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.

Volunteer of the Month – January 2018

At VOKRA we have hundreds and hundreds of volunteers who dedicate their time to ensuring everything runs smoothly. At our Operations Centre alone there are more than 160 different volunteers who come through the doors on a weekly basis! We’re starting off 2018 by recognizing one of the many teams that are critical to ensuring the kitties in our care are healthy and happy – the Medical Team.

The primary goal of the Medical Team is to improve the overall health of all the cats temporarily staying at our Operations Center – basically to ensure they’re healthy, fed and have a clean environment to live in. The team provides them with medical care and treatments, as well as environmental and social enrichment during their shifts. At the Operations Center we also work very closely with our Cat Care friends whenever a cat requires monitoring. This includes monitoring overall health, cold symptoms, appetite, bowel movements and urine output. In exchange for the help the Cat Care Team provides, the Medical Team also provides assistance to their associates by offering their hands to treating and feeding the more feral cats while assessing and monitoring their behaviours as well.

Ringworm + a cold makes for a tricky combination. But after lots of care and attention Cadbury is now healthy and in her forever home.

Besides monitoring, some of the treatments the Med Team provides include administering oral and topical medications, intramuscular and subcutaneous injections, routine vaccinations, deworming and deflea treatments. Particular infectious cases, such as colds and ringworm, require extra care so the team undertakes extra measures to prevent transmission to healthy cats. This includes gowning up and strict disinfection protocols around the clock. This past year at VOKRA was particularly challenging for the Medical Team as they had a few outbreaks of ringworm (which is a persistent skin fungus). Due to the teams diligence in administering oral medications in conjunction with topical creams and medicated baths, we’re happy to say they successfully treated 22 cases of ringworm in 2017.

Also, we have a few members of the Med Team who are involved with the Management Team. These lovely people assist in many ways, including scheduling, conflict management, error checking medical records, updating health records, organizing and strategizing new treatment plans, researching and writing new operating protocols, and the list goes on. With such large tasks at hand during regular medical shifts, this small cohort of people work together to make things more manageable, largely by creating a less stressful environment to work in.

The Medical Team removes a tick from the face of a kitten.

Overall, they work as a team to improve the overall health of all cats by providing them with the medical care and treatments they need for placement into foster homes. From bottle-feeders to geriatrics, and semi-ferals to ferals, we’re confident in saying the team is happy in treating them all in order to ensure their happiness in the long-term.

We’re so thankful to have such a talented team with diverse skills sets. We have registered nurses, a registered massage therapist, vet assistants, a veterinarian from Japan, a medical office assistant, a PhD, master’s and bachelor’s of both the arts and sciences, as well as animators and a pianist. THANK YOU to the entire Medical Team for your dedication and love of the kitties!

Management Team: Melissa Glier (volunteer since Aug 2016), Olivia Chorny (Feb 2017), Cheryl Linaksita (Aug 2016), Elisabeth Spielbichler (May 2017), Robyn CQ (March 2017)

Sarah Brown (Nov 2015), Tanita Egger (Jan 2016), Tiana Suadela, Andrea Tremblay-Legendre (Jan 2016), Jane Moira (Jan 2016), Vincent Wong (Jan 2016), Masayo Matsuoka (Aug 2016), Kathryn Melnyk (Jan 2017), Celine Uy (Jan 2017), Rebecca Wieland (April 2017), Amanda Henderson (June 2017), Ashley Crivea (June 2017), Pouya Shafiei (Nov 2017), Shannon Strachan (Oct 2017)

My favorite part working at VOKRA is that I never stop learning. We are so lucky to have Karen and Maria as our mentors. Cat’s are probably the hardest patients in the veterinary world which means we are constantly troubleshooting how to work with feral and unpredictable cats. Oh, and the babies!!!

Melissa Glier

 

I get to make a difference in the world, whether it be small or big. I love seeing the very sick strive to becoming healthier (Like Jorje or Charlie). I love giving kitties love when they have never experienced it. I love spending times with cats that are sad and depressed (like our dear Milo). I love seeing the turn around from semi feral or scared cats to total lap cats. It’s totally rewarding. Most importantly it gives me a purpose in my life. I feel that I belong at vokra. I feel part of something. And it helps me with my anxiety that I carry in my day to day life.

Elisabeth Spielbichler

 

My favourite thing about volunteering on the Medical Team is building relationships with the cats over time and bringing them joy. I also love seeing “complicated” kitties thrive and grow, Charlie and Ruther in particular. They both came in aggressive, terrified, and upset, but with trust and time, their behaviour did a 180°! Turns out they’re both cuddle bugs!

Jane Csiszar

 

My favourite part of volunteering has been meeting new people and witnessing all the effort every volunteer puts in at VOKRA!

Kathryn Drury-Melnyk

 

My favorite part of volunteering is to witness all those happy stories. To see the cats off the streets, sick or feral, healing at ops and then going to a foster home all recovered and ready for a better life.

Andrea Tremblay-Legendre

 

My favourite part of working with VOKRA is the community. It’s a group of people all working to empower each other to achieve one huge goal – help cats in whatever capacity they can. From the medical team, where it’s a delight seeing all of these kind people spending their limited spare time discussing the best ways to get a pill in a particularly difficult cat (shout out Charis), or what fun surprise they found in someone’s litter box that day, or even just supporting each other in their day to day lives. It’s a group of people fervent to learn and support each other.

This seems to be the case across the board for all the VOKRA teams. It’s definitely evident when I work with cat care. No matter how difficult the cat, every shift I see cat care volunteers patiently working to ensure that each cat is safe, secure, healthy, and, if the particular feline allows it, loved.

Olivia Chorny

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!

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

Volunteer of the Month – December

It’s December and the end of the year is almost here! Time has surely flown by and we’ve accomplished more than ever this year, and it’s all thanks to our hundreds of volunteers. This holiday season we’re taking time to celebrate our December Volunteers of the Month, Pat Penner and David West!

Pat and David initially discovered VOKRA when they wanted to add to their family of two senior, rescued cats. They adopted Cowboy and Arthur soon after, making it a gang of four. They met Brenda, who was Arthur’s foster, and she encouraged them to foster kittens after their senior cats passed away. While saying no at first, they soon agreed to foster Errol, Sheldon and Millie. Lo and behold, they fell in love with these kitties right away. Here Pat and David tell the story of these three kittens:

Sheldon and Millie

“Errol was quickly adopted by the receptionist at the North Shore Veterinarian, who fell in love with him when he got neutered, but Sheldon had on-going health issues that we needed to support – respiratory problems, an enlarged heart and under-developed kidneys. Millie appeared healthy and was bonded with Sheldon, so they had to stay together while we resolved Sheldon’s problems. After months of seeking treatment for Sheldon, we’d fallen deeply in love with both him and Millie, so we decided to adopt Millie and apply to permanently foster Sheldon. Unfortunately, when we took Millie to the vet for a final check-up it was discovered she had a herniated diaphragm and many of her internal organs were in her chest cavity. Through working with Tasha B. at VOKRA—who is a fundraising super star—we were able to raise the funds to have surgery for Millie at Canada West Veterinary Specialists and she’s now a healthy and happy adult cat.”

Arthur

On top of fostering, Pat and David started driving for VOKRA in the summer of 2016. They’ve transported kitties everywhere from Richmond to Lion’s Bay (during rush hour!) and often pick up equipment to drop off at our Operations Centre. Pat and David share their first ever driving experience with us:

“Our first foray into driving was an action-packed Sunday—one of the hottest days of the year—where, directed by Anne Salomon (November’s Volunteer of the Month!), we picked up nine cats and kittens in the Surrey/Langley area, including entering a flea-infested trailer to pick up two adult cats and two kittens. By the time we reached Ops we’d safely picked up four kittens that were left in a box at a vet office, one adult cat that had successfully been treated for a broken hip and two flea-infested adult cats with 2 kittens. Anne called us the Kitty Choo-Choo, as a joke, but it really felt that way!”

Cowboy

Alongside driving, David has joined the Reception Team and has been filling a weekly reception shift at our Operations Centre. Pat, with her background in HR, has also now joined the Volunteer Recruitment Team. She’s spoken to all types of people from all walks of life and listens for “clues” as to their suitability during phone discussions. Regardless of their backgrounds and circumstances, one thing they all have in  common is love animals, have heard about VOKRA and want to join the organization.

At VOKRA, we recognize the hard work each of our volunteers put in to better the lives of the kitties in our care. Pat and David have devoted so much of their time and efforts to helping this organization grow and to ensuring all cats and kittens get the care and love they deserve. We sincerely thank you, Pat and David, for helping VOKRA work towards achieving our goal of helping all kitties and for being two lovely, dedicated individuals we all love working with!

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!

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

Volunteer of the Month – November

Now that snow has fallen upon us, we can safely say autumn is definitely starting to turn into winter. But here at VOKRA we’re never cold because we have so many cuddly kitties to bundle up with. This November, we’d like to celebrate our Volunteer of the Month, a champion cat-cuddler, Anne Salomon.

Anne has always been a cat lover, having grown up with a cat throughout her childhood. After she retired in 2008, she started volunteering with a shelter in Langley as their communications director and helped with fundraising. Taking a short break from that job, she quickly found herself volunteering with VOKRA, helping with trapping cats.

Anne with Little

Anne came to realize how big the homeless cat situation is and wanted to help the best she could. She has now trapped and helped save several hundred cats and kittens! Some rescues that stand out to Anne are Little, Dude and their two siblings. These were day-old kitties found in an abandoned house under construction.

Trapping is hard work, but Anne finds it wonderful to follow all the cats’ journeys on Facebook. At the same time, she faces a tinge of jealousy as all she wants to do is take them all home!

Anne on one of her many rescue missions

“I’m honoured to be on the VOKRA trapping team,” said Anne. “I always know the whole organization is behind us and that we work towards a common goal, to combat the homelessness of cats in our area. I cherish the camaraderie and support amongst the volunteers at VOKRA. The work is very rewarding and addicting, but at the same time, sometimes heartbreaking. There are highs and lows and I’ve learned it’s not just the cats that need our help. We end up helping people as well.”

We’re incredibly grateful for all the help Anne has given – through her time, effort and loyalty – to help VOKRA and the kitties. We’re lucky to have her on our team and the cats and kittens are very lucky to have Anne on their side. Thank you Anne for helping us towards our mission to end cat overpopulation and homelessness.

Post written by Aurora C.

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!

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