Paying it forward: HSOV volunteer loves animals

Working a full-time job at Marietta Memorial Hospital hasn’t stopped Sandra Brightwell, of Waverly, W.Va., from volunteering some week nights and most weekends for the Humane Society of the Ohio Valley.

For around two years, Brightwell has been a volunteer with the humane society, serving as a volunteer coordinator, which involves bringing all of the volunteers together and divvying up jobs around the shelter.

Brightwell became the coordinator in 2011 after a hoarding incident near Belpre, where 34 dogs, 11 birds, four rabbits, two ducks and 27 chickens were removed from a residence.

In addition to being the volunteer coordinator, Brightwell also serves as an event coordinator, planning various events, such as adopt-a-thons and nursing home visits, for the shelter.

Brightwell’s residence also serves as a foster home for shelter animals and she credits her love of animals for leading her on her volunteer path.

Question: How long have you been a volunteer with the HSOV?

Answer: About two years. Just since the Belpre hoarding incident. I went in to drop off supplies and Sharon Paul met me at the door. I asked her if there was anything I could help with and she directed me to the (Washington County) fairgrounds (to go help). Celeste Ridgway was there…She’s the rescue/foster coordinator. The rest is history.

Q: What made you decide to help out with the HSOV?

A: A combination (of things). I knew the shelter was there, and thought about checking with them. There’s little community awareness of the shelter and what can be done to make the animals there more comfortable during their stay there.

Q: What sort of work do you do for the HSOV?

A: I’m the volunteer coordinator. I can help the volunteers fill out their volunteer applications and the waiver releasing the shelter of liability. I go over the rules of dog walking. Every Saturday we get the dogs out of cages and socialize them to get them ready to adopt and prevent kennel rage, which is where they are in their cages too long and get aggressive. I also organize other events like adopt-a-thons, trips to nursing homes. Basically, I’m just trying to get the community involved and aware of the shelter and the needs out there.

Q: When do you find time to carry out your duties?

A: Usually on Saturdays. I’m on call every third weekend though. I do some week nights. It’s usually difficult, but when I see the benefits of what happens with the animals, it makes it all worth it.

Q: What made you decide to coordinate volunteers and activities?

A: As a volunteer myself, I saw the need for some organization and the position was open. I sort of appointed myself to it to get more people involved and share the activities.

Q: Are there any difficulties or challenges?

A: Just the different personalities of everyone. It’s getting the right fit for the right person, the right fit for the right job. For example, some can’t walk the dogs and we find something else for them to do.

Q: What do you enjoy most about your job?

A: It’s seeing the animals get into a home where it’s the right fit in the home.

Q: What should people know about volunteering for the HSOV?

A: First of all, it’s very rewarding. We are there for the animals but we also enjoy each other’s company. You have to be 18 to walk a dog. When you fill out the volunteer application, I prefer you actually have a meeting with me. Some folks don’t go out (to the shelter) because they can’t stand seeing animals in that situation, but how can you not? It’s not the animal’s fault it’s in that situation. It’s because of a human and it’s our job to help make that right.

Q: Anything you’d like to add about the HSOV or your job?

A: Contact me if you have any questions: if you’re considering volunteering, or maybe you don’t know how to get started. I probably wouldn’t have been involved with the shelter if not for (Sharon Paul, website photographer and editor for the HSOV newsletter). We have a lot of wonderful volunteers and somehow it all comes together to make animals’ lives better up there…(The foster program) is very special to me because it gets the animal out of the shelter. I feel bad sometimes because an animal displayed in a cage is not how the animal really is…I don’t really feel like I’m doing anything special. It’s just a love of animals and wanting to get them a home.

Amanda Nicholson conducted this interview.