In dire need of finding new volunteers, a coalition of local animal rescue groups is combining to do something about that.

More than 15 animal support and rescue groups in this area are holding a special recruitment event from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Jan. 25 at Salem Church Library.

The groups, which range from Rikki’s Refuge to the King George Animal Rescue League, will have representatives hoping to connect with people who’d like to volunteer, foster and/or help them in other ways with their missions.

An appeal to the public about the meeting asks folks to attend and “find out what YOU can do to help! Everyone has a talent or skill that can help,” from “one hour a month to 10 hours a week. Find the perfect fit for you.”

The organizations involved: Canine Rescue and Adoption Program, Rikki’s Refuge, A Tail to be Told, Davey’s KitCats, Mac’s Mission, Re-Tail Thrift Store, Old Dominion Humane Society, Bobbie’s Pit Bull Rescue and Sanctuary, Mid-Atlantic Great Dane Rescue, Pet Assistance League of Virginia, Purple Paws 2nd Chance Rescue, Purrs & Whiskers, Pet Harbor, Operation Hood, King George Animal Rescue League and the Squishy Face Crew.

To find out what’s behind the need for the event, I spoke with one of the organizers, Melissa Felts, who works at the Re-Tail Thrift Store that is part of the Rikki’s Refuge organization. She noted that recently the various rescue and animal groups have gotten together to share notes and talk about ways to network and help each other.

Felts noted that at one of the meetings, participants agreed that a big problem they all face is attracting and keeping volunteers.

“We’re taking the bull by the horns because it’s getting worse,” she said, noting that group members all said they’re having trouble getting enough people to help with that they do.

Compounding the problem, said Felts, is the fact that the population of homeless animals most of the groups work with is constantly growing.

“There’s a desperate situation with this overpopulation of animals,” she said. “I doubt many people knew we have this many rescue groups in the area. And they exist because of the size of the problem we’re all facing.”

Felts noted that the recruiting session aims to help volunteers find a good fit for their talents.

“It’s important to find the group that works for them, and the right personalities to be a fit as well,” said Felts.

From there, she noted that it’s important for volunteers to be clear about how much time they might have to give each week, and what sort of things they want to do.

“Sometimes, the way they can help might be doing social media or fundraising, or it might be walking or fostering dogs, or just getting out to scoop poop,” she said.

She noted the groups have different missions and services they perform, from rescuing dogs and cats to caring from horses or other farm animals rescued from harmful circumstances or fires.

Felts said the organizers have urged the different groups to come up with some things that children might be able to help with, like handing out fliers or making things that can be sold to raise funds for the groups.

“There are some liability issues with youngsters caring for the animals, a situation that means those under 18 can’t always help,” she said. “But with some creative thinking, we think there are ways they can help.”

One thing she doesn’t think the public understands is how often people get pets, thinking they’ll keep them for the animal’s lifetime only to discard them when caring for the pet becomes difficult.

“That constant flow of unwanted pets is one of the reason we have so many rescue groups and are in need of new volunteers,” she said. “We hope this event will help all of these organizations connect with some.”

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Rob Hedelt: 540/374-5415

rhedelt@freelancestar.com

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