Senior Living

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Small Pets Welcome www.theindependent.com The Grand Island Independent THURSDAY, MAY 21, 2020 4B senior LIVING Giving them a voice: VCA keeps owners and pets together By Dale Miller dale.miller@theindependent.com Deb Colburn knows from experience how Voice for Companion Animals can assist pet owners in the Grand Island area. “I am disabled,” said Colburn, who lives in Grand- view Apartments, a senior apartment community. “With my surgeries, it was very hard to afford pet care. Voice for Companion Animals helped when I didn’t have any food for my dog. My puppy — well, he was an older dog, not a puppy — needed puppy pads because of his age. They helped me out with those when I was having difficulties.” Colburn’s beloved pet passed away last year, but she is still involved with Voice for Com- panion Animals in a different way — as a volunteer. She helps distribute food to approximately 25 different pet owners at Grandview Apart- ments on a regular basis. “I know a couple of people who would not have been able to afford keeping their pets without Voice for Companion Animals,” Colburn said. “When the end of the month comes and the money runs out, you have to either feed yourself or feed your pet. This really helps them out. You know how much they love their pets.” That is the focus of VCA, which was founded in 2011 and officially became a non-profit organization the next year. Fulfilling a need “Our mission is we work to keep pets at home with seniors and veterans,” said Voice for Companion Animals president Robyn Mays. “It’s adjusted over the past couple of years, but we provide pet food and supplies each month to 60 to 80 different individuals. We deliver to different areas of Grand Island as well as Hastings. “These are seniors and veterans — those on low incomes — that rely on a little bit of help. As everybody knows, especially right now, there’s a lot of need out there, so we’re blessed to still be up and running to fill the need in not just Grand Island but the Grand Island area as well with some emergency sheltering during the March flooding (in 2019).” Mays, who has been VCA president since 2014, said the organization fills a void for some pet owners and their animals. “When I worked in the shelter 12 years ago, just listening to the phone calls, there was still a need that wasn’t being quite addressed,” she said. “It was those people, especially seniors and veterans, that didn’t see another way to keep their pet. They just needed a little bit of help or maybe something happened. One little thing will change their life, and they didn’t see any way around it. “Our volunteers are think- ers and animal welfare people. They will do anything creative. We have volunteers who have been in it for 15 years. They’re a little creative, they think outside the box on ‘hey, have you thought about this?’” VCA provides pet food and supplies (through its AniMeals program), some medical care and education to pet owners. The programs are provided as a temporary help to allow owners who are facing tough economic struggles to remain with their pets. And with the current state of the economy due to the coronavirus pandemic, more and more seniors and veterans are facing challenges that make it difficult to keep their pets. This comes at a time when the companionship of a pet may be more valuable than it has ever been. “If you have animal welfare in your heart, you know the bond that people have with their pets,” Mays said. “Espe- cially right now, seniors and veterans, you are asking them to stay home. Stay home and do what? Their pets are it. “If you talk to many of us who stay home, we get crazy sitting around. Their pets are their lives. They need their pets, their pets need them. They need a little bit of help, so let’s help them out.” Fueled by animal lovers Staffed solely by volunteers, Voice for Companion Animals is an organization fueled by animal lovers. “We are so blessed to be able to do it, and we’re all volun- teers,” Mays said. “We all have jobs. Our volunteers are amazing. They step up every single time. They care for the animals in our building, in our rescue. They make sure that they are safe and they have anything that they need. “It’s very rewarding. We delivered to Grandview a couple weeks ago. You have to adjust with what’s going on. You can’t go in, and we’re respectful to the facility. We have awesome volunteers within these places that help sort it out and help unload.” Also a small shelter with an average of 25 animals, VCA sees two or three of its volunteers stop in a couple of times a day to take care of the animals. On weekends, staff members work in the building to accept donations of supplies and set up one-on-one meetings of potential adopters of the animals. One success story occurred earlier this month when Faith, a 4-year-old cat that was born at Voice for Compan- ion Animals, was adopted after 1,483 days. Saturdays are also times to prepare for its AniMeals program, such as a future trip to Goldbeck Towers senior apartments in Hastings. VCA also helped over 70 pets get spayed or neutered free-of- charge on World Spay Day in February. Being able to help keep animals with their owners is worth all of the work, Mays said. Doing whatever it takes Voice for Companion Animals shows a willingness to do whatever it takes to help out. Currently it is sheltering one of 60 feral dogs that were found on a property near Alliance. Different shelters throughout the Midwest work together to help animals in large cases such as this. Sometimes health care workers contact Voice for Companion Animals to request assistance. Mays said one memorable experience came when a truck driver become violently ill and had to be rushed to the emer- gency room. A social worker had VCA volunteers come to the hospital where they put on gowns and masks to go into the ICU to briefly talk to the man. They found out about his small dog that was still in his cab at the truck stop and got his keys. With the aid of another trucker to locate the right vehicle and get up to the cab, the Voice for Companion Animal workers got the dog and kept him safe until his owner recovered. TOP (from left): Charlie poses for a photo; VCA volunteer and board member Don Mays unloads the van in front of the Grand Generation Center in Grand Island; Waylon and Willie are still available for adoption. LEFT: Nancy Rodgers, a board member with Voice for Companion Animals, poses for a photo with her dog. VCA was founded in 2011 and officially became a nonprofit organization the next year. BELOW: Volunteers and staff packed the VCA van full of donated pet food and supplies for the organization’s Holiday AniMeals outreach in December 2018. The donations headed to Grandview and Chrysalis senior living residences. Courtesy of Robyn Mays Nonprofit aims to ensure life’s difficulties don’t mean animals fall through the cracks Continued on page 5B

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