Credit One Bank team gets hands-on at Best Friends

Credit One volunteers in front of the Best Friends Animal Sanctuary sign
Volunteers from Credit One Bank spend two weekends on a large project to make the Sanctuary shine.
By Sarah Thornton

The day started early. Well before the sun was up, the Credit One Bank headquarters in Las Vegas was bustling with employees and their friends and families. Over 50 people stood near the doors, all waiting excitedly to load into buses for the three-hour trip that would take them to Best Friends Animal Sanctuary in Kanab, Utah, for a day of volunteering.

Credit One is the official Best Friends Credit Card — with Best Friends receiving up to a 1% donation from every eligible purchase made with the card — and this excursion was a chance for employees to see what that partnership had helped build and maintain.

Plus, who can resist the allure of cute, fuzzy animals? As soon as the notice about the volunteer trip had gone out, all available spots were filled (along with the allotted plus-ones for each employee). There were so many people interested, in fact, that they’d decided to split up over two weekends. This was perfect because there was a big project at the Sanctuary just waiting for a whole lot of hands.

A big job and meeting the animals

At first, finding the right place for such a large group of volunteers had stumped coordinators a bit. Which area could accommodate so many people, and which really needed the help? And then the answer revealed itself. Angels Rest and Angels Overlook, the serene final resting places for Sanctuary pets as well as the beloved family pets of Best Friends staff and members, needed some extra TLC.

The area was short-staffed — down to just one person at the time — and hardy desert weeds were popping up through whatever sand the wind wasn’t already blowing onto memorial stones and décor. For one person, it was an overwhelming project that would have taken several long weeks, even with occasional help from smaller teams of volunteers. But with Credit One’s employees ready to get their hands dirty and do some tough work, the mountain could be turned into a molehill.

The first weekend’s group of 50 volunteers were split further into two groups. One half went straight to Angels Rest to spend the morning weeding, raking, and beautifying the area, while the second toured the various areas to meet the animals.

Of course, the pets were a hit with everyone. Maria Reyes-Huerta, partnerships associate at Credit One Bank, said that was her favorite part of the experience. “It was my first time at the Sanctuary. I had never seen it. So it was really, really cool to drive around, see all the different areas, and hear the stories of some of the animals there,” she recalls, smiling. “I had never seen potbelly pigs in person.”

Candi Maciel, director of corporate partnerships for Best Friends, remembers talking to a woman from Credit One’s HR department who had come on the trip hoping to face a fear. “I asked, ‘What made you come today?’” Candi explains. “And she said, ‘Honestly, I'm terrified of animals, especially dogs. But I really want to get over my fear. And so I decided to come today because I wanted to help and I wanted to begin to tackle this fear of mine. Because, you know, it's not fair. I want to like dogs.’”

Some Credit One employees even found themselves quickly falling in love with the Sanctuary’s residents and made plans to come back with their families and friends on their own time to volunteer — or adopt.

When lunchtime rolled around, everyone met back up at Horse Haven for food (prepped and bagged by staff at Best Friends’ Angel Village café) and a horse training demonstration. Then, the teams split back up and swapped roles. Everyone tuckered out from a morning of landscaping went to visit the animals, and the tour group headed over to Angels Rest.

Getting their hands dirty

Cleaning up Angels Rest was hard work on a sunny, hot day. The wind dusted everyone with sand, and the red-orange dirt smudged sweaty foreheads and covered hands. But as they worked side by side, pulling out weeds and raking leaves, rocks, and debris, it felt good. Being able to turn around and see the difference between where they’d cleared and what was ahead of them left a real impact.

“The Angels Rest area was beautiful. You could feel the calm, even as you were working — hear the windchimes. It’s just a completely different experience,” Maria says. “And from the morning we got there to the second weekend at the end, you could see the whole front section cleared."

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Muscles may have ached, and everyone probably wanted a good long shower after. But by the end of the first day, there were already people volunteering to return the next weekend.

On the second weekend, they did it all over again. New arrivals and returning employees swapped between tours and landscaping, digging right back in where they’d left off. And by the end of the two weekends, the winding paths of memorials were clear and calm once more — perfect for sitting and remembering precious memories with lost loved ones.

Looking to the future together

There’s something special about working on a project until you’re exhausted and smiling through it — a sort of contentment in the way your body relaxes into a chair or back to bed at the end of it. It feels good. And that seemed to ring true for everyone involved.

“That just makes it even more amazing — their commitment,” Candi explains. “You know, here's a whole bunch of people from all different walks of life who are like, ‘Yes, I want to see the Sanctuary. And I also want to help it. I literally don't care what project I'm doing; I will go and help.’ Honestly, I think it was one of the highlights of my career.”

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Maria says the experience was different from anything Credit One Bank has done — even with the other local volunteering they are involved in on a regular basis.

“This was the opportunity for us to see firsthand how our partnership directly helps with what Best Friends is doing on the ground. It was the bow on top of the partnership. This is why we do this,” she says and then laughs. “We already have people asking, ‘When are we going back?’”

Well, good news for those curious: Another volunteer trip is already being planned. The projects never end around here, but one thing’s for sure: Together, the future is looking good.

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