One of the things that truly makes Nevins Farm special for me is seeing the dedication - and getting inspiration - from our volunteers. If it weren’t for the hundreds of volunteers who come in on their days off to help us care for the thousands on animals that we take in, we would truly never be able to take that extra time to get to know an animal's true personality or even be able to take those extra minutes to reach out to the shy or scared animals just staring at us in the back of their cages.
One terrific example of how great our volunteer base is comes from one of our longest staying volunteers, Denise Cleghorn. This year will mark the 20th anniversary for Denise at Nevins Farm. Denise started at our shelter in 1990. Denise noticed soon after starting that we needed help with animals that were too young to be adopted out. With just a simple idea to take these animals into her home until they could be placed, she changed Nevins Farm in such a wonderful way and started our foster program.
Over the years, with the help of her husband Barry, and two children, Kara and Brian, she has opened her home and cared for more than 1000 animals, making her the most prolific foster mom that our adoption center has ever had.
Denise is still going strong today and continues to not only foster for us but helps with volunteer training, animal care, educational programming, special events, and adoption counseling. Denise earned the MSPCA volunteer of the year honor back in 1993 for her dedication and hard work for our cause.
I asked Denise to tell me what she likes best about Nevins Farm and why she has stuck with us over the years:
“About fostering...It can be challenging, but it is so rewarding to give a few days or weeks of care to a young or sick or under-socialized animal and to watch it thrive and transform into healthy, adoptable pet. I still check the adoption log to see how quickly "my fosters" get adopted! I remember when a family brought in a photo of the dog they had adopted a few years earlier. I recognized him as one of my foster puppies! It was great hearing how happy they were to have adopted him.
There is another impact of fostering. For each kennel at the MSPCA that is made available when "fosters" are in my home, another animal is provided with a space and an opportunity for adoption. I do like to think that I am helping animals other than just those in my care.
People ask how can I bring my fosters back after falling in love with them...easy (usually). I am helping to prepare them for their permanent home, so I focus on that. Often, as soon as I bring a litter back for adoption, another is waiting to come home to be fostered by me. I have adopted only 4 of my foster kittens in the past 20 years. What keeps me coming back after 20 years? Volunteering at the MSPCA in Methuen is so important to me. I am glad that I have helped with the development of our new volunteer orientation and foster care programs, which have helped to make the MSPCA a better place for the animals and all those who visit. I am amazed at the number of hours all the volunteers give. I heard it was more than 48,000 hours last year and our foster families cared for more than 25% of the animals before they were adopted. I am just a piece of the puzzle that makes the MSPCA in Methuen the best place to volunteer! Everyday at the MSPCA is different. There are so many education programs, fundraising events, countless activities and a never-ending list of projects that happen that I have been involved with so I never get tired of volunteering for the MSPCA.
Oh, did I mention the animals? It is so rewarding to spend time with the animals, keeping their kennels clean, socializing them and sharing their stories with potential adopters. I love caring for animals, working with people who are so compassionate and passionate about the welfare of homeless animals. The MSPCA staff is very appreciative of the efforts of each of the volunteers. I've met some of my closest friends at the MSPCA! I think I have received much more from volunteering for the MSCPA than I have given.”
For myself, as a foster parent, staff member, and volunteer, Denise’s contributions to Nevins farm are not only an inspiration but also something I am truly grateful for. Denise, on behalf of all of us - thank you for reaching out to so many animals over the years, your dedication and hard work is nothing short of amazing.