Volunteer’s tech-savvy skills help pets during pandemic

When Best Friends in New York switched to virtual adoptions during the pandemic, technology teacher Randi Schey helped make the transition seamless.
By Nicole Hamilton

Randi Schey started volunteering with Best Friends in New York because she wanted to walk and play with dogs. But the more she saw her fellow volunteers and the staff make a difference in pets’ lives, the more motivated she became. And when the lifesaving center closed to the public earlier this year due to the pandemic, her motivation to help grew even stronger, even though it meant doing it in her pajamas from home.

Volunteer Randi Schey walking a dog with another volunteer

By day Randi is an elementary school technology teacher and her tech-savvy skills came in handy when it was time for her to switch gears. It also didn’t hurt that she’s known to her friends by the names Smiley and No Trauma Randi. “I’m always happy and make the best of every situation,” she says. “I’m the one that everyone comes to during challenging situations for support and motivation.”  

When in-person adoptions stopped and the Best Friends in New York team transitioned to virtual meet-and-greets, Randi helped make the process seamless. “Volunteers like Randi, who were trained and willing to lend a hand remotely, were and still are essential,” says Diana Vogel, volunteer coordinator for Best Friends in New York. “We simply couldn't find homes for so many animals without our adoption volunteers.”

Sure, Randi misses seeing in-person her fellow volunteers, the staff and the animals, but for now, she’s perfectly fine working from home, fielding questions about pets at Best Friends and helping the adoption team. And to think, it all started with a simple desire to give dogs a little love until they went home.

As you read this, Randi might just be on her computer helping someone make a love connection with a pet. In the following Q&A, you’ll learn more below about this teacher-techie, who’s helping to Save Them All.

Volunteer Randi Schey selfie with a dog

What inspires you most in your volunteer work?

I’m inspired in all of my roles as a volunteer. I love seeing pets’ personalities come out after they’ve been at Best Friends for a little time. I love counseling new adopters and talking to people in our community about the mission to Save Them All. And I love it when all pets get adopted, but especially when it’s one who had to wait a little longer to find their forever home. I cry every time!

[Fostering a big dog in the Big Apple equals fun]

When the pandemic began and the center temporarily closed, how did your volunteer role change?

When the center first closed, my volunteer roles changed pretty drastically. The first thing I was able to do was help the adoption team answer emails. It’s actually amazing how they transitioned so quickly to remote adoptions.

After we put all of the routines into place, I started helping out with the virtual meet-and-greets and answering calls to the lifesaving center on an app on my phone. The roles keep evolving as the adoption process keeps changing to get as many pets as possible into homes. Now, we have a new kitten adoption process and I just started doing kitten counseling calls to help people match up with the right kitten for their lifestyles.

Volunteer Randi Schey at a beach with a Labradoodle type dog

Has anything surprised you about volunteering remotely?

I think it’s surprising that (remotely) we are able to place so many pets into homes. When I learned we’d be doing remote adoptions, I didn’t think anyone would want to adopt a pet without meeting them. It’s great that we’re doing more remote adoptions than when we did in person. I miss seeing the staff and especially the animals, but it feels great to still be helping Best Friends, even while still in my PJs.

[How a senior Chihuahua from Miami found love in New York City]

Volunteer Randi Schey running on the beach with a dog

Tell us something we might not know about you.

I’m a bit of an adventure junkie. I’ve sky-dived, bungee-jumped, climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro, rock-climbed and pretty much done any other adventurous outdoor activity at least once.

What has volunteering taught you and has it made you see anything in a different way?

I have learned so much since I became a volunteer. I had no idea that there were so many rescue groups and homeless animals in New York City. I have learned a lot of dog training tips, and that my “teacher's face” works as well with dogs as it does with my students. When I started volunteering, I didn’t know much about cats, but now I feel confident counseling potential adopters.

I’ve also learned about TNR (trap-neuter-return) and have become so much more aware of the community cats we have in New York City. Most importantly, I have a whole new outlook and mission to help as many pets as I can.

What would you tell others who are thinking of volunteering?

Do it! There are so many different opportunities to help homeless pets. Even two hours a week makes a huge impact. You get to work with amazing staff and other volunteers, and who can resist all the cute fuzzy faces?

Volunteer Randi Schey speaking with another woman at Best Friends in New York

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Photos courtesy of Randi Schey and Best Friends in New York