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A purr-fect retirement plan

People of Collingwood: Karen Fawcett, Georgian Triangle Humane Society volunteer

For our new feature People of Collingwood, we’ll be speaking with interesting people who are either from or are contributing to the Collingwood community in some way. This feature will run on Collingwood Today every Saturday. If you’d like to nominate someone to be featured in People of Collingwood, email [email protected].

This week we’re featuring Karen Fawcett, a long-time volunteer with the Georgian Triangle Humane Society (GTHS), who recently received the Volunteer of the Year award from the Collingwood Chamber of Commerce.

Q: How did you get your start in volunteering with GTHS? What makes GTHS stand out as a cause you wanted to support?

A: I used to be the head of volunteer services at a hospital in Toronto. So, when I decided to retire, I wanted to be the volunteer now. I had volunteered at a hospice which I had started in Halton in the 1980s. We travelled extensively when we first retired, we took a few trips to get that out of the way. I love animals. Since I had also volunteered in palliative care. I decided that this time, I wanted to do it with animals. What drew me to the GTHS was we owned a business in Collingwood (Mark’s Work Warehouse) and we used to donate here when I owned it. So I knew that this was where I wanted to volunteer when an opportunity came along. I’ve been a volunteer here since 2013.

Q: What drives you to volunteer?

A: To give back to the community. I just find it’s rewarding. There’s no monetary payment, it’s just for self-satisfaction. It is very satisfying.

Q: Please describe your role here. What kinds of tasks do you take on?

A: I start at 7:30 in the morning. The first thing I do is medications, because they need to be done early in the morning but the other cat techs come in a little bit later... In the morning I’m cleaning, medicating, I just did an intake, I also do sub-queuing which is giving them fluids under the skin. Then I rush through my lunch (laughing), then (in the afternoon), I do adoptions. Sometimes in the afternoon, I do medications too. I’m here and I do that four days a week.

I also train new volunteers. I did it at the hospital and when I owned my own business. So, they usually try to get me to do that training. I learned it all hands on. I didn’t know how to do any of this before. I had a cat out in the country. (laughing) Five years ago, I didn’t even know you clipped cats’ nails because mine was outside. It’s all hands on. I love it.

Q: Were you surprised to receive the award from the chamber? Had you previously/since won awards for your work here?

A: I was surprised. First of all, I was surprised to be nominated, but then to win it with so many nominees. (Editor’s note: There were 42 nominees this year)

I had won, the night before, an award (from the GTHS) for doing in excess of 1,400 hours for the year. There were two volunteers that did that. It was our annual meeting.

Q: Have you spearheaded any initiatives here that have helped the operations of the GTHS run smoother?

A: Yes. It’s a little complicated to explain, but we do vaccines when they first come in, and deworming... it used to just get put on a piece of paper and put up at the front. Now, what I have done is I have made these books that record when the FRCP is to be administered for the deworming, and then put in another binder that says when it’s actually been done on that date, and then it gets put into the computer. Up until a year and a half ago, we didn’t do that. Sometimes that little piece of paper would get misplaced. So I structured that well.

We also used to have instructions for feeding that would go on the crates. I had them laminated so they were more clear so the feeders could see the kind of food each animal would get, or (instructions) if they’re a cat that gets frightened or a cat that doesn’t get food. It wasn’t a big deal at first but as this place gets bigger and bigger, the faster you can recognize those things and deal with it, the better. Having owned a business before, you just sort of learn things that make it easier for the other volunteers.

Q: Do you have any pets of your own?

A: I have four cats I’ve adopted from here at age 2. I also have two older Terrier dogs. They’re 14 and 16.

Q: What does the future hold for you? Are there any initiatives you would like to see come to fruition at GTHS?

A: Maybe a standalone (animal) hospital where we can do our own neutering and spaying, that would be wonderful. We definitely all want a new shelter. When I first started, there was two and a half staff. Now we have 12. That’s great, because when I first started we saw about 300 cats a year adopted out. Now, we’re up to 1,000 a year. So, I’ve seen that growth. I see why we do need the staff. As volunteers, there’s still a lot we have to do. To me, the staffing is an important part of the organization. I like the support I get from the staff. They respect volunteers, and they respect my knowledge.

I’d like to see the new shelter. I want to live long enough to see the new shelter (laughing). We had a dreaming session today about it. It’ll happen, I just want to live long enough to see it.

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Jessica Owen

About the Author: Jessica Owen

Jessica Owen brings 15 years of experience to her role as reporter for Village Media, primarily covering Collingwood and education.
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