A volunteer hero for Houston’s pets
If there’s a Best Friends event in Houston, Deyra Galvan is probably there — helping cats and dogs from shelters connect with potential adopters and inspiring attendees to get involved saving the lives of homeless pets.
Deyra’s role as events lead comes naturally, thanks to her endless enthusiasm and commitment to helping animals at the Harris County Animal Shelter. But she helps anywhere she can make a difference, and she does it as a volunteer.
“Deyra does everything from organizing adoption pop-up events at stores, to getting us booths at huge festivals to lining up adoptable pets for the events,” says Jessica Roper, foster manager for Best Friends in Houston. “And that’s in addition to setting up and leading the events. She has helped us get so much exposure and so many adoptions.”
Once the events are over, Deyra rolls up her sleeves for administrative work and to support new adopters, if they have questions or need help. She even inspires many of them to become Best Friends volunteers themselves.
“Deyra is really special,” says Amy Kohlbecker, shelter operations manager for Best Friends in Houston. “She always has a positive, can-do attitude and always wants to help. She’s basically jumped into her work without skipping a beat and has helped us find amazing opportunities to work with great organizations in Houston.”
Best Friends is working hard in Texas as part of our goal to make the entire country no-kill by 2025, and volunteers like Deyra are playing a huge role in making it happen.
In the following interview, you’ll learn more about Deyra and what motivates her in her role as a volunteer with Best Friends in Houston.
Why did you decide to volunteer and what motivates you to continue?
I first heard of Best Friends in 2016 when I was in Los Angeles helping my sister-in-law open the first nonprofit cat café in L.A., CatCafe Lounge. Because it’s an NKLA Coalition member, I got to spend a lot of time learning more about the goal to make the nation no-kill by 2025.
The first time I stepped foot in the Best Friends Lifesaving Center in Los Angeles and the NKLA Adoption Center, I became very emotional seeing the amazing work Best Friends was doing for all the wonderful animals in the Los Angeles area. I asked myself why we do not have Best Friends in Houston. Then, when Hurricane Harvey hit Houston in the fall of 2017, Best Friends made a huge impact on the thousands of displaced animals in Houston.
I knew then that I wanted to help Best Friends in any way I could. Not only does Best Friends help animals in need, but it also makes an impact on the people who are helping the animals, too. The first time I heard “Save Them All,” it hit a chord within that has forever changed me. Getting to help (and let's be serious, getting lots of sloppy kisses and cuddles from so many amazing animals every day) brings such joy to my heart.
What inspires you most in your volunteer work?
The people. Of course, working with (and for) animals inspires me, too, but everyone I meet through Best Friends, directly or indirectly, inspires me to do more. When you volunteer with Best Friends in Houston, there is such a wonderful collective of passionate, selfless people around you from every background and walk of life — all who are passionate about Saving them All.
There are so many incredible people of all ages who I otherwise would have never crossed paths with. Now I call them friends after volunteering with them at an event or working with them at 4 a.m. on a transport. I am very grateful for the Best Friends family from staff to volunteers to adopters — many who I now see and talk to on a daily basis.
What are you most proud of in your volunteer work?
I find this question very hard to answer as I feel I am still working on many great things that will, hopefully, help Best Friends here in Houston for years to come. I am in a very unique position that allows me to match families with animals who need homes. To see the tears in the eyes of family members when they meet their newest furry family member and to receive updates from them is the best.
I love seeing the transformation of the animals from day one, to when they go to their foster home to get the extra TLC they deserve, to when they find their forever home.
And when you see the impact that animal has on the heart of every single volunteer, foster and staff member along the way, you get blown away. Those moments are indescribable. I am lucky and very proud to be a tiny part of the journey and help change lives, even if it’s just for a moment in time.
What would you tell others who are thinking of volunteering?
Don't wait until tomorrow. Come out today! No matter how much (or how little) time you have to give, every minute you spend volunteering makes a big difference. Even the tiniest of tasks help save the lives of animals in need. One minute spent with an animal can forever change an outcome and help that animal find a forever home.
And don’t be afraid to help if the task seems too big, takes too many hours or is beyond your capabilities. Just take a step back, because together, we can accomplish anything.
What have you learned in your volunteer work and do you see anything differently now?
I’ve learned that we have the power and the capabilities to make a difference and fight for those who cannot fight for themselves. As an individual, it can be overwhelming and scary to go out and try to make a difference, but when you try, you’re already making a difference.
What does volunteering mean to you and why do you do it?
Willingness. Service. I am always a “yes” person and willing to help anywhere I can. I come from a long line of selfless family members with the biggest hearts. My mother is the epitome of selfless service. She has never met a stranger and would give the shirt off her back in a blizzard. I am very lucky to have grown up with amazing role models, and my brothers and I have volunteered in the community from our early years up to today.
Tell us about your favorite volunteer moment.
There are too many to name. Seriously, I can pick a moment from each event or shift when I met someone new or fell in love with cat or dog. But I will say that seeing the transformation of shelter animals — from their time with wonderful fosters to the time they leave an event with a new family — makes me tear up every time.
I have embarrassingly cried in front of many strangers when I see their joy after adopting a pet, and I always gain a new friend in the process when I share these moments with them.
Tell us something we might not know about you.
I often break out in song and dance — although I’m not sure this is a secret since it happens often. I love a good surprise “jazz hand,” because life is too short to take it too seriously. We should be able to enjoy it, embrace the positives around us, share a smile with a stranger and lend a hand to someone else. If you ever see a flash mob out in public, I’m probably in it. If not, I’m probably dancing or singing my way around town.
What are you doing when you’re not volunteering with animals?
I love spending time with my friends and family, meeting new people and seeing new places. Of course, I am probably most likely in my PJs binge-watching on Netflix and cuddling with my dogs and foster cats.
Do you have a super power?
Ha! I wish I had super powers. I asked my friends this question to see what they would say. Their responses were unanimous. They said I am a nurturer with a big heart. As touching as their answers are, I am not sure that is a super power, since it’s easy to be kind and lend a hand to help someone else.
Photos by Jennifer Hayes,Amy-Kohlbrecker and Jessica-Munoz-Roper