NYC volunteer is a feline matchmaker

Smiling volunteer Vicki Williams holding Sunny her dog in front of a brick wall background
Vicki Williams loves mentoring new volunteers and being a matchmaker for adopters and their feline friends.
By Anna McClain

Vicki Williams has a beautiful passion for helping both pets and people. It’s a passion she weaves into her daily life, whether she’s volunteering at the Best Friends Lifesaving Center in New York or helping to implement animal-friendly policies in the workplace.

As the head of human resources at NBCUniversal, Vicki helped introduce policies for employees including time off from work for new pet adoptions, vet appointments, and pet bereavement.

Vicki started volunteering with Best Friends in 2019. Today, she draws from her experience caring for cats at the lifesaving center to mentor new volunteers, teaching them about feline behavior and how to take care of the cat areas of the center.

[Labor of love: serving pets and people]

“Vicki is an incredible volunteer who leads with compassion and kindness. Her mentees often reach out to say how much they appreciate learning from her,” says Jenna Goldberg, Best Friends community engagement coordinator in New York. “She is truly wonderful, and we appreciate all her hard work.”

Recently, Vicki invited her colleagues from NBCUniversal to the lifesaving center, where they made snuffle mats — special mats with plastic holes and fabric loops for hiding treats — and spent time socializing and playing with cats. “Twelve people volunteered to come within minutes the sign-up sheet went out,” says Vicki. “Everyone had a great time.”

Vicki also has a special ability to love-match people and felines. “When I talk with potential adopters about what kind of cat they are looking for, I can just instantly picture which cat we have at the lifesaving center who will be happiest in their home.”

In the following interview, Vicki shares more about how Best Friends inspires her and the special lessons she has learned along her journey as a cat care mentor.

Why did you decide to volunteer with Best Friends?

I was searching for a volunteer opportunity at an animal adoption organization in New York City. Best Friends appealed to me for many reasons but the top reasons being, first, a strong and clear mission. Second, it’s a no-kill organization and includes the beautiful Utah Sanctuary. And Best Friends offered a wide range of volunteer opportunities.

What motivates you to continue to help the animals?

The connection and the progress. I feel connected to every cat and dog I meet at the lifesaving center. Each one has their own special personality. I also see so much progress with each visit to the center. Each animal gains more confidence due to the love and safety that they feel from the center staff and volunteers. And I see so many animals go to new homes. It brings me such joy.

What inspires you most in your volunteer work?

The staff at the lifesaving center. They are dedicated and passionate about helping the animals find homes.

What would you tell others who are thinking of volunteering?

Stop waiting and do it! I was hesitant because I felt I may want to adopt all the animals, or I may be sad if they didn’t find homes. In hindsight, I realize how silly those reasons were. The animals get adopted so much quicker than I expected, and I feel so much joy.

Since becoming a volunteer, what have you learned? Do you see things differently now and, if so, how?

I did not realize how much work it is to run an animal shelter. It is nonstop between animal intakes, vet visits, animal care, adoption interest, adoptions, fundraising, events, etc. The team works so hard, and I find it very inspiring.

What are you most proud of in terms of your volunteer work? Why?

I feel that the staff trusts me, and I feel part of the team. They have asked me to help train new volunteers with cat care, and I feel honored that they trust me in that way.

What does volunteering mean to you? Why do you do it?

Volunteering is more meaningful to me than I expected. Giving money is critically important to nonprofits, but when I give my time, I feel more connected to the organization and their mission. We can get caught up in our day jobs and our personal lives, and volunteering helps me step back and get perspective on what is important and what is not that important. It helps me stay balanced and keeps me from getting too self-focused.

Tell us something we don’t know (about yourself or just an interesting fact).

I am a big University of Georgia football fan. I love reality TV (mostly Bravo). I met my husband in high school. I am a Georgia peach living in the Big Apple.

Besides volunteering with Best Friends, how else do you give back to your community?

I am on the board of Korean K9 Rescue, which is where we adopted our dog, Sunny.

Tell us about your pets.

Romeo is our beautiful cat that we adopted from Best Friends. He is 4 years old and is part Maine coon, part Russian blue, and potentially part dog! He is very social, plays fetch, and loves to purr. Sunny is our sweet dog that we adopted from Korean K9 Rescue. He loves playing with other dogs and with his toys.

Do you have a superpower? If so, what is it?

Maybe my bounce-back ability. My husband thinks my ability to not let things bother me is my superpower. I may get upset in the moment, but I let that moment go pretty quickly and move on. Or my cat matchmaker ability. I feel like I can love-match potential adopters with their cat.

Tell us about your favorite volunteer moment.

My favorite volunteer moment is every time we see one of the longer-stay animals get adopted. It is such a special moment to watch them leave for their home, and it reminds me to never lose hope.