For my community improvement, I volunteered at the Fredericksburg SPCA, a local animal shelter. Through the volunteer work, I was able to talk to multiple employees in order to gather information about the services provided, power distribution, and other details about the shelter. For example, I learned that the shelter is a no-kill, independent organization, meaning they receive no funding or regulation from the local government. From my conversations with employees, I also learned that this granted them all of the decision-making power, allowing the shelter to create their own adoption policies, programs, et cetera. However, they also informed me that this meant the SPCA was also responsible for 100% of their own budget, which meant that fundraising and volunteer work were a huge part of the process.
By volunteering, I learned about the wide range of volunteer opportunities that are available. One can work directly with the animals through dog or cat socialization and dog walking, or they can participate in cleaning the facilities, doing laundry, clerical work, and many other jobs. The staff also informed me that they get many volunteers, meaning they have been able to establish strong connections with the community. These connections also play important roles in their fundraising, allowing them to organize with community members and provide many opportunities for them to participate in the events the shelter holds. I learned that they receive many donations, ranging from monetary gifts to cleaning supplies or dog/cat food.
Through this work, I was able to get a sense of how important volunteer work was for this organization, which showed me the distribution of power. Because their budget is limited, the shelter relies heavily on volunteers, creating a cohesive network between the SPCA and the community. The staff explained to me that their organization is different than others in the area, because they are a no-kill shelter and independently run. Because of the strong presence they have in the community, they are able to maintain a high adoption rate, meaning most animals do not remain in the shelter for more than a month or two. This allows them to be a no-kill shelter, since overpopulation is not a huge issue and they receive enough funding from the community to properly care for the animals that come through the shelter. Through this experience, I learned about the importance of non-profit organizations for animals, because as an independent organization, they are able to make their own decisions about the care of the animals. This distinguishes them from other shelters, who are often forced to put animals down if they are there for more than a week. The power in this case is distributed in the hands of the shelter and the community members who participate in the function of the SPCA.