They walk dogs and contact their legislators. They clean cages and call constituents and monitor our wildlife land trust properties. They enter data collected during busy vet clinics and they collect signatures that will help get new laws on the books. 

Their tasks and time commitments are different, their backgrounds diverse, but their goal is the same: to fight for all animals. They are our volunteers, and without them, the Humane Society of the United States couldn’t do the work we do. 

Last year alone, 2,300 volunteers performed 140,000 hours of service for the HSUS and our affiliates. “Volunteers increase our reach and capacity in ways we wouldn’t be able to do without them,” says Hilary Hager, senior director of volunteer engagement at the HSUS. 

In the stories on these pages, you’ll meet six superhero volunteers. Some are lifelong animal advocates. Others are new to advocacy, but they felt the call one day. They
visited our website and rolled up their sleeves. They found a supportive team here at the HSUS, ready to arm them with the skills and training they needed.

No matter how they got to us, they’re here. We’re grateful for their dedication, and for the dedication of all our volunteers. After you read about their work, we hope you’ll feel inspired to join them. To get started, visit humanesociety.org/volunteer or call 301-258-1555. Whatever your skills, whatever your time commitment, we’re glad to have you on our side in the fight for all animals. 

State council volunteer

Clova Abrahamson

TIME IN ROLE: 4 years
THIS ROLE IS BEST FOR: Dedicated advocates who want to change the legal landscape for animals by putting their advocacy and philanthropy skills to work
TIME REQUIRED: 3-5 hours/week

Portrait of Clova
Clova Abrahamson

For more than 40 years, Clova Abrahamson has been fighting for all animals alongside the HSUS. So when the HSUS Oklahoma State Council was formed in 2014, Abrahamson was one of the first we asked to join. 

“The main thing I do in my advocacy is communicate with others and try to continuously build more people that I talk to,” Abrahamson says. Besides connecting through social media and email, Abrahamson also relies on a more traditional communication method. “I write a lot of letters to the editor,” she says. “That’s always seemed to me to be the best way of communicating with the most people.” Whether she’s writing in support of a cockfighting ban or sharing tips on preventing feline overpopulation, Abrahamson’s letters help educate readers throughout the state.

Abrahamson particularly appreciates the chance to champion animal-friendly legislation. “That’s what solves the problems,” she says. “Even on the local level, even if it sometimes isn’t enforced, it still is a statement of who we are as a
people and what we believe.” She’s proud to fight for those ideals.

MEMORABLE MOMENT:
“Any time you win, that’s really sweet,” says Abrahamson, noting that a 2002 ban on cockfighting was particularly meaningful.

ADVICE FOR ASPIRING VOLUNTEERS: “The first step is to affiliate with the HSUS by membership,” she says. “And just get involved. When there’s something that we need to react to, well, react to it!” 

 

Care center volunteer

Anabella Alfert

TIME IN ROLE: 21 years
THIS ROLE IS BEST FOR: Wildlife lovers who have time for training and a regular commitment
TIME REQUIRED: 4 hours/week 

Portrait of Anabella
Jesus Aranguren
/
AP Images for The HSUS

Anabella Alfert knew nothing about caring for wildlife in 1997. She’d been an animal lover all her life, but it wasn’t until she found an injured squirrel that she transformed that love into action. After bringing the squirrel to South Florida Wildlife Center, she signed up to volunteer. “That rescue ignited that flame to finally dive in,” she says.

Soon, Alfert’s role shifted. “I knew they had ambulance drivers,” she remembers, “and I said, ‘Well, what if I do that?’ ” As a first responder, Alfert takes calls from the public and the center; thanks to a flexible career working from home, she’s available at all hours. She hops in her van and picks up the patient, whether it’s a Muscovy duck with botulism or an orphaned baby raccoon. 

When you give your time to animals, they give back to you.
Anabella Alfert

Alfert hears a common response to her work: I wish I could do what you do. “And my response is like, ‘You can do what I do!’ ” she says. “They always wish, and I think you can!” With a little training, you can join Alfert as a hero for wildlife. Not everyone can be on call 24/7, but one of our care centers (or another local organization) can help find a role that fits your schedule.

MEMORABLE MOMENT: When a 15-year-old boy rescued a grackle whose leg had gotten tangled in fishing line one night, Alfert volunteered to pick up the bird in the morning. Throughout the night, the teenager texted Alfert asking for advice and sharing updates, including his name for the bird: Jonathan. “Let me tell you, I choked up!” says Alfert. “That gives me hope that this compassion for animals is something that we just need to teach.”

ADVICE FOR ASPIRING VOLUNTEERS: “Just go out and make the time, because it’s such a beautiful gift! When you give your time to animals, they give back to you.” 

 

Special projects volunteer

Irene Hsu

TIME IN ROLE: 1.5 years
This role is best for: Anyone who doesn’t care how they help—they just want to help!
Time required: Varies

Portrait of Irene Hsu
Irene Hsu

When Irene Hsu received an advocacy email from the Humane Society of the United States, she had to laugh—our acronym, HSUS, was similar to her last name. Hsu was attracted to the HSUS because of our work on behalf of all animals. She’s had a special affinity for bears since childhood, and caring about them naturally extended to other animals. 

In 2014, Hsu attended our Taking Action for Animals conference to learn how to translate her passion for animals into, well, action. “It completely opened my eyes,” says Hsu. She left inspired to do more. With no specific role in mind, Hsu signed up as a special projects volunteer—someone who helps out with short projects on an as-needed basis, either from home or at our offices.

HSI spay/neuter clinic in Guyana
Volunteers at a veterinarian training event and spay/neuter clinic in Guyana fill out paper forms. As a special projects volunteer, Irene Hsu helps enter some of the data gathered during clinics like these so it’s available in an electronic database.
Alex Rothlisberger
/
HSI

Since signing up last year, Hsu has taken four weeklong trips from her California home to the HSUS offices in Maryland and Washington, D.C. On one visit, she volunteered at Taking Action for Animals as a workshop and door monitor. She’s also done data entry, including cataloging details about clients served at a free spay/neuter clinic in Guyana. Although she worried data entry might be boring, Hsu enjoyed the experience. Everyone at the office “made me feel very welcome,” she says. “You just kind of had that thought in the back of your head, like, ‘This is helping animals!’ ”

MEMORABLE MOMENT:
“I would say pretty much every single one!” 

ADVICE FOR ASPIRING VOLUNTEERS: “Everybody has some sort of skill,” says Hsu. “If you’re kind of on the fence, just think about how you’re helping out. It’s really such a great cause.”

 

District leader volunteer

Dan Spehar

TIME IN ROLE: 5 years
THIS ROLE IS BEST FOR: Community activists who can lead others to help pass animal-friendly legislation 
TIME REQUIRED: 1-3 hours/week

Portrait of Dan Spehar
Dan Spehar

Despite a day job researching community cat management, Dan Spehar is an advocate for all animals. And that’s what drew him to the Humane Society of the United States. “I’ve always been impressed with HSUS and their commitment to stopping cruelty pertaining to all animals,” he says. 

A longtime HSUS member, Spehar became an Ohio district leader volunteer in 2013. The program aims to fill all 435 congressional districts with at least one HSUS volunteer who works with the state director to advance local animal protection issues. “The most fundamental thing you can do as a district leader is engage with your elected officials,” says Spehar. District leaders stay in contact with their representatives and occasionally meet with them. They use social media, letters to the editor and email to get others involved, increasing the number of voices calling for animal-friendly legislation.

I don’t know of another organization that fights for animals of all kinds.
Dan Spehar

If talking with elected officials makes you nervous, don’t worry. “You don’t really ever have to do anything alone,” says Spehar. District leader buddies will accompany you to the capital, and you’ll get scripts for phone calls, letters and emails. Plus, you’ll be making a real difference. “If you want to volunteer for an organization that’s going to have the greatest impact overall on a macro level, I think it’s got to be the HSUS,” he says. “I don’t know of another organization that fights for animals of all kinds.”

MEMORABLE MOMENT: Legislation signed into law in June 2018 that put more stringent restrictions on puppy mills is a highlight, along with two 2016 laws that banned bestiality and increased penalties for cockfighting. 

ADVICE FOR ASPIRING VOLUNTEERS: “Start out small, get comfortable with what you’re doing, and then take the next step.” But it’s OK if you only want to make an occasional call. “We need as many people doing that as possible.”

 

Phone banking volunteer

Kathy Fellows

TIME IN ROLE: 2 years
THIS ROLE IS BEST FOR: Strong communicators who like talking on the phone and want to help animals from the comfort of their own home
TIME REQUIRED: 1 hour/week during an active campaign

Picture of Kathy Fellows
Kathy Fellows

Kathy Fellows is a talker. “I am a giant mouthpiece,” she says. So phone banking for the Humane Society of the United States was a natural fit. 

During a 2018 ballot measure to end the trophy hunting of bobcats and mountain lions in Arizona, Fellows made calls asking people for their support. Although the initiative was ultimately suspended, Fellows loved the experience—and not just for the chance to talk up animal issues. She was also inspired by the women organizing the campaign. Not only were they professional, but they were kind, helpful and clear about their expectations. “They were super fun, super smart—like power women,” says Fellows.

She also appreciated the people on the other end of the phone. “You’re not only accomplishing your goal of getting people to call or write letters to save the wildlife, you’re also making the people feel good about doing it,” she says. Plus, the mechanics of phone banking were easy. “You tap a computer button and it dials for you,” she explains. “It connects you to people when you pick up the phone. And it’s busy dialing a million people to get you the people you need.” 

Today, Fellows is on standby for another chance to phone bank. Not only is it enjoyable, but it’s rewarding, she says. “I spent my whole 20s wondering what the hell I was on the planet for and over time it became clear to me,” Fellows says. She’s here, she thinks, to be a voice for the animals. 

MEMORABLE MOMENT: “One man—I’ll never forget him—he answered the phone and I asked for his wife and he said to me, ‘My wife just died,’ ” recalls Fellows. She immediately thought the man would be upset with her. “But instead, he said, ‘I’m gonna do this for her memory because I know she wanted this to be done.’ Isn’t that so moving?” 

ADVICE FOR ASPIRING VOLUNTEERS: “Do a lot of volunteer work and see what resonates with you, because you’re going to do the best work if you’re happy.”

Puppy mill survivor, Billy the chihuahua
Adam Parascandola and Billy the Chihuahua inspired Natalia Grosso to volunteer with the HSUS. Large photo by Kathy Milani/The HSUS; Inset by Jamie Linder/The HSUS.

Animal rescue volunteer

Natalia Grosso

TIME IN ROLE: 6 years
THIS ROLE IS BEST FOR: People who want to care for companion animals and don’t mind a little dirty work
TIME REQUIRED: 1 deployment (3-5 days or more)/year (varies by region)

Portrait of Natalia Grosso
Natalia Grosso

Soon, all the dogs Natalia Grosso walks and feeds and plays with will be gone. And she can’t wait for that day. That’s because Grosso is an animal rescue volunteer, and the dogs she cares for are some of the 84 Great Danes rescued from a breeder’s mansion in New Hampshire in 2017. But the legal proceedings are wrapping up, and the dogs can be adopted into loving homes. “I get to see them leave,” she says, “and I’m so happy!”

Grosso had no experience working in shelters before she began volunteering. In 2012, she watched an HSUS video showing rescuer Adam Parascandola with Billy, a tiny Chihuahua saved from a puppy mill. Inspired, she immediately signed up to volunteer. With her flexible schedule, Grosso takes on frequent deployments, leaving her Florida home to assist in temporary shelters across the country and caring for animals rescued from natural disasters or cruelty cases. 

Animal care can be hard work, says Grosso. But it’s also rewarding. “No matter how I’m feeling or what my situation is in my personal life, I think about the abuse case or mistreated animal, and I feel lucky,” says Grosso. “It doesn’t mean that what I’m feeling doesn’t count, but it puts it in perspective.” And it makes her satisfaction all the sweeter when, at long last, she gets to see a happy ending.

MEMORABLE MOMENT: Grosso says everything is memorable—including the people she meets. Some reconnect years later during different cases, reminiscing about the animals they cared for. “You create bonds on a different level,” she says.

ADVICE FOR ASPIRING VOLUNTEERS: The only qualification you need to volunteer in a temporary shelter? Caring about animals, says Grosso, adding that you’ll get practical guidance on the job.

From our magazine

This story originally appeared in our award-winning magazine for members, All Animals. Get informative and inspiring content like this delivered right to your door.

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