How volunteers from Tierra Del Sol help animals in Los Angeles

Best Friends in Los Angeles works collaboratively with animal rescue groups, city shelters and passionate individuals who are all dedicated to the mission of making Los Angeles a no-kill city. As part of this mission, Best Friends hosts adoption and fundraising events, manages two pet adoption centers, and leads the No-Kill Los Angeles (NKLA) initiative. Together, we will Save Them All.

There’s a group of volunteers that can’t wait for their weekly shift to begin at the Best Friends Pet Adoption and Spay/Neuter Center in Los Angeles, where they do laundry, prepare packets for new adopters and wash dishes. As members of a group working behind the scenes, they play an invaluable role at the center and are helping in a big way to save lives.

These are the volunteers from Tierra Del Sol, a nonprofit organization dedicated to empowering people with Down syndrome, autism and other disabilities by teaching skills that will help them reach their potential.

What Tierra Del Sol doesn’t need to teach the volunteers is enthusiasm for helping dogs and cats. That comes naturally for them and it spreads to others whenever they’re at the pet adoption center. In fact, fellow volunteers have been known to change their shifts, just so they can work alongside the group from Tierra Del Sol.

"They are a joy to be around," says Christine Quesada, volunteer department lead at the center. "And they make our jobs a little easier to do.”

Volunteers opportunities for people with disabilities

Woman from Tierra Del Sol volunteering to do dishes at the Best Friends Pet Adoption and Spay/Neuter Center in Los Angeles

The volunteers are a part of Tierra Del Sol’s workforce development program, designed to teach participants skills like time management, problem solving and how to work independently.

“They’re doing repetitive, therapeutic and fun things at the center, and they get to be around lots of people,” says Judith Lopez, Tierra Del Sol client services manager. “It makes them feel inspired and motivated to learn more.”

Man from Tierra Del Sol volunteering with paperwork at the Best Friends Pet Adoption and Spay/Neuter Center in Los Angeles

The program in conjunction with Best Friends in Los Angeles started about a year ago and quickly became one of Tierra Del Sol’s most popular volunteer programs. It turned out that the organization had many clients who love animals, so they created a schedule plan based on their clients’ abilities.

When the program first started, the volunteers' biggest job was tackling piles of laundry, and though there was a lot, in no time, they washed and sorted towels and bedding for the kitten nursery, dog kennels and other areas.

Proving they were quick learners, the Tierra Del Sol volunteers soon moved on to doing everything from washing dishes to clerical work that included putting together fliers and preparing new adopter packets to preparing litter boxes for foster families.

Helping the animals in everything they do

Volunteers from Tierra Del Sol helping with paperwork at the Best Friends Pet Adoption and Spay/Neuter Center in Los Angeles

DeeAnn, Audrey and Michael are superstar volunteers from Tierra Del Sol who come to the center each week to perform their favorite tasks. DeeAnn and Michael prefer washing dishes, while Audrey likes preparing adoption packets and opening kitten feeding syringes.

DeeAnn, who has been helping at the center for six months, has learned a lot from the process of washing dishes. Her skills will be in high demand come kitten season when clean bowls, towels and feeding syringes will be needed. It's this kind of help that the kitten nursery staff relies on, because it frees them up to spend more time saving the lives of the youngest, most vulnerable animals — ­newborn kittens.  

“They know that everything they do affects the animals,” says Judith. “And that inspires them to do even more.”  

Smiling woman from Tierra Del Sol volunteering at the Best Friends Pet Adoption and Spay/Neuter Center in Los Angeles

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Photos by Lori Fusaro