Big Turnout for the Critters at Catskill Animal Sanctuary: A National Volunteer Week Success Story

Guest post by Michelle Alvarez, Catskill Animal Sanctuary

Amelia the pig greets some volunteersPeople show their support for Catskill Animal Sanctuary, the Hudson Valley’s haven for horses and farm animals rescued from cruelty and neglect, in so many ways – they donate money or supplies, sponsor a critter or offer their professional services (like photography or graphic design) for free.

Over the years, hundreds of souls have even gone vegetarian, for it’s truly impossible to spend time at CAS and not see cows, pigs, chickens, turkeys, and goats in a new light. Interestingly, though, I often hear people say that one of the most fulfilling ways of helping out is when they roll up their sleeves, grab some tools, do farm chores, and get dirty.

[pullquote]”Horses have such soulful eyes – I want to know what they’re thinking.”[/pullquote]

On Saturday, April 9th, 2011, on the eve of the 37th annual National Volunteer Week, 70 volunteers came from all over the Hudson Valley, New York City and central New Jersey for our Spring Work Party. With big smiles and kind hearts, teams planted greenery in the chicken yards, resurfaced gravel entrances to horse fields, painted and repaired long stretches of fence and cleared pastures.

As Outreach Director I have the pleasure of leading road trips from New York City to CAS, and this time around three-quarters of the folks on the bus had never been in the close company of farm animals. While I’ve been involved with CAS for years, I love seeing the place through the eyes of first-time visitors and learning about how chance encounters with the animals open their hearts and minds in new ways.

Throughout the day, I heard things like “I am just crazy about Amelia! I had no idea that pigs are so smart, and I don’t think I can eat pork ever again,” and “Horses have such soulful eyes – I want to know what they’re thinking,” and “It’s amazing how Atlas the goat can love and trust humans again, after all the cruelty he’s endured.” Sentiments like these embody the magic and beauty of this special place – lots of folks leave with a profoundly heightened understanding and appreciation of farm animals.

That evening, after hours of hard physical labor, people were buzzing on the bus ride back to New York City. The energy and enthusiasm were palpable – it was clear that many people had been moved by the day’s experiences.

Deeply grateful, I settled comfortably in my seat, knowing that the animals would be very proud, and looking forward to the next road trip.

You, too, can help improve the lives of animals who cannot speak for themselves! Volunteer at your local animal rescue organization, go vegetarian a couple of days a week, and/or buy from companies that don’t test on animals.

For more information on how to get involved with CAS and help farm animals rescued from cruelty and abuse, visit CASanctuary.org, or call 845-336-8447.

Michelle Alvarez joined the staff at CAS in 2009 after volunteering for over a year. As Outreach Director, she is responsible for handling media relations, planning special events, recruiting supporters, and raising public awareness of CAS.

(Photo: Catskill Animal Sanctuary)