Volunteer turns passion into action

Animals have been a lifelong passion for Jenn Yandrisevits. She grew up in a home with animals, always rescued from local shelters. The native Pennsylvanian moved to New York City seven years ago and soon found her true calling — volunteering to help save companion animals in need. As Jenn says, “There are two groups of people in the world: those who know about Best Friends and those who need to.” While she expected to like volunteering to help animals, the experience has brought some unexpected rewards too.

Volunteering with Best Friends’ New York programs

Best Friends New York volunteer Jenn Yandrisevits with her petsAs an events planner, Jenn was thrilled to learn that Best Friends had volunteer opportunities, where she could really use her skill set. Her first time volunteering was for the tri-state area’s inaugural Strut Your Mutt fundraiser dog walk in New York City in 2010. She’s been a volunteer staple for Best Friends’ New York programs ever since. Through its New York programs, Best Friends holds or participates in many adoption and educational events in the tri-state area throughout the year, in addition to supporting the Best Friends puppy mill, cat and pit bull terrier initiatives. “Volunteering for Best Friends at the very first New York Strut Your Mutt was so exciting,” says Jenn. “Seeing all the people who came out to support homeless pets was amazing. It keeps growing, and watching it become bigger and better each year is incredible.”

In addition to volunteering for Strut Your Mutt, Jenn especially loves working the Best Friends tri-state pet super adoptions. These events, like Strut Your Mutt, help not only Best Friends, but also No More Homeless Pets Network partners and other rescue groups. (The No More Homeless Pets Network is a Best Friends program that helps rescue organizations and municipal shelters that share one goal: to end the killing of dogs and cats in shelters.)

Jenn says, “At the super (adoption events), you really get attached to some dogs after you read their stories. It’s especially heartwarming to see the seniors go home. Witnessing a nine-year-old poodle find the perfect family is just a magical moment.”

Adopting a dog

During last year’s spring super adoption, things got more personal when she met a dog named Dexter. Her fiancé’s cat had recently passed away, and she was thinking about her dog, Joon, who was lonely. A staff person said to her, “That dog is staring at you.” Dexter is now loving his new life with Jenn.

One of the unexpected bonuses of volunteering has been making new friends. “Volunteering has pushed me to step outside my comfort zone,” says Jenn. “I’ve met so many new people, from the public whom I’m helping educate about animal welfare, to my fellow volunteers and Best Friends staff; there are so many nice, likeminded folks that I’ve met because of volunteering. It’s just a wonderful all-around experience.”

To volunteer for Best Friends in your area.

Photos courtesy of Jenn Yandrisevits