Volunteer of the Month – November 2018

As the last rays of autumn sunshine give way to the rains of winter, we always know things will be bright at VOKRA because of our hundreds of dedicated volunteers. This November we’re celebrating Grace Cullen, a volunteer who shares her love with the kitties who need it most.

Grace has been caring for stray cats for at least the past 15 years in South Vancouver. She took in Niko, who had a damaged leg, Kit Kat, who’d been hit by a car and lost an eye and several others with varying illnesses and injuries. Luckily, she has a large house with several rooms so she can isolate a cat when needed.

Up until recently, Grace had five of her own cats and was also feeding strays in the neighbourhood. After feeding a stray she named Zozo for two years, she was finally able to catch him when he became very ill, and brought him to VOKRA where he’s been in our care for the past several months.

Grace was introduced to VOKRA by a friend and started helping out with the recycling. Grace was visiting Zozo daily and started visiting other cat residents who needed some TLC. She’s developed a special relationship with Tinka, who has a variety of issues, but runs to the door when she sees Grace arrive. They discuss philosophy and world issues together, as well as play string and have treats.

Grace has a special affinity with all animals and, when visiting the cats at our Operations Centre, she purposefully takes on those who need extra attention; besides Tinka, there’s Carmine and Ben, Scotty and Dancer and many others.

THANK YOU Grace for all the love you show the kitties, both indoors and outdoors. We know they love you just as much as we do!

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

Volunteer of the Month – September 2018

With Walk for the Kitties just around the corner, we’re grateful for all our volunteers who make everything we do possible. At VOKRA, we receive no on-going funding so we rely on donations, adoption fees and fundraising initiatives to help us pay the bills. One of the people who works hard each month to raise much needed funds is Debbie O’Connor, our Volunteer of the Month for September. Here Debbie tells us in her own words why she volunteers with VOKRA:
I began volunteering with VOKRA four years ago as part of the gift card fundraising team. Before this time our cat, Kessey, seemed lonely and we decided to look for a friend for him. One of my co-workers recommended VOKRA to us and, after looking through the available cats, we chose Ziggy (originally known as Littlefoot) in June 2014. Ziggy’s been a great companion for Kessey and has brought so much happiness into our lives. We wanted to find a way to “give back”, and I’ve always loved to fundraise at work, so I began to help with the VOKRA gift card program.
My duties with the program include replying to emails from gift card supporters, preparing spreadsheets and submitting the order to our supplier. I also process banking transactions and order cards from other retailers. These duties were made easier because of my work in the finance department with my regular job. When I lived in the Lower Mainland, I would help process the order, mail the cards or have them ready to pick up at the Operations Centre, which was usually done twice a month. Now I’m retired and we live on Vancouver Island so I’m not involved with the physical handling of the cards.
Managing the gift card orders was a challenge in the beginning. In my first month we had the Walk for the Kitties event and I thought it would be a good idea to have a 50/50 draw. I remember Charis and I running around selling tickets and then frantically counting all the money so Karen could announce the winner. Shortly after this was our annual Great Grocery Stock-up promotion which turned out to be incredibly hectic – we had more than 70 orders in a two week period. The end result was a profit of $2500 for VOKRA and each year our profit increased due to the amazing support we receive throughout the year.
It’s rewarding to know I can do something to make a difference. I’m proud to be part of the entire team of VOKRA volunteers. I’ve never met such a dedicated group of people who care so much for our furry friends.

THANK YOU Debbie for all your hard work and dedication to VOKRA! The amount of time and effort you put into helping with the gift card program is truly 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, especially in the summer months. If you’re interested in volunteering with us visit our website at vokra.ca/volunteer.

Volunteer of the Month – August 2018

As a volunteer-driven non-profit, VOKRA wouldn’t exist without our volunteers. Currently we have more than 400 volunteers working hard 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 – Raj Johal. Here Raj tells us in his own words why he volunteers with VOKRA:

 

At the beginning of university, I wanted to get involved and volunteer to not only get experience but to meet others and make an impact. With me wanting to pursue a career in medicine the first thing that came to mind was a hospital. I started volunteering there but felt I couldn’t contribute towards anything significant or make any sort of meaningful impact. Thus, I started searching again and stumbled upon VOKRA. I had always loved animals so as I got to learn more about what this organization did and how they achieved it I knew it was the right fit and I wanted to be a part of it.

I was also fortunate enough to have gotten the position of recruitment coordinator allowing me to talk to a wide range of individuals. This is undoubtedly my favorite part of being a recruiter as I get to talk to and hear from people of different cultures and backgrounds. I’ve now heard countless stories about how cats or other animals have made a difference in people’s lives which I find to be truly inspiring. All these volunteers and their mutual love of animals and passion for helping is why I believe VOKRA has been able to do such a good job. The fact I get to play a part in introducing them to our organization is instrumental for me and something that always makes me smile.

In terms of my role, I started off as a recruitment coordinator and then in conjunction was also the team lead for over two years. I’ve really enjoyed both roles, as a recruiter I’m responsible for screening volunteer applications which involves interviewing volunteers and ultimately placing them in positions that fill our needs, but most importantly makes them happy. As a team lead, I was responsible for coordinating with other team leads to determine volunteer needs, making and refining volunteer positions along with applications, recruiting volunteers via postings and presentations, and finally ensuring our team was a cohesive unit that worked hard to fill all these gaps.

Over the years, I’ve formed many memories  I believe have shaped me into who I am today. The one that stands out is from last year when Shoaib, one of our recruitment coordinators, and I did a presentation at a senior care home. The purpose of this presentation was to recruit new volunteers. I don’t remember now how many ended up applying but what I do remember is this story of an older lady with her cat. She talked to us at the end about how having her cat was such a huge support network for her when she was severely depressed and without any family or friends. It just goes to show that not only are we helping cats but also indirectly making a positive impact on people. It makes me very proud to be a part of VOKRA when I hear how highly people think of this organization!

I am now volunteering as a recruitment coordinator while Michelle leads this team to hopefully become even better and efficient. However, I have learned a tremendous amount in my time here and met many altruistic individuals. I believe these to be a key part of why I got into medical school and something that I’ll always remember now that I embark on this journey!

THANK YOU Raj for all your hard work and dedication through the years. We’re so proud you’ve succeeded in being accepted into medical school at UBC and have no doubt you’re going to be a fabulous doctor!

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, especially in the summer months. If you’re interested in volunteering with us visit our website at vokra.ca/volunteer.

Volunteer of the Month – May 2018

The May sunshine is shining a spotlight on our Volunteer of the Month, Nicole Neifert!

Nicole has been described as “The Original VOKRA Surrey Volunteer”. For more than 10 years she’s spent countless hours helping to get homeless and abandoned cats off the streets.

“I first met Nicole in 2008 when I started trapping for VOKRA,” said fellow volunteer Mona Boucher. “She was dropping off a cat she had trapped at the vet hospital.  Back in those days we didn’t have a postop space so feral cats were set up in kennels at trapping sites to recover from spay/neuter before being released.”

Eventually Nicole built an insulated and heated shed in her backyard to house cats recovering from spays/neuters and a host of other ailments and injuries.

Amy, Hans & Itty are just a few of the cats in Nicole’s life.

“Many times we’ve had cats stacked to the ceiling after a night or several nights of trapping and she never complains,” says Mona. “Over the years hundreds and hundreds of cats and kittens have come through her shed.”

As Nicole has a veterinary background, she’s a natural fit to care for the frailest, injured and sick cats trapped in Surrey. She’s seen miraculous recoveries and a fair share of heartbreak, but over and over again she puts her heart on the line to care for the cats in the greatest need.

Although Nicole doesn’t trap much these days, from time-to-time stray cats in need of help find their way to her yard.  She’s also quick to respond when there’s a cat in distress – up a tree or caught in a space where they can’t get out.

“Like most of us involved with VOKRA, a few cats have stolen Nicole’s heart and moved into her home,” said Mona. “Some of them are still with her today and some of them have crossed the rainbow bridge. She cares for her own cats and the rescued cats while simultaneously working and caring for her husband and two children. She’s an inspiration.”

In Nicole’s own words, “Everyday little things are done and add up to huge changes. Colonies fixed and fed, homeless strays warm in a bed again, lots of full bellies and raising the care and awareness of owned and stray cats. I’ve entered abandoned houses and left with cats and fish, I have dug up the dirt under concrete stairs to get an injured kitty, stood below a tree and prayed for the tree guy and the cat, a friend got stuck in a recycling bin while helping me get some kittens that had fell in, loaded my car to the bump stops with free cat donations, driven thousands of kilometers, scooped millions of poops, and cleaned just as many kennels. All of these things have accumulated to amazing changes in so many lives, including my own. It is an honor to be recognized but it is a gift to be part of VOKRA. I’ve been supported by so many amazing ladies.”

“I’ve learned so much from Nicole over the years and I look forward to many more years and many, many more kitty lives changed for the better,” said Mona. “Nicole is simply awesome!”

We couldn’t agree more! THANK YOU so much Nicole for your dedication. VOKRA was built through the hard work of volunteers just like you and we can’t thank you enough.

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!

If you’re interested in volunteering with us visit our website at vokra.ca/volunteer.

It Takes a Clowder*

*Clowder = a group or cluster of cats.

When Karen Duncan and Maria Soroski founded VOKRA back in 2000 it was headquartered in the basement of Karen’s Victorian home in Kitsilano. The plan was to care for very young, mostly bottle-fed kittens and, as often happens, things didn’t go according to plan.

Karen & Maria with longtime volunteer Shelley

Back in the day, VOKRA had a “staff” of approximately 10 volunteers and averaged 150 rescues a year. By 2008, that number had increased to 800 cats and kittens and in 2014 that number jumped to more than 1,800. After finding loving homes for thousands of cats and kittens it was about time VOKRA moved out of Karen’s basement and got a new home of its own. So in 2014 we opened our Operations Centre.

Since opening the Operations Centre (a.k.a. Ops), VOKRA has been very lucky to have an amazing amount of truly dedicated volunteers join us and help save the lives of cats and kittens.

Volunteers at our Ops making sure kittens are flea-free

Today, VOKRA currently has more than 400 volunteers working hard either behind the scenes or at Ops. We also have more than 550 foster homes, currently fostering or available to foster.

Just at our Operations Centre alone, there are an average of 168 volunteers a week! Here’s a quick snapshot of what it takes to make Ops tick:

  • Cat Care, Operations Support and Maintenance – 125+ shifts per week.
  • Medical Team – 17 volunteers
  • Reception – 20+ shifts per week

Our Operations Centre is also very busy with a large number of fosters who pick up food/supplies/medications for their foster kitties.

There are also hundreds of VOKRA volunteers “behind the scenes” who make things happen. We currenlty have 261+ volunteers on 48 teams, including:

Our event volunteers are always out in the community

Volunteer Recruitment- Adoption Counsellors – Adoption Contracts – Foster Coordinators – New Foster – Homes Interviewers – Kitty Health Checks – Medical Research – Foster Kitty Vaccination – Cat Behaviourism – Monitoring Health in Foster Care – Post Adoption Health Support – Vet Lab Reports – Fundraising – Events – Volunteer Committee – Communications – Photography – Kitty Biographers – Finance – IT – Database Administration – Foster Website – Trapping – Barn Placement – Drivers – Southlands Barn (where elderly feral cats and disabled kitties live) – and more!!!!

There never seems to be a shortage of cats to rescue

Sometimes it seems like we’re all chasing our tails trying to keep up – we’ve grown in leaps and bounds and, at times, are still going through growing pains. But we’re all here for one thing – the kitties.

Thank you to each and every one of our special volunteers who are a member of the VOKRA clowder. We wouldn’t exist without your dedication and support. Each and every one of you make a difference in the lives of kitties each day.

We’re always looking for new volunteers! If you’re interested in volunteering, visit our website at vokra.ca/volunteer.

Volunteer of the Month – April 2018

April showers may bring flowers, but they also bring us our Volunteer of the Month, Cynthia Reed!

Cynthia first started volunteering with VOKRA back in the summer of 2010 when we were still headquartered in co-founder Karen’s basement. Since then she’s witnessed the amazing growth of the organization and our move into a shiny new Operations Centre.

Within Cynthia’s first week of volunteering Karen, one of our master persuaders, had also talked her into fostering two small feral kittens.

“It was the height of kitten season and Karen’s basement was overflowing with kitties needing a home,” explains Cynthia. “How could I say no to Karen?”

Like many fosters, Cynthia “foster failed” on her first try and became a pet parent to fur-babies Tony and Cleo, who will be eight years old this month.

Cynthia has many memories of kitties she’s fallen in love with during her time volunteering with VOKRA. One of the cats who will stay in her heart forever is Chance the Wobbler, a cat with mobility issues who lived at Karen’s for a long time.

Jorge is patiently waiting for a new foster to come along

There’s also Charlie, who lived at Ops after being diagnosed with cancer, and Jorge, a sweet senior who is patiently waiting at the Centre for a new foster home. And there’s also Beamer, a blind and deaf kitten who Cynthia spent many hours playing with when he first arrived.

“There are way too many to count them all,” said Cynthia. “Everyone is special.”

Since VOKRA moved into our Operations Center, Cynthia has spent most of her cat care time in the T-N-R room.

“My experience with feral cats has been very rewarding and I have certainly learned a lot from (co-founder) Maria when helping her with some the wilder cats,” Cynthia explains. “I have done my best to adopt Maria’s calm and patient nature with the cats and now I look forward to caring for those ‘terrible’ cats other people might be afraid to approach.”

Cynthia goes on to say, “Being with VOKRA for so many years has given me the opportunity to work with and get to know some great people and I have been able to pass on what I have learned by mentoring several new volunteers.”

Volunteering for VOKRA has been a fantastic experience and I hope to be around for many years to come.

Cynthia  Reed

Thank you so much Cynthia for all your dedication to the kitties and the many, many hours you’ve spent volunteering. We truly appreciate your support and also hope you’ll be around for many years to come!

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!

If you’re interested in volunteering with us visit our website at vokra.ca/volunteer.

Volunteer of the Month – March 2018

Spring is in the air! At VOKRA, sunshine and cherry blossoms can only mean one thing – the kittens are coming! Soon our Operations Centre will be even more of a hive of activity than it already is. One of the people who help pull it all together is Monique H. who is one of the smiling volunteers you’ll find manning the front desk. Monique does a wonderful job and also ensures all the new receptionists know the ropes when they start. Here she tells us in her own words why she volunteers for VOKRA:

I took a very serendipitous route to VOKRA…the universe was trying to tell me something. I first heard of VOKRA when I binge-watched the locally shot TV show Fringe and Googled lead actress Anna Torv. She was a foster to some very adorable VOKRA kittens and talked about them in interviews. Naturally my next step was to search for “VOKRA kittens”, which led me to a gigantic cache of cute. I followed the kitten video trail until I found an article talking about VOKRA’s new Operations Centre in East Van, which just happened to be a few blocks from my house. It was meant to be!

I think I was one of the first group of receptionists, as Ops had only been open for around 6 months when I started volunteering. We hadn’t even taken over the space next door yet, which was a doggy daycare, although I’m sure they sensed the cats were going to win their territory when van-loads of mamas and babies started arriving. It all looked so organized and efficient, although co-founder Karen gave quite a laugh years later when I told her those initial impressions.

Minda

My main motivation for wanting to help rescue cats was how much of an impact my own kitty has had on my life. I was always an animal lover, but my parents were not cat people, to say the least. Even when I moved out on my own I wasn’t able to take the leap. That changed when my partner and I adopted Minda. We found her through the SPCA and she was so sad and scared in her kennel that it broke my heart. She quickly became “my” kitty and I learned the joy of waking up to a cat cuddled on my stomach (I also learned the “joy” of being trained to dish out earlier and earlier breakfasts). When I developed health problems and couldn’t participate in a lot of my former activities, Minda was there to purr beside me and keep me company. Not only is every cat worth saving, doing so may save a human as well. That’s why my very favourite part of working the front desk is filing adoption papers, as each contract represents a wonderful new relationship forming.

I’m keeping it a secret from Minda, but other kitties have won my love as well. My very first “VOKRA crush” was sweet little Mei-Lei with her long coat and jaunty jackets. When she got injured and lost while in care I was among the many, many folks having a quiet heart attack desperately hoping she would be all right. I obviously have an “M” problem, because Meep was also very special to me around the same time. She would fall asleep in a blanket in my lap and she was around Ops for so long that we had a regular Saturday date to zone out after my shift before I went home.

Bottle feeding Little Dude

Last summer I got to bottle-feed a kitten for the very first time, thanks to Little Dude. It’s really an incredible feeling, I think I’m addicted now. Help! And of course, the kitties that are no longer with us like Stewart and Charlie. I was working my shift when Charlie first was surrendered by his family and got to see his pain and confusion turn to confidence and chattiness as he outlasted all predictions on how long he would be around. I miss you so much Charlie – every time I see those little dried fish I think of you.

My favourite memory of VOKRA itself is a night I spent at Ops in the days before we installed air conditioning. With the bay door open and warm summer air coming through, I got to witness all of the cats wake up from their after-supper naps and become the little lions that they are. Shy ferals came out of their hiding places and sleepy cats started to play recklessly with their toys. Kittens squeaked and pounced. It was like visiting the tiniest jungle and I feel honoured to have had an invite. Thank you so much, Karen and Maria, for creating a place where cats can be themselves and where we humans get to see them do so.

THANK YOU Monique!!! Your dedication to VOKRA and all the kitties is truly inspiring!

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!

If you’re interested in volunteering with us visit our website at vokra.ca/volunteer.