Volunteer spotlight: Vicki Zelski
Vicki Zelski’s motivation for traveling from Boston to New York City to volunteer with Best Friends in New York is simple: She loves helping homeless pets find the loving homes they’ve been waiting for. To Vicki, being a part of a team with the mission of connecting animals with adopters is reason enough to make the commute from one big city to another.
“I have loved animals my entire life and have always had a strong bond with all of my pets,” says Vicki. “It's so important for everyone to experience that unconditional love of an animal companion, and I want to do as much as possible to make sure those connections happen.”
You can find Vicki at any of Best Friends’ large events in New York, including Strut Your Mutt and Best Friends super adoptions, where she plays a pivotal role as a lead volunteer. And Vicki has no plans of stopping. “Helping save lives never gets old,” she says.
Learn more about what inspires Vicki to volunteer with Best Friends in New York.
Why did you decide to volunteer with Best Friends and what motivates you to keep volunteering?
I had been a Best Friends member and supported the mission for years and my goal was to eventually volunteer at Best Friends Animal Sanctuary in Utah. I’m still working to get there, but when I found out about Best Friends in New York — since it is much closer to Boston — I decided to sign up for a super adoption event in 2014. It was life-changing, and I was so inspired by all the volunteers and staff and how they worked together to get so many animals adopted, that I was hooked.
Since becoming a Best Friends volunteer, what have you learned, and do you see anything differently now?
I sometimes feel overwhelmed by the thought of so many animals who don’t get a chance to find a home, because a shelter needs the space or because of incorrect or misleading facts — misconceptions like animals are in the shelter because there is something wrong with them, or that a certain breed of dog is dangerous, or that kittens are never euthanized for space since they are so easily adopted.
I've learned that there are organizations like Best Friends that want to make the facts known and get people to work together to make sure the killing in shelters stops. What I see differently now is that there are more people than I realized who feel the same way as I do, and I'm amazed at how powerful a force we can be when we all work together.
In terms of your volunteer work for Best Friends, what are you most proud of?
All my work with Best Friends (or really any volunteer group) makes such a difference, but I would say seeing how happy people are when they find the dog or cat, and to know I had a part in making that happen makes me the most proud. I know how much joy that animal companion is going to bring them and I'm proud to be a part of that.
What does volunteering mean to you and why do you do it?
I think it's important to give to others and to support organizations that are trying to make the world a better place. So many animal welfare organizations don't have the funding to hire enough employees to run their shelters or rescues or events, and it sometimes holds them back from doing more.
I also enjoy working with others who believe strongly about the same issues I do, and I like the personal connections and friendships I make through volunteering. Working together as a team is very rewarding.
Tell us about your favorite volunteer moment.
I have many! Getting cats with special needs adopted is always my favorite. At the last super adoption it was Mewford, a cat with no eyes. Cats like Mewford don't know they’re different, and they give just as much love (I think more actually) than a "normal" cat.
Tell us something we don’t know about you.
I'm a part time singer in a band and with the gospel choir for the Boston Pops.
What are you doing when you’re not volunteering with animals?
I work in IT for a federal agency. I love baking cookies (and sampling those cookies), and I'm an amateur photographer.
Besides volunteering for Best Friends, how else do you give back to your community?
I volunteer as an adoption ambassador and call screener for adoption applications, and I am a member of the shy cat socialization program with Ellen Gifford Cat Shelter in Brighton, Massachusetts. I am a data volunteer with the Massachusetts Animal Fund (a fund for low-cost spay/neuter) and I participated in Humane Lobby Day in the Massachusetts State House this year by lobbying my district's senators and representatives for support of animal rights and animal welfare legislation.
What advice would you give others who are thinking of volunteering?
Just do it! You will meet so many people from so many walks of life — all with the same goal of saving animals by finding them forever homes. Seeing the smiles and excitement of the adopters as they bring their new furry family member home is priceless. It's hard and sometimes messy work, but your reward is knowing you've helped save many lives. Everything a volunteer does makes a difference, no matter how simple the task.
Photos by Stacey Axelrod