Volunteer of the Month - Nashville Humane
Nashville Humane's Volunteer of the Month.
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 January 2016: Dani Picard


Desiring an avenue in which to hone her photography skills while benefitting the community, Dani Picard joined NHA’s volunteer force in Fall of 2013.  New to the area, the Vanderbilt graduate student photographed her first NHA event at Howl-O-Ween, a neighborhood Halloween parade in the Gulch featuring a dog costume contest.  With a keen eye for catching candid yet perfect poses of the animals, she has since established herself as the Cat Showroom photographer, taking weekly photos of adoptable felines for our website.


“There is only one thing you have to know in order to take a good photo of dogs or cats, and it’s the same rule for humans:  You have to gain their trust, even if only for the moment it takes for the shutter to click.  It’s in that moment that you capture something meaningful about them:  an intense curiosity, a subtle mischievous streak, a longing for a good belly rub, or – if you’re not paying attention – the sneakiness of a quick puppy kiss on your lens,” Dani says.


In addition to photography, she works full-time researching, working on her dissertation, and teaching a class in the Certificate in College Teaching Program at Vanderbilt.  Arranging her schedule each week so that she purposefully has either one morning or afternoon available (in addition to the occasional Saturdays photographing NHA community events), she dedicates nearly three hours per week to volunteering.  Though trained as a Dog Walker and Teddy’s Wagon Adoption Assistant, she primarily socializes cats, spending time with them and learning their personalities, enabling her to capture the most expressive photos for their promotion.


“When I’m at NHA working with the animals, the rest of the world fades away for a few hours.  The time allows me to focus on building a connection – however brief – with a creature who might be feeling bored, scared, or lonely while waiting for his/her forever home,” Dani says.


Though unable to have pets of their own due to travelling for work and both juggling work and school schedules, she and her husband have both had many pets throughout their lives.  Through working in the shelter and representing NHA at community events like the Cherry Blossom Festival and Dog Day, she feels that volunteering with animals is the best way for her to currently contribute to their well-being.


“It doesn’t seem fair to bring a companion in our lives that wouldn’t get the attention he/she deserves.  Volunteering at NHA allows me to meet hundreds of loving animals every year,” Dani states.


Please join us in thanking and congratulating NHA’s very talented “January Volunteer of the Month,” Dani Picard!

February 2016: Maureen Thornton


A semi-retired physical therapist and Middle Tennessee resident of 30 years, Maureen Thornton has become a very familiar face around the shelter, achieving nearly 150 hours since she started volunteering in July.  As she lovingly cares for strays in her neighborhood in addition to her own animals, she was initially drawn to NHA because of the focus on controlling pet overpopulation.  Feeling compelled to repay the shelter for making spay and neuter programs accessible to the community, she diligently creates a monthly volunteer schedule, committing to serving a minimum of six hours per week in conjunction with her other obligations.


“We all need to share the responsibility for animals in our city who are turned out, abused, or neglected,” Maureen states.


As she has many of her own rescue pets for which to care, she concentrates her volunteer time on behind the scenes work.  Consistently running the computer for many recent Food Banks (even the week of the snowstorm), she comes in weekly to inventory and sort donations in the garage in preparation for the banks.  Serving as a Clerical Assistant to our Development Department, she prepares event and fundraising mailouts in the office and collects NHA donation canisters from area locations.


“I am committed and enjoy all of the areas I choose to work in.  Everyone is friendly and helpful making it a joy to pitch in and complete each task,” Maureen says.


Nurturing by nature and a long-time pet owner, Maureen has three Chihuahuas, two Terriers, one Yorkie, and five indoor cats (in addition to four outdoor cats and strays) for whom she provides.  When not working in the shelter or tending to her own household, she volunteers as a Court Appointed Special Advocate, speaking for abused and neglected children in the court system, helping them find safe and permanent homes.  Through CASA, she has two beautiful children in her care aspiring for permanency in a foster home.  She also serves as a TN Achieves Mentor, assisting teens to complete enrollment into a two-year college or technical school and following their progress to graduation.


“NHA stands alone without comparison to other volunteer work.  It’s relaxed and much easier dealing with feline and canine friends than most adults,” Maureen states.


Please join us in thanking and congratulating a truly outstanding “February Volunteer of the Month,” Maureen Thornton!

March 2016: John Cooper


Working quietly and independently, John Cooper has been walking dogs at NHA on a weekly basis since Spring 2012.  Beginning his volunteerism after his 14-year-old black lab passed away, he sought a place that truly loved dogs, as he and his wife were left without any animals at the time.  Now serving nearly 300 hours-to-date, he has dependably served most Thursday or Friday mornings over the past four years.


“It was good therapy, and I wanted to do some volunteer work.  I’ve always loved dogs and have had many over the last forty-five years,” John states.


Retired from the Department of Defense, he travelled the world for many years and lived in Germany for several of them.  Though his time is limited, as he also cares for his elderly mother, he makes every effort to come in at least once per week.


Always flexible and willing to assist wherever needed, he often fills in as a Media Hound to hold dogs for their Thursday morning website photos.  He also worked last September’s Clear the Shelters event, assisting potential adopters during the weekend Mars Pedigree sponsored all adoption fees.   When requested, he walks dogs in preparation for NHA’s signature events and fundraisers like Unleashed and Dog Day.


“I just enjoy being around dogs and the various personalities they display,” John states.


Adopting a ten-year-old shepherd  mix, Gretchen, from NHA four years ago, and rescuing a stray terrier mix, Oscar, they now have two dogs of their own, yet he continues to dedicate time to the shelter.


“Working at the NHA is great because of the people that work and volunteer there.  I enjoy working with people that love and appreciate animals,” John says.


Please join us in thanking and congratulating our March Volunteer of the Month, John Cooper!

May 2016: Lacy Jones


Visiting NHA while dropping off donations with a friend, Lacy Jones immediately fell in love with the animals and surroundings.  After their Labrador passed, her parents were unable to bring anymore dogs into the house, so she decided to dedicate her free time to socializing those that needed some TLC and attention.  Though she has volunteered only one full year, Lacy has committed wholeheartedly to volunteering and achieved over 225 service hours to-date.


“I love helping the potential adopters decide which friend is right for them.  I love helping the staff with any request they might have, and, of course, I love knowing that what I do is helping to make a difference for all of the babies that come through our doors,” Lacy states.


As a Dog Walker and Grooming Assistant, she often spends several hours per day during her weekdays off of work, as she works three 12-hour shifts through her weekends.  Responsive to any request, she served as a Critter Camp Counselor last summer and jumps in wherever needed, regularly moving animals for Vet Services on large dog surgery days.  In addition to these duties, she works with the Pet Visitation Program and submits pictures from her visits as well.  Most recently she joined Teddy’s Team to serve as an Adoption Assistant when the occasional weekday event occurs.


In referencing her assortment of tasks, Lacy states, “I love getting to know all the dogs in the kennels on some level.  And I love bathing the dogs as well.  I mean, what’s more adorable than a sudsy puppy?  And as an amateur photographer it’s always nice to have extra subjects to practice on.”


Currently owning two leopard geckos, Mosef and Misfit, Lacy adores most reptiles and animals some may consider strange or unusual including snakes, bearded dragons, and lizards.  After meeting one of NHA’s shelter residents with whom she was working, her parents adopted a Rhodesian Ridgeback Mix, Maylee, this past December as an early Christmas surprise for her.  When she finished her volunteering shift one day, they waited for her to leave and came back to adopt the dog whom Lacy now considers her best friend.


“Despite it being all bark-filled, for the most part it’s really therapeutic for me – to know that what I’m doing is benefiting the animals and helping to hopefully make the staff’s jobs a little easier by cleaning up, folding laundry, or whatever is necessary,” Lacy says.


Please join us in thanking and congratulating our truly dedicated “May Volunteer of the Month,” Lacy Jones!

June 2016: Lisa Roiseman


Faithful and dependable, volunteer Lisa Roiseman has averaged serving 75 hours per year since she joined NHA’s volunteer force in 2005.  Coming to NHA at the request of a friend who was walking dogs in honor of his recently departed canine, she was initially weary of working directly with shelter animals despite her experience and long-time love of dogs.  As she learned the ROVER program was seeking clerical assistance, she jumped into doing data entry behind the scenes in an effort to avoid the sadness she feared of being around and working with dogs needing homes.


“True to his word, I was able to do the data entry that day without seeing a single dog.  But, since I think dogs are the best things on earth, the next week I ventured out to the kennels and I was amazed, just blown away.  And the rest is history,” Lisa states.


Now accumulating nearly 850 hours to-date, she has served in almost any capacity needed or offered from Dog Walker, Adoption Aide, Volunteer Trainer, to Event Assistant.  Always flexible to any task requested of her, she will quietly and humbly work behind the scenes or step into a leadership role when called upon for all NHA signature events – Dog Day Festival, Unleashed, and Cause for Paws.  Whether it’s event preparation like stuffing goodie bags and organizing auction items or working the entire event day-of, she graciously offers help wherever she sees a need.  During our longest outdoor event of the year, Dog Day Festival, she walks Centennial Park in the September heat ensuring all doggie water stations are maintained and full throughout the day.


“The animals were so well-cared for, so supported and loved, I just couldn’t help but get more involved. The Rover program has become more automated so my two-fingered typing services are less necessary. But special events and Teddy’s Wagon have become my home at NHA,” Lisa states.


In her professional career, she worked as a graphic artist for 35 years but in retirement now finds volunteering more rewarding and is always looking for new ways to assist.


“It was more fun and fulfilling to scoop puppy poop, train new volunteers (helped me get over some shyness), and work special events,” she says.

August 2016: Katie Mason


A native of Cookeville, TN and graduate of NYU, long-time animal lover Katie Mason came to NHA upon the suggestion of her friend and dedicated NHA Volunteer, Bethany Scaggs.  Previously volunteering at several other facilities throughout her schooling and growing up alongside many animals in her childhood, she sought a place that would allow her to care for those animals she couldn’t personally adopt.  Though she has only been volunteering less than a year, this Media and Marketing major has logged 150 hours since January and has quickly become upon our most familiar faces in the shelter.


“I have never had the pleasure of directing working with animals professionally, but I have grown up raising every animal imaginable and try to constantly find animal-centric environments to spend as much of my personal time in as possible.  I like to say that ‘dogs are my favorite people,'” Katie states.


Spending the majority of her time in the shelter walking dogs, Katie proved her skills as a Dog Walker by jumping into the rotation of dedicated volunteers who came in daily to walk Onyx, the long-time NHA Resident and Nashville K-9 Graduate.  Within her first several months, she worked two of our signature events, Unleashed and Cause for Paws, assisting with Media Check-In and taking the lead on auction item distributions as well.  Flexible to any task, she served as a Kennel Buddy Aide, supervising and teaching campers proper handling of dogs, for both weeks of Critter Camp, and she even jumped into the Rover suit for camp pictures when Rover couldn’t be there.


“Most of my time is spent walking and socializing dogs, but I am always happy to help out in any capacity I can-whether that be doing laundry or even occasionally moonlighting as Rover,” Katie says.


Utilizing her background in marketing and photography, Katie also lends her media talents when needed.  As her current position as a sales manager for a preschool photography business offers some flexibility in her schedule, she often takes pictures of adoptable animals for the website, filling in when long-time volunteers and professional photographers, Mike Noble and Dani Picard, aren’t able to take their weekly website pictures.


“I have never enjoyed volunteering at other shelters, because I felt the need to rescue all of the animals myself.  However, I never feel bad leaving NHA because I know that every single dog will almost certainly find their new home in a week or two and is well-loved and taken care of in the meantime,” Katie says.


Most recently she worked the entire event, despite the constant rain, from the morning race through afternoon cleanup at our largest annual fundraiser of the year, Mutt Strutt and Dog Day Festival. Working alongside Mike for the initial portraits of race participants, she transitioned to taking festival attendee portraits as a fundraiser for NHA.


Though her versatility and skill sets allow her to support NHA in multiple capacities, her real passion is the dogs, which is evident by her dedicating 3-4 days per week to the shelter.  As an owner of three dogs, one of whom she fell in love with and adopted within her first month as a volunteer, she and her husband view them as their babies, not having any human children currently.


“I love being able to work one-on-one with the dogs to work on basic behaviors and skills, while also giving them love and attention.  I feel that teaching them how to behave, while also showing them how humans should behave, builds their confidence and fosters trust.  To watch a timid and reserved stray grow into a happy and respectful dog that then gets adopted-and knowing that I played a small part in that- is THE MOST rewarding experience,” Katie says.


Please join us in congratulating and celebrating our “August Volunteer of the Month,” Katie Mason!

September 2016: Heleen Veerman-Pritchett


Growing up in Holland with many family pets and animals, Heleen Veerman-Pritchett has always had a lifelong love for them.  Earning her degree in Entertainment Industry Studies in 2013, she came to NHA upon graduation from Belmont University when her schedule allowed for volunteering.  Though starting off as a Cat Socializer and Dog Walker, she has served the bulk of her 150+ hours working community events and representing NHA as our blue canine mascot, Rover.


“My family’s had animals (dogs, cats, horses, goats, chickens…) for as long as I can remember, so I’ve been around animals for as long as I can remember,” Heleen states.


In June 2014, we were in a pinch to find someone to play Rover, as the initial volunteer was unable to fulfill the role at one of our very first Musician’s Corner appearances in Centennial Park.  As we were hurriedly trying to find someone the day before, she immediately responded to the request.  Despite the miserably hot temperatures, she stepped right into the suit like a pro and has continued to do so upon nearly every date or event requested.  Though her current schedule of 12-hour days working alongside her husband at their nutrition café doesn’t allow for much down time, she consistently devotes Saturdays and makes special efforts on weekdays to accommodate the random mid-week request to appear as Rover.


“Sleep is for the weak!  Sadly I barely get to work with the animals because of my very limited free time, but the events are always a good time to entertain (and sometimes traumatize) kids and, more often than not, adults,” Heleen jokes.


As a former barn-hand, caring for and training horses, she also taught kids about working with horses. Possessing extensive customer service and music industry experience, she blends her diverse work resume’ with her varied interests, lending her limited time yet innumerable talents to NHA.  Now completing two full annual rotations of playing Rover at Dog Day, Unleashed, Clear the Shelters, Critter Camp, and Adventure Science Center’s National Mutt Day, she’s one of NHA’s most dedicated, amenable, and recognizable volunteers who plays a vital role in promoting the shelter.


“NHA is by far the most fun I’ve had volunteering, and I would recommend it to anyone.  My favorite part is happy, healthy NHA “alums” because at the end of the day, that’s what it’s all about,” Heleen states.


Please join us in thanking and congratulating our “September Volunteer of the Month,” Heleen Veerman, (and, if you catch a glimpse of Rover at her next appearance, please spread the word that she is not to be confused with Barney)!

November 2016: Patricia Waldron


Life-long animal lover, Patricia Waldron began volunteering at NHA in mid-2013.  Initially a Cat Socializer, she has now completed over 400 hours serving wherever necessary from behind-the-scenes opportunities to off-site events and nearly everything in between.


“It’s funny – didn’t really have a specific reason for wanting to volunteer at NHA.  I just knew I wanted to do some volunteer work and after visiting just to get my puppy and kitten fix I thought, ‘wow, this place is awesome,’ and the rest is history!,” Patricia states.


Though a less visible and sometimes overlooked assignment as it is a full two-hour commitment working in the garage in sometimes uncomfortable temperatures, the position of Food Bank Assistant has often proven difficult to fill.  However, Patricia started working the Darcy Lashinsky Memorial Community Pet Food Bank upon her arrival at NHA and has consistently served as a distribution volunteer usually at least once per month, often both banks per month, over the last several years.


In addition to being the longest-serving Food Bank Volunteer to-date, she serves most weekends as Puppy Room Monitor, as she often stays for most of the day on Saturdays or Sundays making sure guests are properly handling the pups and not occupying the visitation areas for prolonged periods of time without the intent of adopting.  Over the last couple of years, she has worked typically two Teddy’s Wagon events per month and now assists in processing adoption paperwork as well.  She has also served the duration of both Saturdays of our annual Pedigree Clear the Shelters events.


“I try to give at least 5 hours a week to the shelter – sometimes more.  Since I am self-employed it makes it easy to be able to schedule to work events.  My only intention for being a volunteer is to help around the shelter, help with off-site events, and, with any luck, I am able to help one of our residents find their furever home!” Patricia says.


Though she enjoys matching animals to their forever families both on Teddy’s Wagon and while working in the shelter, Patricia views them as different experiences in how the adoptions occur and how she approaches each position.


“The aspects of Teddy’s and the shelter are totally different for me. Working Teddy’s, a person may come to the location with no intention of adopting, being that we are usually at a place of business, and it’s satisfying to “accidentally” adopt an animal!  With being at the shelter I usually come before opening time to get to know the residents and their personalities.  This helps me when an adopter needs or wants a special kind of animal,” Patricia states.


An owner of five cats, she currently has two Siamese, one Bengal, and two other rescues.  Her most recent addition is one many may remember as a former long-time NHA resident, Beyoncé, of one of our Pet of the Week rooms.


Referencing her animals, Patricia says, “Trust me when I say… they are all spoiled rotten and live the good life.”


Please join us in thanking and congratulating our “November Volunteer of the Month,” Patricia Waldron!

October 2016: Alyssa Ferraro


After moving to Nashville and settling into her new job, Alyssa Ferraro sought a productive way in which she could contribute to the community and spend her free time.  A lifelong pet owner and animal lover, Alyssa came to NHA in 2015, logging 150 hours in a little over a year of volunteering.  Though her only availability is weekends due to her work schedule, she serves at least two Saturdays per month with Teddy’s Wagon, NHA’s mobile adoption unit.  Often assisting with morning load-ins and working multiple shifts throughout the day, she typically dedicates 4-8 hours to each event.


“I don’t have a lot of professional (read paid) experience with animals, but I grew up in a house that always had many pets.  We had ducks, snakes, birds, lizards, scorpions, cats, dogs, rats, fish, rabbits, and hamsters (I’m sure I’m forgetting some).  I also volunteered at a neglected horse barn for about five years where, along with my mom and sister, I cleaned stables, exercised and groomed the horses,” she says.


Over the last year, she’s worked many community and NHA signature events aside from Teddy’s Wagon including Bark in the Park at First Tennessee Park, Holiday Pet Photos at various locations, and Dog Day, NHA’s largest annual fundraiser in Centennial Park.  Always inquiring of opportunities and willing to take on new tasks, she served as a 2016 Unleashed Auction Assistant, helping guests and fellow volunteers alike navigate a mobile bidding app as we introduced it to our auctions for the first time.  Also working this year’s Clear the Shelters weekend, during which Pedigree sponsored all adoption fees, she aided customers in handling dogs and diffused potential safety issues in the backyard.


“My favorite thing is working directly with the public to facilitate adoptions.  I can see myself making a direct difference, plus, I still get to spend time with the animals.  I also love working events because I have always loved being a part of event planning and execution and helping to take the stress off some of the staff,” Alyssa states.


Though she works full-time and cannot come in on weekdays, she proactively leaves as many Saturdays as possible open to fulfill her volunteer commitment.  Currently the owner of a one-year-old Lab/Pyrenees mix named Myka and three-year-old Husky Mix named Luna, Alyssa is a sincere advocate for NHA’s mission and devoted representative of the shelter.


“I have always had a great love of animals, so what better way to spend this time than helping an organization that works towards a goal that I have always had myself?  NHA is different from my other and previous volunteer engagements because it allows me to work directly with the public to share my passion for animal welfare,” Alyssa says.


Please join us in thanking and congratulating our “October Volunteer of the Month,” Alyssa Ferraro!