. Our vet’s office suggested going through VOKRA to find a kitty.  We decided not to proceed at that time as Alexandra seemed to enjoy being the only child. Not long after she too passed and left us very sad and empty.

Khloe and Fumee just a few days after being adopted.

It was about a month later and we decided we needed to fill our home once again with kitty love. We of course remembered VOKRA and looked on the website and found the kitties that would become part of our family. Khloe and Fumee are now closing in on seven years with us.

I wasn’t working during the first few years after we adopted them and needed something to occupy some of my time. As I’ve always been a huge cat lover I applied to volunteer with VOKRA and was contacted regarding a position at the front desk which I accepted.

My initial contact with VOKRA was with Monique who spent a lot of time with me getting me up to speed with all the responsibilities of the front desk and how we contribute to the overall smooth running of the VOKRA machine. I can’t say enough great things about Monique. She’s more than a mentor/teacher, she has become a confidant, therapist and friend.

Bob with Poppy

As time passed I took on more responsibility and joined the financial team in a very limited capacity which I enjoy very much. I’ve strived to learn as much as I can about the different areas of VOKRA so I can be of use when a need arises.

Being a part of the VOKRA family has done so much for me as a person. The amazing people who are a part of this organization have welcomed me and I truly feel like I’ve gained a new family.

I have met so many wonderful kitties during my time at VOKRA. Of course, Charis is a particular favourite as she was one of the first kitties I met on my first day. My sweet Kaspurritto stole my heart in a big way. Most recently the darling Poppy tugged at the heart strings and am so happy to see her doing so well in her foster home. So many more I’ve wanted to bring home and all have such a special place in my heart.

C’Fer

One memory stands out right now. One Tuesday morning before my 2 p.m. shift I received a call from the morning receptionist Jennifer to ask me a favour. The vet clinic on Davie Street had been visited by a young man who was wanting to have his 12-year-old kitty euthanized for some behavioural issues. The clinic refused and found out he had been shopping his cat around the downtown clinics, all of whom thankfully refused. The clinic on Davie contacted VOKRA’s Operations Centre to see if we would be willing to take him in as the owner was just going to dump the cat in the wild somewhere. Being VOKRA, of course they said yes. The young man was contacted and surrendered his kitty at the clinic.  My small part was to pick him up and bring him to Ops. None of us saw evidence of the “issues” his former owner had described. It’s a testament to the dedication of VOKRA that C’Fer is flourishing in his foster home and hopefully will find his furever home soon. I just feel so fortunate I was able to contribute in my way to saving this wonderful cats life.

Finally, I want to thank Karen and Maria for creating VOKRA and a place where kitties and humans can become the best they can be. My life has been so enriched by being a part of this organization. So many others inspire me with the dedication and hard work they put forth for VOKRA.

THANK YOU Bob for all your dedication and the time and energy you put towards helping the kitties of VOKRA. We couldn’t be more appreciative!

As a volunteer-driven non-profit, we clearly couldn’t do what we do without our extremely dedicated and hard working team of volunteers. Thank you to each and every one of you!

VOKRA is always in need of volunteers. If you’re interested in volunteering with us visit our website at vokra.ca/volunteer.