Volunteer of the Month

Someone whose life has been filled with animals and anything about them, is our March Volunteer of the Month, Linda Kanakos. While she now resides in The Villages with her husband Bob, she grew up with parents who owned two pet stores in Long Island, NY and were in the pet industry for 60 years. She acquired many pets such as mice, rats and iguanas to add to their menagerie of dogs and cats. This might have been every kid’s dream come true!

Linda shared that “pets were always a big part of my life and continue to be now. Bob and I have a five-year-old 105lb. Akita named Bella who we rescued back in Pennsylvania at four months old. Bella is a sweet, loving dog who thinks she is a lap dog. She loves everyone, especially our children and grandchildren.” We wonder if it takes two laps to keep beautiful Bella comfy!

Linda’s adventures volunteering with us began when she took up the invitation by another shelter volunteer to join them and see what we were all about. Fortunately for us, she took them up on the invitation and has been enjoying her time making a positive impact in her community. Our volunteers are our ambassadors, whether they’re helping at our campus, at our off-site cat showcases, special events or fostering from their homes and sharing who they’re fostering with neighbors and friends. Word of mouth and lots of cute photos go a long way in helping find adopters, donors and more volunteers. Linda added “once I got there and saw how much the animals needed my help I was hooked. I love volunteering because most animals just need our love and attention, and this is just a small way to give that to them. My hope is that all the animals find their perfect ‘furever’ homes.” Linda wants to encourage those who may be curious and become prospective volunteers to simply come out for a visit and see the lifesaving work we are doing. She explained “they will see that the love and gratitude you get from this work is more than anything you can get from anywhere else. Whether you have a few minutes or a few hours, it will be the most rewarding thing you can do.”

Linda commented that “I do not have a most memorable experience because every time I come to the shelter it is another great time. The licks, hugs and play time with every one of these animals is just a great pleasure.” She reliably volunteers each week walking shelter dogs, fills in for others when needed, and has also helped handle dogs at adoption events. In addition to all that, Linda has a green thumb and lends her talent keeping our campus gardens looking pretty by regularly weeding, trimming, and planting after she contributed to our overhaul of our garden areas in celebration of our 40th anniversary in 2022. Spring brings loveliness not just in nature but with great people like Linda and her kindness. We are fortunate to have her on our volunteer team. Congratulations to her as our March 2024 Volunteer of the Month!

As we often state, “Together Everyone Achieves More” and that’s the definition of TEAMwork. If you are interested in enriching your life by becoming a volunteer at YOUR Humane Society SPCA, contact us at Applications can be completed online at There are many ways to help make a difference in our community. Find YOUR superpower with us!

As February is symbolic of love and full hearts, one person we can surely think of to be recognized as our February Volunteer of the Month this year is Donna Curcio. She is someone who came to help as her heart was full of love for animals, so she fit right in with our organization.

Donna grew up in Long Island, NY with both dogs and cats in her family and she continued with a house of many beloved feline family members now who were all rescued by her and her husband Paul. Their original four fab felines consist of Bella, their oldest Tuxedo kitty who, according to Donna “came to our back door during a hurricane and never left. She was our resident squatter.” They also have a big grey cat named Kitty, who tends to behave like the mama to all their cats. Donna explained that “if one cries, she goes running to see what’s up. She’s very sweet and loves attention.” But she can’t exclude her big boy Buddy, another Tuxedo, who is her only male cat in their clowder but a big baby always wanting Donna to carry him everywhere like a baby. Her shy girl, Sierra, is such a beautiful Tortoiseshell cat, Donna bragged that “she came in second place for a cat magazine cover!” As if this feline foursome wasn’t enough at home, Donna and her husband generously opened their home to foster for us too! They ultimately adopted the mama cat Candie, and two of her kittens, Cutie Pie and Baby Ruth who all acclimated beautifully to their other cats. Donna added that “we love them all and it’s a lot of fun watching and playing with them.” We think they have their very own Catty Shack!

Donna feels strongly about why it is so important to volunteer and help animals. She explained “every living animal has a right and a need to be loved and cared for and only we, as people, can provide that protection and opportunity for them. So even though they are only in my care for a short period of time, I love and care for them until they get their new family, who I hope does the same.” “Every living animal has a right and a need to be loved and cared for and only we, as people, can provide that protection and opportunity for them. So even though they are only in my care for a short period of time, I love and care for them until they get their new family, who I hope does the same.”

Encouraging people within her circles to volunteer is part of Donna’s life as she asks them to give just an hour or two each week. She explained how it makes her feel rewarded “when you see the gratitude on the animals’ faces. Just having you there can give you both a wonderful experience and make you feel loved and appreciated and it costs you nothing, but your time is priceless to them. Just try it once and I promise you’ll love it!”

Part of Donna’s joy came from a great memory of volunteering as a foster home. “My favorite experience was fostering Candie and her six kittens from the time they were a week old until they got adopted out. At the same time I had them, a hurricane was coming so the staff gave me four more to care for until the coast was clear. I had fifteen cats and kittens in my home all at once! What a hoot! It was like a romper room for cats!” We think she and her husband Paul are amazingly compassionate to help us help so many innocent lives in normal times and during a crisis. These are real Stormtroopers!

During “normal times” Donna volunteers with us in our Kitten Wonderland where she cares for, cleans, feeds, cuddles and plays with the kittens. She added that “I keep their world as happy and social as possible…so they get used to human handling. There is always something to do to help out at the shelter. The dogs need loving, walking and your time and attention too. Even the office staff need assistance from time to time. Please come on down and check out YOUR HSSPCA and consider volunteering. It’ll change your world for the better. I know, it did mine.” And this is why we recognize Donna as our February Volunteer of the Month. She’s someone with such a giving heart willing to love deserving animals who are eager to give their own unconditional love. We appreciate you, Donna!

If you are interested in enriching YOUR life by becoming a volunteer with us, complete an application online at Contact YOUR Humane Society SPCA at if you have any questions. There are many ways to help make a difference by becoming a volunteer with us so we encourage you to reach out and find out!

As we’re all embracing what the new year will bring in adoptions, reunions, assistance, and lifesaving, we also look forward to the many new volunteers who will be joining us helping many local animals in need. One volunteer who came into our fold with exceptional enthusiasm is Mary Schaub, who we are recognizing as our January Volunteer of the Month 2024!

Mary originally hails from Racine, Wisconsin and as her memory serves her, “my family has had a dog, cat, pet mouse, or hamster. I feel fortunate that our pets were a part of the family. My folks taught me early on to be kind, gentle and loving to our furry family members.” Currently, Mary and her husband Gary, have a 13-year-old rescued Dachshund/Cairn Terrier mix named Izzy who quickly became the “Queen of the household wrapping ‘Daddy Gary’ around her little paw.”  

Knowing how much love Izzy has brought into their lives inspired Mary to inquire about how she could help other animals that really needed a home and all the love that they so deserve. Mary added that “I knew that YOUR Humane Society SPCA works tirelessly to find fitting homes for each and every dog and cat in their care.” Mary began volunteering with our shelter dogs and finds it especially rewarding. She explains that “each one has a unique personality and as you get to work with them and get to know them, you can better understand what they need or want. Some of them just love to be petted and loved on, some would rather play with a ball or toy. Some still need to be taught to walk better on a leash or to play nicely with their friends. All of this is what we attempt to do every day. What a feeling of joy it is when a dog or cat is adopted! We all share in that joy.”

Mary’s most memorable experience happened recently, when “The Magnificent 13” rescue mission dogs were taken in on Halloween Day and we found them in rough shape having endured deplorable conditions from a shelter in North Florida. Mary recalls that “the staff and volunteers rallied around these poor animals. I helped with extra shifts like so many did. But I knew I could do more. So, I rallied my club in The Villages, the Peace, Love & Ukulele Club, and we did a month-long fundraiser which included 2 performances and selling t-shirts, mugs and assorted other music themed items to our members. Our club raised over $2000.00 in November to help The Mag. 13. I am so proud of my friends from PLUC for helping out when it was so needed!” Mary, we are so appreciative of all you and your club have done for us.

“Besides helping with walking/socializing the dogs, I help out at adoption events giving potential adopters the chance to meet the dogs. I also help when needed in the office. I do data entry, have been a substitute for the receptionist, and answered phones. There are so many opportunities to help at YOUR HSSPCA, no matter what your age or ability is, there is something you could help with. The staff is wonderfully caring and fun to be around. I encourage anyone considering volunteering to come out to the shelter and see firsthand how much you are needed!” Mary summed it up right there … YOU ARE NEEDED!

We’re proud to have Mary Schaub as part of our team and congratulate her once again as our Volunteer of the Month for January 2024. We are so thankful for everything our volunteers at YOUR Humane Society SPCA contribute so we all can achieve so much positivity. It’s teamwork that makes the dream work! If you are interested in becoming a valuable member of YOUR Humane Society SPCA’s team, complete a volunteer application at and see what a positive impact it will have on YOUR life and an animal’s! Reach out to us at 352-793-9117 or visit us at 994 CR 529A in Lake Panasoffkee, FL 33538.

YHSSPCA Volunteer of the Month December 2023 Steve Miszkiewicz

While we recognize a special volunteer each month who stands out, there are only a handful over the years who have received this recognition more than once. December symbolizes the season of giving but our Volunteer of the Month this December, Steve Miszkiewicz, represents giving throughout the years. Steve, a Rhode Island native, actually never had dogs while growing up but his natural affinity for them was strengthened as he began helping his son raise his three dogs. They became a very big part of Steve’s life providing him with much healthy exercise and happy play time which will be of great help as he will be chasing his 6-month-old grandson, Jeffrey Jr., soon enough when this little bundle of energy will be more mobile.

Steve recalls that “there's been so many dogs that I have had the pleasure of meeting and working with at our shelter. But a few stand out.” His fond memories started with a beautiful dog our shelter rescued back in 2019 as he shared that “she was a very nervous dog that had problems with men. I spent a lot of time with her gaining her trust. She changed with all our volunteers’ help. I had her several times at my house during hurricanes. She was adopted from our shelter and I'm sure she's having a great life.” And more recently, Steve helped a lovely dog Sheila, who was at our shelter for quite a while for no fault of her own and was later transferred to a partnering shelter. When some dogs and cats have less interest from our community, we try to network them to other larger shelters who have more resources and a larger population, thus giving the pets greater chances for adoption. Steve told us that he “took her on weekly field trips. She was such a different dog outside our shelter. And we always stopped for a vanilla ice cream on our way back! All reports are that she is doing well and is available for adoption. I really encourage our volunteers to take a dog on a field trip. It does wonders for our dogs.” Steve has additionally helped with dogs who needed some rehab time after surgeries, gave basic training to many and participated with other volunteers in our “Doggy Day Out” program where volunteers can give a dog a respite from the shelter for a few hours walking at a local park and share a packed lunch, a visit at pet-friendly restaurant, or relaxing in a lanai watching a ballgame with a new friend. Our dogs love the day out and it provides our shelter team with very helpful feedback on how they did, to add to their adoption profiles.

Steve has been actively involved in the growth of our shelter’s playgroup program under the framework of Dogs Playing For Life. He explains what positive impact playgroups are to shelter dogs, allowing them to get their energy out with dogs of similar personalities and energy levels, learn important social skills and how playgroups allow shelter staff and volunteers to best match them to interested adopters. Steve explains that “I've seen so much improvement with our playgroup dogs. They get a lot of exercise and socialization with other dogs. I really feel that this program helps with adoptions. Please come out and see a playgroup. I'm sure it will make you happy. And we can always use additional help. The more volunteers that help will allow us to do more playgroups. We can use helpers to bring and return dogs from the playgroups. We can get many more dogs into playgroups with the assistance of helpers.”

YOUR Humane Society SPCA wants to thank one of those great gifts, Steve himself. He gives so much, making such a positive difference in the lives of animals across our community. Steve added that “I just want to thank all of the volunteers and staff at our shelter. It's been a pleasure getting to know all of them. They are all so dedicated. Several are now friends of mine. Keep up the good work.” We hope his giving inspires many other like-minded animal lovers to think of what their New Year’s resolution will be and how they want to make a difference in the coming year. Steve is saving lives, and we could always use more people like him.

We’re proud to have Steve Miszkiewicz as part of our team and congratulate him once again as our Volunteer of the Month for December. If you are interested in becoming a valuable member of YOUR Humane Society SPCA’s team, complete a volunteer application at and see what a positive impact it will have on YOUR life and an animal’s!

YHSSPCA November Volunteer of the Month Tracy Perregaux 2023
November is a time when we all express our thanks and one special person, we are thankful for is Tracy Perregaux who we are recognizing as our Volunteer of the Month. Tracy’s passion and love of animals is evident by her own collection of furry family members and her participation at our fundraising events to help us raise critical funding, provide pets owners safety resources and inform our community of our lifesaving work.
Tracy hails from New York state but has lived in many of our nation’s beautiful states, from Georgia, Arizona, Ohio, Virginia, Texas, Washington and now to Florida. As a child, she started her animal-loving journey with the family dog, a guinea pig and a hermit crab but as she put it “I always wanted more animals so when I was on my own, it started.” Tracy’s pet family is currently made up of all boys which include her senior black cat, Dominic, who she adopted in Texas while volunteering at a dog rescue. She was initially his foster home and soon became a “foster flunkie” because he was such an exceptionally cool cat. While living in Arizona, she volunteered for a high-volume municipal shelter and found Franky, a very stressed and frightened Dachshund/Chihuahua mix who transformed his mistrust into love when he arrived in her pet-friendly home. Her other pets at that time, including Tracy’s other two Chihuahuas, Ben and Count Chocula, and her blind pittie, Angelina, helped Franky feel safe and loved. She still nurtured Franky after his stroke last year at the ripe age of 11 and she added that “I am very thankful for the additional time I have had with him.” Another feline family member is Tracy’s handsome Snowshoe mix, Carlos, who caused her to flunk fostering again but that was Carlos’ great fortune as he was such a sick tiny kitten with neurological issues that never left him. His devoted cat mom adores him no less. Tracy told us that “he is the goofiest, silliest cat that makes me laugh every day.”
And we can’t forget the handsome bunnies of the Perregaux family. Rico Suave was another foster-to-adopt from an Arizona rescue, who usually has the run of the house, is litterbox trained and super sweet. Tracy shared that “when I open the refrigerator door, he hears the sound and meets me in the kitchen for a treat.” And ‘hail King Luthur,’ her bunny from Washington who was sadly found roaming, abandoned by a neighbor. Two weeks after learning this, Tracy was able to safely capture him near a busy road just below a nearby eagle’s nest. Months later she tried to introduce King to Rico but the King wouldn’t live with the peasant, so since then, the two male rabbits live happily in separate areas of her home while still interacting with all of Tracy’s other pets.
No matter where she resided, Tracy was a devoted volunteer to many animal rescue organizations since 1997. When she moved to Florida, she was concerned about finding the right match with the next shelter. She knew her tendency was to fall in love and adopt each lucky pet she fostered, so she was hoping to be of use in other ways since her life was quite full of furry blessings for the time being. Fortunately for us, Tracy met one of our fundraising volunteers at a special event and soon joined our volunteer team sharing the news of our work and helping raise donations. She is a natural connecting with people, and she understands how critical funding is to keep a shelter or rescue running. Tracy knows she is not only helping a multitude of pets in our care now but also the pets in families across Sumter who benefit from our public assistance programs thanks to the donations we receive. She wants those who may consider volunteering but haven’t yet done anything about it to know “animals are in need, and nothing will change if people don’t get involved. Volunteering in any way, shape or form helps the animals and helps educate the public. Just do it!” she emphasized.
Tracy doesn’t have one memorable experience. She explained that “listening to people tell me about the animals they have adopted from YOUR HSSPCA and about how our shelter has helped them take care of their animals” is rewarding and inspiring.
We’re proud to have Tracy Perregaux as part of our team and congratulate her as our Volunteer of the Month for November. If you are interested in becoming a valuable member of YOUR Humane Society SPCA’s team, complete a volunteer application at and see what a positive impact it will have on YOUR life and an animal’s!

YOUR Humane Society SPCA's Volunteer of the Month for September 2023 is Lori Haines!

September typically marks the beginning of Fall, but we are also recognizing a volunteer who loves to fall in love with the cats she cares for at YOUR Humane Society SPCA. Lori Haines made it clear to us all “Let me start by saying I don’t just like cats, I love them.” Lori added that “volunteering at YOUR Humane Society SPCA for the last few years has been the most rewarding experience since moving here from Ohio in 2018. I always say it's cheap therapy, the best kind." As a kid growing up in rural Ohio, Lori had four older brothers, a dog named Snoopy, and a cat named Woodstock. Woodstock helped her get through some rough times and realized how much animals enrich our lives. She explained that “when people say they aren’t cat people, they are missing out, as all cats, like dogs, have different personalities.”

Lori and her husband Dan currently have a cat named Tilly, a beautiful black cat, they adopted from YOUR Humane Society SPCA. Tilly was a cat no one showed interest in as she was not well-socialized. She was originally a “TNR” (Trap-Neuter-Return) cat that the shelter felt could become more friendly and enjoy a life in a loving home rather than being put back outside facing an unknown future. Tilly has been with Lori and Dan for a year and a half now and according to Lori “she has turned into the best cat ever. It took love, patience, and persistence.”

At YOUR Humane Society SPCA, Lori mainly volunteers in our Kitten Wonderland, helps in the Catty Shack and she also finds the time to help at our off-site cat adoption showcases at PetSmart on Wedgewood Lane and at Petsense on Canal Street, both in The Villages. One of the critical role shelters need more volunteers in is that of a foster home and Lori is now helping our shelter by fostering Croissant, a precious cat that had sadly been left to live outside. She explained that “Croissant was very tame, and we felt she must have been someone's cat at one time. She was doing great in our foster home but soon her wish was granted as she officially found her furever home. The lady loves her already, so another happy beginning for this deserving beautiful girl.”

Lori encourages interested animal lovers to consider becoming lifesavers with these motivating words: “volunteering here is a rewarding experience. Every time a dog or cat gets adopted, it’s a win!” If you are interested in becoming a valuable member of YOUR Humane Society SPCA’s team, complete a volunteer application at and see what a positive impact it will have on YOUR life and an animal’s!


July is one of the most challenging months of the year for pets. Between the explosive summer storms accompanied by unending intense heat and humidity, to the firework celebrations during Independence Day, lost and injured pets arrive at shelters more than usual. We are so grateful for our volunteers who give of themselves to care for our adoptable dogs and cats all year long, but particularly during this month as they can have many more pets in need of their time, effort, and compassion. Without their help, we couldn’t do our important work. Our honoree for July 2023 is Steve Crouse, who hails from Easton, PA. His family always had dogs and cats and his uncle was a dairy farmer where Steve spent most of his summers helping on his farm with the cows and his dogs.

Steve was hesitant about his volunteering at our shelter as they lost their last dog just two years earlier and felt that he would soon be bringing a handful of dogs home to adopt. But thanks to the words of wisdom from one of their daughters who said, “not to worry about that, the right dog will choose me,” Steve began his volunteering with great enthusiasm and encouragement from another helpful volunteer and neighbor, also named Steve, who shared what he did at the shelter. “That Steve” invited “this Steve” to join him at the shelter and the rest is history as “this Steve” decided to sign up as a volunteer, recognizing what a lifesaving impact a volunteer can have on a shelter animal. He soon began helping walk dogs at the shelter and at offsite adoption events along with helping host overnight stays at his home when needed. We’re very appreciative of how people pay it forward, becoming another one of our wonderful ambassadors who present some of the great adoptable animals to those in their neighborhoods. Steve’s inspiring testimonial says it all. “I would tell them of my experiences with the animals and how happy they act when walking in the kennels. The experience is akin to helping a shut-in, except they can’t tell you how much they appreciate you, they show you.”

Steve and his wife didn’t go overboard but they did add a lovely Husky named Macie, from our shelter to their family. Steve shared that “Macie has adopted us in return. We wanted to get her comfortable riding in the golf cart and after the second or third time, she became a real pro. Every evening after dinner she stands by the door and begins to howl … it’s time for her ride! I’m beginning to think she owes me gas money.” We’re so happy that the right dog for YOUR family did come along as your daughter indicated. In our eyes, Macie is one lucky pup!

Steve recalls his most memorable experience so far was at Paradise Rec. Ctr. last November. He shared “I had requested to have Copper (I began calling him Cooper and he responded to that) brought along. A friendly couple came over and asked me a few questions about him. Cooper was the perfect gentleman I knew he would be, and they fell in love with him. The husband kept saying he wasn’t going to adopt a dog today. Before the event ended, he came to me and said, ‘I told you I wasn’t adopting a dog today … we’re picking him up Wednesday!’ After a little laughter I told them they made a great choice and now have a wonderful companion.” Steve’s simple enjoyment comes from “walking the dogs and giving them the human attention they need and deserve. Working at the adoption events gives me the pleasure of introducing the dogs and the shelter to people, perhaps encouraging them to volunteer their time.” All of us at YOUR Humane Society SPCA appreciate your good heart and devotion. Congratulations, Steve! We are honored that you are on our team of lifesavers and our Volunteer of the Month for July 2023! You are an example of the compassionate people we need to help us care for our animals and give them the chance at happiness they so deserve. The need for help is great, and we could not do it without you. Teamwork Makes the Dream Work!

If you would like to join our volunteer team and enjoy the personal satisfaction of knowing how much your efforts impact YOUR community, please call YOUR Humane Society SPCA, Sumter County’s oldest and largest private no-kill shelter, at 352-793-9117 or complete your volunteer application at There are many ways to help, such as dog walking and basic obedience, socialization and grooming, admin help in the office, fundraising events, or gardening and basic maintenance tasks on our campus, and more. Reach out and let us know YOUR talents!

The summer brings in great heat here in Florida, but year-round, we get to experience great warmth from our wonderful and devoted volunteers. One such warm-hearted volunteer is Beverly Durkie, who we are recognizing as our Volunteer of the Month for June 2023.

Beverly grew up on a farm in Chickasha, Oklahoma. She told us that she had all the typical farm animals (chickens, pigs, cattle and sheep) and dogs. There were always stray dogs showing up at her family’s house because they were dumped by their previous owners but it’s as if they knew they were always welcomed at her place. Beverly credits that as to why she has always found her family pets at the closest shelter.

She recounts that in December of 2019, she and her husband Doug “lost the best dog ever. I didn’t want another dog because the end is so hard. That lasted about a year and a half. I missed having a dog. So, to get my ‘doggie fix,’ I started volunteering as a dog walker for YOUR Humane Society SPCA in March of 2021.” She said that it was almost instantly during her orientation when the new volunteers took a tour of the kennels that she saw Cocoa and “that ended the ‘no dogs moratorium’” for her. Beverly felt that “we won the doggie lottery with Cocoa. She is the perfect dog!” (No shelter can deny that the testimonial of adopting the perfect pet isn’t music to our ears!) She added that “this past August we changed our stand on owning one dog at a time and fostered Annie. Last month, we made it official and adopted her. She is a great addition to the family.”

Our shelter encourages those in our community to reap the benefits of interacting with the shelter animals as it can provide so many benefits to the people as well as to the animals. Be around like-minded people who show compassion and give back to their community, gain health benefits such as easy exercise and socialization, sharing in the company of animals has also shown that blood pressure can be lowered. Who knows... it may also lead to finding a new best friend. Beverly started walking the dogs because she needed to be around dogs. She added that “I continue walking them because I see how much these dogs need love and attention. It is very obvious that the dogs get a lot of love from all the caregivers. Whenever the dog I am walking sees one of them, they drag me to them.” Beverly encourages any dog lover to be a dog walker as “these dogs deserve and need to experience love and kindness from people.” We couldn’t agree more, and we thank her and all our volunteers who take time in their lives to make a positive difference by helping all our precious animals have a chance at happiness.

If you would like to join our volunteer team and enjoy the personal satisfaction of knowing how much YOUR efforts impact our community, please call YOUR Humane Society SPCA, Sumter County’s oldest and largest private no-kill shelter, at 352-793-9117 or complete your volunteer application at There are many ways to help, such as fostering a pet, offering dog walking and basic obedience, socializing and grooming pets, helping Admin. in the office, fundraising, gardening, basic maintenance tasks on our campus, and more. Reach out and let us know YOUR talents!

Chris and Tim Mewhirter are a dynamic and motivated young couple who genuinely love animals. They are new to the area and making a positive impact by getting involved and contributing to their new community. We are recognizing this dynamic couple as our Volunteers of the Month this May, 2023.

Chris hails from Iowa and grew up spending time on her grandparents’ farm surrounded by animals where she can’t recall a time when her family didn’t have cats and dogs while growing up. Her husband Tim was raised in Northern Illinois, and he also had pets his whole life. He was taught at an early age that to have any pets, he must be responsible for their care. Today, Chris and Tim are the proud pet parents of two adored rescue dogs, Daisy, a 13-year-old Beagle they adopted in Hawai’i and Daphne, a 12-year-old Lhasa Apso mix. The dogs seem to be enjoying retirement too as they are eager to go on golf cart rides and leisurely walks in their Villages neighborhood or explore the Florida flora and fauna. After a hard day of senior canine retirement, a good snuggle and nap are welcomed.

As The Mewhirters got more familiar with their community and were naturally drawn to what YOUR Humane Society SPCA was doing. They attended some of our shelter events and liked what they saw, which led them to become more involved as volunteers. Chris commented that “YOUR Humane Society SPCA has been a very good place for us, and the other volunteers are such wonderful people.” Tim added that “we really wanted to donate some time to our local area and with our love for animals, it was an easy decision to volunteer at the shelter.”

Chris and Tim enjoy sharing an activity that is meaningful to them both by helping animals find loving families. Tim mentioned “we highly recommend volunteering as it is something a couple or friends can do together as a team, helping each other with the handling of the dogs and other various tasks.” Chris added that “It’s nice going with my spouse, we help each other all the time. It’s really nice for us to be able to share this good work. We find ourselves talking about the dogs during the week and sharing our experiences with them.”

Tim’s most memorable and rewarding times are when he sees how so many dogs may come into the shelter a little timid initially and then respond so well with the kindness and care shown by all the wonderful staff and volunteers. He added that “they become transformed into such great dogs and I’m most happy when I see them find their forever homes.” Chris’s most memorable experience was more specific when she was a new volunteer and a dog named Oswald came in with a few other dogs from a hoarding situation. She explained that “they were terrified of people and cowered in the corner refusing to look at anyone. Rumor had it that they had not stepped outside or on grass before being rescued.” She pointed out that “it took a lot of love and patience but within about three weeks, Oswald became excited to see the volunteers and craved time out of the kennels in the play yards. He became this friendly, sweet boy and I really loved witnessing the joy he experienced running and rolling in the grass and being petted. This transformation made my heart full. It’s so wonderful to see.”

Tim and Chris get involved in more than dog walking, basic leash training and obedience and playgroups at the shelter and at offsite adoption events. They helped organize and host a huge driveway party and a sold-out Trivia Night fundraiser to introduce our shelter to the many new residents within their community, they participated by walking dogs in the Lake Pan Christmas parade which led to their neighbor’s pet adoption, they generously helped by being a valuable foster home for a few days during a hurricane emergency, assisted in fundraising at our main tent at a Villages special event and are valuable ambassadors across their community talking about our lifesaving work, collecting donations and recruiting other volunteers.

They recognize that they “have such a blessed life and we want the dogs to feel loved and cared for.” We, and the many dogs who have been fortunate to have Chris and Tim care for them, all appreciate their kindness. We recognize The Mewhirters as our Volunteers of the Month for May 2023! If you are interested in becoming a valuable member of YOUR Humane Society SPCA’s team, complete a volunteer application at and see what a positive impact it will have on YOUR life and an animal’s!

YOUR Humane Society SPCA’s April Volunteer of the Month hails from a very small rural village in Western New York called Wyoming, which had more cows than people and still had gas streetlights. Jean Welch didn’t grow up on a farm, but she married a dairy farmer. This picturesque life was, as she described “a great place to raise our three children. Everyone had a job to do.”

After Jean and her husband sold their farm and their children moved away to begin their own lives, Jean always had a dog and a cat, even when they retired and moved to Florida in 2001. This is when Jean became involved with animal rescue which led to fostering animals for other rescue groups. Currently, she has two adopted senior and special needs dogs. She shared that “Bonnie is a 14-year-old, 8 lb. Terrier mix, blind and deaf. Nena is a 14-year-old Shih Tzu with the same challenges, but they enjoy being safe and having a loving family.” A few years ago, Jean added another member to her family, but this time it was her foster cat, Maverick, a handsome black short haired male who is very active and apparently has an opinion about a lot of things so he loves to talk. She added that she recently adopted another sweet but shy senior long haired cat that had been at the shelter for over a year named Jim-Jam, now fondly known as Rosie. Jean mentioned that Rosie is slowly getting more comfortable in her surroundings.

Jean shared that she “enjoys volunteering and fostering at YOUR Humane Society SPCA. The staff and volunteers all seem to enjoy their jobs working with animals, but more importantly, they share the same goals and that is finding fur-ever homes for the animals.” One aspect of our work that is much appreciated by Jean is that we provide resources to our community in need such as with our “Kibbles” Free Pet Food Pantry and our “Big Fix” Spay/Neuter Voucher program. It makes her happy volunteering with an organization that helps pets and their people.

Jean wants prospective volunteers to know that “there are many opportunities to volunteer whether folks enjoy dogs or cats, outreach, public relations, office work, and even laundry.” Jean currently schedules volunteers who help with our cats and kittens that reside in our Catty Shack and Kitten Wonderland areas. She points out that “we have a dedicated group of volunteers that work hard to keep the buildings clean and at the same time socialize with our felines to help in finding them homes. I couldn't be prouder working here.”

Thank you, Jean, as we are very proud and grateful to have you on our team helping local animals in need. Congratulations on being our Volunteer of the Month in April 2023. If you are interested in becoming a valuable member of YOUR Humane Society SPCA’s team, complete a volunteer application at and see what a positive impact it will have on YOUR life and an animal’s!

YOUR Humane Society SPCA is jumping into Spring by recognizing a special volunteer who has a lot of spring in her step as her energy amazes us. She is always ready to help in a range of areas from walking our shelter dogs to being their handler at adoption events, recruiting new volunteers, and lending a paw when extra hands are needed at large tenting events too. De Raynes is our wonderful Volunteer of the Month this March of 2023.

De was fortunate to grow up on a beautiful Virginia farm full of animals. She began actively volunteering with animals when she later lived in Delaware where she walked their shelter dogs and helped at events highlighting adoptable pets. De shared her life with a giant Airedale Terrier named Ginger but with life’s working demands keeping her so busy, she couldn’t fairly give time to another dog until ten years after Ginger passed, and she retired. De added “In 2002, I got my first Vizsla - Molly. I spoiled her as my only ‘child’, but she needed a friend. So, two years later we adopted Meg. These beautiful friends lived to the ripe old age of 14 and 16. Now I am without any dogs because I want to travel. My full intention is to adopt another dog in a few years. In the meantime, I get my ‘dog fix and licks’ at the YHSSPCA two times a week, walking and assisting play groups, and at adoption events.”

When we asked De what inspires her to volunteer, she enthusiastically responded “Its ALL about the dogs! They are so sweet and so needy. They want our attention and love.” Sometimes all an animal needs from a volunteer are a little quiet time sitting next to them with a gentle voice, offering soothing caresses or a soft brushing and sharing time together. Entering a shelter can be a traumatic experience for so many pets whose worlds have been overturned. Patience and gentility go a long way in helping them adjust to the next chapter of their lives. De wants prospective volunteers to start out simple and she doesn’t want them overwhelmed but to find what inspires them. After completing a volunteer application and attending an orientation, De mentioned “I encourage new volunteers to come to the shelter and team up with an experienced volunteer to learn the ropes. Come and give whatever time you have. Come once a week, come twice a month, come for two hours, come for half a day. Assist at community events. Whatever works for you. The dogs and cats need you! Return a little love!” We would like to add that not all volunteer opportunities are conducted at our shelter campus in Lake Panasoffkee but at off-site locations too such as with cat care volunteers at PetSmart on Wedgewood Lane and Petsense on Canal Street, both in The Villages, or at special adoption events across our community. Foster homes are lifesavers and greatly needed. Opportunities to help with fundraising events at our tent and tables are also available. Seasonal residents can easily help too when they’re here. Volunteers can create enrichment activity items for both the dogs and cats to help pass the time until they find their new family, help with laundry or administrative work, beautify our 5-acre campus if they have a green thumb, participate in dog playgroups to improve their socialization skills and simply decompress with some fun play time, and so much more.

De can’t sum up her time with one singular memorable volunteer experience. While she devotedly comes to our shelter twice a week to participate in our dog playgroups, she also helps walk dogs and instill basic leash manners and obedience to improve their handling and facilitate their adoptability. De explained “I love the feeling I get when I spend time with each of them. It’s always a warm happy feeling when I think about the dogs. I am never sad to see them go because it’s their adoption … I am so happy for them that they might now have the good loving life my own Meg and Molly had.” She has that right! It’s about them and our teamwork helping them find that happiness.
We thank you, De Raynes, for all you contribute to our mission in helping local animals. Congratulations on being our Volunteer of the Month in March 2023.

If you are interested in becoming a valuable member of YOUR Humane Society SPCA’s team, complete a volunteer application at
and see what a positive impact it will have on YOUR life and an animal’s!

A real sweetheart on YOUR Humane Society SPCA’s team of volunteers is Terry Raley and we felt it was apropos to recognize her as our February Volunteer of the Month.
Terry was born and raised in South Jersey and cannot remember a time when she wasn't around animals. She always had multiple dogs in her home and inherited a love for animals mainly from her grandfather. She fondly remembers how he packed two lunches each day, one for himself and one for the birds and squirrels he would feed daily at the local high school where he worked. As if that wasn’t compassionate enough, Terry tells us that he would come home and also feed the squirrels and birds dinner on the lot next to their house before he would eat his own dinner. We now see where she gets her great compassion for animals.

Terry and her family currently have three rescued dogs. Ally and Abby are a mother/daughter duo of Feist/Italian Greyhound mixes that were rescued from a kill shelter in Alabama. Little Man, aka Manny, is a Chihuahua mix who is a real yapper who ended up in a county shelter before Terry found him. The three are incredibly bonded and go everywhere together.

Terry explained “my love for animals is what inspires me to volunteer. All animals need love, care and attention but shelter animals need lots of extra care, hugs and kisses as they have been left behind. All should be spoiled as they search to find their forever home.” Terry explained what inspired her to encourage others to get involved. "Animal rescue is a wonderful cause and if you love them, it is very rewarding for yourself and the animals. There is a lot of hard work behind the scenes at a shelter that you would never know about if you weren’t part of it. There are lots of great people there all working for the same reason. It is a great group to work together with for the same cause. Whatever you would choose to do improves the animal's stay at the shelter."

Terry added that all her experiences are fun and rewarding. She said "every time I am out there fundraising, I am amazed at how generous people are. Everyone that walks up to the table is very caring whether they have animals or not. They offer money, food or items for the animals, all of which is needed and appreciated."
With so many ways volunteers can help, Terry shared that she initially walked the dogs and then got into fundraising where she volunteers now. She points out that "if you don’t want to walk dogs or fundraise, there is a job for everyone at the shelter. Young or old there is something there for you to do. There are lots of cats and dogs that would love to see you even if you just stop in for a hug or kiss."

To make a lifesaving difference as a shelter volunteer with YOUR Humane Society SPCA, simply fill out an application at As Terry pointed out, there are many ways to help such as fundraising at special events, walking dogs, caring for cats, clerical work, gardening, laundry, donation pickups and more. Volunteer orientations are monthly and those with completed applications will be notified when to attend the next one.

Thank you Terry for the great gift of YOUR time and compassion for Sumter's animals in need!

As we begin our 41st year helping animals, it is because of kind people who give of their time that make it possible for us to have served our community for so long. Sharon Parks is one of those treasured people who make the saying true: "Teamwork Makes the Dream Work!"

Sharon recalls when, as a child, it was the times sadly when pet dogs were left outdoors all the time with less regard for their well-being. But fortunately, her father cared enough to make their family dog, named Ring, an insulated doghouse to keep him comfortable and safe. Sharon realizes now that pets shouldn’t be kept outdoors unless they have appropriate protective housing and are safe from potential dangers. Once family returns home, they should reunite indoors together rather than relegating them to a lonely life outdoors instead of being with their pack family. Sharon’s current pet is a tabby cat named Scampie, who she adopted from our shelter a couple of years ago. He is an affectionate cat who has proven to be a wonderful companion full of personality.
As active as Sharon was, she was searching for more interesting activities to fill her week and she responded to one of our local newspaper stories mentioning the need for volunteers (psst … we can always use more!) so she submitted her application and attended our volunteer orientation. While she loves all animals, she homed in on becoming a “cat cuddler” which helps some of our less-socialized cats learn to enjoy the company of people and soon become the best snugglers anyone would want to adopt. Sharon also partakes in the online training offered for our volunteers as a Fear Free Shelter to learn more ways to help shelter pets.

Sharon encourages anyone who might be interested to reach out and contact our shelter or come by for a visit and see if this is something they may enjoy. After all, who could argue that helping save lives, meeting other compassionate people with a common love of animals and making new friends, both human and furry, isn’t all a great way to start the new year? Sharon added that “there are many experienced and loving volunteers in this interesting organization that I’m sure anyone would enjoy volunteering.”
The most memorable experiences Sharon recounts are when she sees shy kitties become more confident and sweeter. It is life changing for them and apparently her too! Cuddling cats at the shelter isn’t her only cuddle time but she also helps out occasionally to help those at our other cat adoption showcases at PetSmart on Wedgewood Lane and Petsense on Canal St., both in The Villages. And if that wasn’t enough, Sharon helps at special events such as our Lights of Love holiday fundraiser.

Thank you Sharon for starting 2023 as our Volunteer of the Month! If you are interested in enriching YOUR life by becoming a volunteer, contact us at or at 352-793-9117. Applications can be completed online at There are many ways to help make a difference in your community!
#yhsspca  #volunteer  #animalsheltervolunteer

There is so much “behind the kennel door” work performed by our volunteers to help us keep helping our animals. It involves more than hands-on help walking dogs, cleaning litter boxes, laundry, training, etc. It takes lifesaving funding to keep those kennel doors open and to meet the needs of animals and their people across our community. One important role is that of a volunteer willing to write grants. You may have seen signs at the large pet supply stores about donating a few extra dollars to their foundation. Those donations allow shelters, like us, to apply for grants to help our furry residents.

Pauline Garber is our December Volunteer of the Month for her tireless efforts to write and write and write many various grant applications to help fund our work. It is an effort that takes a great deal of time, research and attention to detail in order to submit a grant application that will be accepted for consideration.

Pauline hails from Philadelphia, PA and she and her husband, Brad, met in college. In graduate school, they headed in different directions, but reconnected and married in 1975. Unfortunately, except for their collection of fish, they do not have pets as Brad is extremely allergic. Such a shame!

Growing up, Pauline tells us she thought of herself as a “dog person” as she grew up with her family pet, Lady. Then, she met “Chip the Cat” at a bookstore in CT who changed her perception of cats as he overtly displayed so much affection. He would jump in her lap, roll over, purr and let her rub his belly.

At volunteer orientation, Pauline realized that writing grants could play an important role in the financial health of YOUR Humane Society SPCA. When asked why she volunteers, she enthusiastically tells us, “What inspires my volunteering ---the animals, of course! For several months before heading to spend the summer in Connecticut, I visited the shelter on a regular basis and, of course, played with the current collection of cats and dogs. Even while out-of-town, I am able to continue to help by writing grant applications.” Pauline collaborates with the Fundraising Chairperson, finding eligible grant opportunities and develop comprehensive grant applications. We have been fortunate in obtaining new funding resources for the shelter such as a recent $20,000 grant from Florida Animal Friend to fund spay/neuter vouchers for Sumter County’s qualifying pets.”

Pauline’s kind words are genuine as she said, “If you want to spend some very rewarding time with great people and with appreciative animals, please find time to volunteer at YOUR HSSPCA!” Thank you, Pauline, for your tireless and dedicated efforts to work behind the scenes to help save lives!

We always welcome and need more volunteers to have a greater impact across our community. If you are interested in beginning the new year meeting other compassionate people motivated to make positive change, contact us at 352-793-9117 or complete your volunteer application at and we’ll get you set up for our January volunteer orientation. Give one a day a week or just a few days a month. There are many ways to help, such as fostering a pet, dog walking and basic obedience, socializing and grooming pets, helping Admin. in the office, cat care at any of our locations, fundraising, gardening, basic maintenance tasks on our campus, special events, and more. Reach out and let us know YOUR talents! 

As far as Rich can remember, having dogs was simply part of everyone’s life growing up in Long Island, NY. He tells us that the care of their dogs helped foster responsibility by the structure and regular routines required for pet care. This philosophy and commitment carried him through his military career as well as the years he and his wife were raising their family. Now, ALL the adult children have dogs!

Last year, one of their canine family passed away and they didn’t feel it was a good time to add additional pets due to extensive travel plans. Then, a neighbor mentioned volunteering at YOUR Humane Society SPCA as a way, if you’re not going to adopt any more pets, to make a shelter dog's life better and Rich eagerly joined our legion of our incredible volunteers.

He told us, “Time is spent walking, playing, socializing, giving one-on-one TLC and generally interacting with the dogs which benefits both the animals and the volunteers. There is great satisfaction that can be found in making a difference to an animal's life. When you volunteer at a shelter, one of the first things you’ll realize is how refreshing it is to be surrounded by people who are committed to the work they are doing. Everyone who donates time at a shelter is using their free time to help save animals, and that can be a way to connect with your fellow volunteers. Whether they have an outgoing personality or are shy, everyone is at a shelter to help make a difference. It can be a real change in attitude to what many of us see in our daily lives!”

Rich and his wife currently have three pets. Monkee, an 11 y.o. pit bull, resembles a little primate, thus earning her name. Their other pet, Ashley, a brown/black short-haired tabby, picked Rich and has given him the privilege of providing her daily brushings and Java, a 3-year-old black Shepherd/Lab mix who was at our shelter for some time. Rich couldn’t believe he wasn’t adopted because he was very well behaved and knew basic commands and tricks too. When a fellow volunteer commented that Java would look good in their backyard … that’s when Java went home!

As many volunteers share their most memorable experience, it is predominately the experience of learning of the adoption of one of the shelter residents. While it can personally be sad not seeing that face each day, there is always another shelter pet ready to absorb all the love that our volunteers provide. We often tell volunteers that we would love to never see the same animal a second time as it would mean more got adopted sooner than later.

Rich can also be found volunteering at various dog adoption events and sharing his knowledge of the pets he worked with during his volunteer visits as well as the incredible work of the staff and volunteers. We thank you Rich for all your great work and devotion as it has been life-changing for so many animals who were waiting for a new family.

To volunteer at YOUR Humane Society SPCA and make a positive impact the way our Volunteer of the Month for November, Rich DeSalvo has, contact us at or complete an application here on our website. Volunteers can work with the animals, help in our admin. areas, fundraise, and contribute in many other ways.

Our October Volunteer of the Month, Wendy Miller, comes from a military family and typically, moved many times until landing back in Florida. A year after graduation, she carried on the family tradition and became a member of the valiant and brave who serve our country. When not living in the barracks, she shared her home with parakeets, cats, and dogs.

Now, Wendy and her husband have an 18-year-old black cat, Jade, and Jasper, a 5-year-old Catahoula Leopard dog. She proudly tells us they BOTH travel with them on family vacations. Jasper is a certified therapy dog and was a favorite regular visitor at local nursing homes before Covid-19.

While keeping active with golf and the local bicycle club upon retirement, her mission was to give back for all the blessings in her life. Her focus, something closest to her heart, was to make a difference for shelter dogs.

Wendy is always eager to introduce new volunteers to our work and show them how many opportunities are available for every age, experience, and time commitment. We help match each volunteer with the best suited dog to match their comfort level while handling them.

When asked about her favorite activity, Wendy exclaimed, “There are so many that help us learn about the dogs while WE have fun! I love getting three or four dogs in a play group to watch their interactions and to make ‘a tired dog, a happy dog.’ It’s a great opportunity to watch canine relationships and to be able to tell prospective adopters about the many great qualities of a particular dog including dog-to-dog interactions.”

Wendy also explained about the importance of increasing our shelter dogs’ adoptability and the benefits of our Doggy Day Out Field Trip program. “When we take the dogs for a walk or to play in our fenced yards, we are utilizing this time to work on basic commands. So many of the dogs already know commands and are so smart and eager to learn. Field trips are an important part of learning about the dogs we care for. They all are so happy when they get to spend time away on a field trip and then come back to the shelter for rest. I even bring them to my home to get them used to being in a home environment.”

Volunteers often get to see the “full circle” of a cat or dog in our program – meaning from the time of intake to adoption. Wendy got to experience this firsthand and shares her experience with one of our larger snuggle bugs, Amos.

“I admit that I was a little nervous around Amos. He became SO excited when I came to take him out of the kennel.” Wendy discovered that once Amos was out of his kennel, he was the calmest dog and was so smart and eager to please. “It took some time to see his playful and affectionate side. I took him out on field trips, and he was so good when meeting people and other dogs, so we introduced him to dog playgroups, and this is where he shined. The first time he was taken to a ‘meet and greet’ at a Villages Rec. Center, a lady and her little dog watched Amos… and then adopted him! It makes me feel so good to know he has a wonderful home. Recently, on a club bike ride, I came upon Amos, his little friend and his new ‘mom’ taking a walk… THIS is what it's all about! I love working and spending time with these wonderful creatures to help them finally get a home. It is a rewarding and fulfilling opportunity.”

Wendy, along with our gratitude for your service to our country, we thank you for helping so many dogs enjoy their time while in our care, and for helping us give potential adopters some more insight about their new furry family members! You’ve certainly met your goal to make a difference in the lives of the dogs here at YOUR Humane Society SPCA!

If you are interested in volunteering with YOUR Humane Society SPCA, please give us a call at 352-793-9117 or email There are so many ways to donate your time and save a life.

Photo caption: Wendy Miller with adoptable shelter dog Milo.

Without our volunteers, we wouldn’t be able to save the lives of the many homeless animals in our County. We highlight one special person every month who helps YOUR Humane Society SPCA meet our mission to protect animals in our area. We are celebrating our Volunteer of the Month for September 2022 - Pattie Black Schott!

As a child, Pattie traveled back and forth between her hometown of Philadelphia and Florida. Just like any child, each year, she hoped for a dog for Christmas, then finally, when she was 15, her boyfriend presented her with a Toy Poodle she named Charlie. It was instant love. Once, as a pup, Charlie got sick, so Pattie took him on the public transit bus to the vet as she had no clue you weren’t supposed to do this. Pattie says, “Charlie and I loved riding the bus, but one day a bus driver informed me that I wasn’t allowed to bring a dog on the bus. I had to tell Charlie his bus riding days were over, but we laughed and laughed about the fun we had!”

As an adult she has lived permanently in Florida - Tampa, Brandon and finally in Lake Panasoffkee where she ultimately found YOUR Humane Society SPCA. Pattie says, “My love for dogs continues and I have four very special dogs with very different personalities.” Aspen, Buddy, Itty Bitty, who are all older dogs, and her newest love, Lola, who she adopted from YOUR Humane Society SPCA. She says, “maybe I should have named her “pip” as she sure keeps our seniors active!”  

Pattie was inspired to volunteer for several reasons – her love for all animals and YOUR Humane Society SPCA’s mission to protect animals. Pattie says, “for me, it is a win-win situation. I get unconditional love and every animal gets love in return. This is very rewarding as some of the animals have never had anyone fuss over them or shower them with love.”

Pattie has organized and spearheaded other projects as well, such as fundraising and overseeing our 2022 major garden and beautification project. She approached several local businesses and found their generosity to be amazing. Pattie explains that to make the garden bloom, she and a few Master Gardeners who all happened to volunteer at our shelter, put their all into the project to make it beautiful and special. They spread soil and mulch, dug trenches, and even laid a soaker system. She also helps with maintenance as well as organizing and overseeing Girl Scouts who volunteer to keep the garden beautiful.

Pattie initially worked as a volunteer in our busy office at the time of this nomination and when a paying position recently opened, she became one of our administrative employees. She has since become the “Jill-of-all trades” handling many duties. Pattie states, “my time at ‘YOUR Humane’ is relaxing, fun and gratifying because everyone is so committed to the same goal.”  

Congratulations to Pattie Black Schott, our September 2022 Volunteer of the Month! If you are interested in volunteering with YOUR Humane Society SPCA, please give us a call at 352-793-9117 or email There are so many ways to donate your time.

We are privileged to have many transplants from across our country who make Florida their new home and take time in their retirement to help in their new community. Our August Volunteer of the Month, Joe Nizolak, is one of those kind people. This “Jersey Boy” from Point Pleasant can still easily reach either the Gulf or the Atlantic if he needs sand between his toes…but at our shelter, it’s cat litter on many days and he doesn’t mind at all.

Joe and his family always had a dog, but no cats, as his mom wasn’t too fond of them then, until she met his cats and quickly fell in love with them. Their very intelligent Shepherd mix, aptly named Sheppy, was his responsibility and Joe thinks his dog helped to develop his ability to empathize as well as become a better caregiver for others.

Joe and his wife, Ruth-Marie, have a full furry house now with four cats and a dog. Tucker, their 11-year-old, gentle Labrador that they adopted in 2013 is known throughout their neighborhood by greeting everyone and showing off his toy held securely in his mouth… but not quite willing to share it. Milo is their 13-year-old Maine Coon they adopted when they lived in Washington state. He is their “resident masseuse” as he will knead on you for hours. Harley, a recent addition, is a beautiful Himalayan/Maine Coon who loves to help himself to a medium rare steak if it is on the “people” menu. Joe adds that “he's a big boy and if you are not paying attention, he will grab your steak and run off with it!” Teddy and Smokey Bear, their Teacup Persian siblings are inseparable, but have very differing personalities. Joe explains that “Smokey is completely ‘his own little man’ and will interact with you only when he absolutely must - like when he wants a treat! Teddy, on the other hand, loves attention and will flop down on the bed next to you for petting and head noogies! When he's had his fix, he will race out of the room and find one of his catnip stuffed mice to bring back to you as a gift for your attention.”

Joe shares why volunteering is important to him and for the animals in our care. “The work that the shelter does is reason enough to volunteer! I really enjoy helping animals and think our shelter does a much better job than many others I've visited. I've never seen a shelter with a "Catty Shack" or "Kitten Wonderland" where the cats get to roam freely and enjoy life while awaiting their fur-ever homes.”

Joe added that there are many ways to help the animals feel comfortable and safe until their adoption day. He points out that the basics of cleaning, feeding, and watering are personally rewarding when you see them living healthily and happily while there. Even something as mundane as laundry is rewarding because he’s sure the pets appreciate having clean blankets and beds to sleep on. Joe adds that the chores and the hands-on nurturing time are all “integral parts in the happiness, security, and trust with the animals. They need you and will show their appreciation. They depend on us and Karma smiles on you when you help those who need someone to care for them!”

A special memory for Joe was on the adoption day of his cats Teddy and Smokey. “While it may be a little selfish, MY best moment at the shelter was seeing them for the first time when I picked them up to bring home. I think they knew their new lives were about to start.” Ruth-Marie immediately fell in love with them as did Tucker. He attributes the cats’ quick acclimation and comfort in their home “because of the work done by many shelter volunteers.”

For Joe, each day at YOUR Humane Society SPCA forges great memories; Harley, the shelter’s campus cat, makes a point to greet him as he walks up to the Catty Shack or Mushu gently taps him for attention, and Scooter delivers his own monologue as Joe takes care of their outside boxes. Time with other team volunteers with common interests have formed new friendships and Joe considers this a special blessing too. Along with helping tend to the cats and kittens on our campus, Joe collects pet supplies and food donations from other Villagers and helps spread the word about our shelter’s events across social media and through word of mouth. His efforts and compassion are truly valued and deserve the recognition.

If you are interested in becoming a lifesaver, let us know YOUR talents and interests and we’ll have you join our great team of animal lovers! There are so many opportunities for volunteers from time with the animals to fundraising, office help, facility care and landscaping, humane education and more. There are plenty of new friends to make: dogs, cats and even humans! If you’re interested in volunteering, email us at or call us at 352-793-9117. We would love to see you at an orientation soon!

Devoted volunteers are a big part of what makes our organization successful. People like Cathy Krueger, our Volunteer of the Month for July 2022, show their compassion and dedication to improving the lives of animals each day and we can’t have enough good people like them on our team.

While Cathy always had dogs when growing up in Minnesota, her “feline fixation” began at an early age when she and her brothers were trying to bring home rescued kittens. Then later in life, her soon-to-be husband, Dale, who grew up on a farm, wasn’t accustomed to having a cat in the house, but soon learned it was a nice addition. Their “animal family” after marriage consisted of a Basset Hound and a cockatiel. Then, Cathy and Dale ended up adopting one of their son’s cats and that’s when she found out Dale was really a cat lover underneath all that dog hair and he became a purr-fect cat dad!

Adoption has always been a driving factor in their lives, with many treasured cats in their menagerie from sibling Himalayans named, what else, but “Hima” and Laya, to now their Tuxedo named Boo and their miniature black panther, Shadow.

Being cat and kitten obsessed, Cathy joined the Cat Crazy Villagers Club and quickly met many volunteers who worked in various aspects of companion animal rescue and some that gave their time to YOUR Humane Society SPCA. Cathy mentioned that “their stories of successes and rewards made me want to be part of that work. I love being able to help socialize the cats and kittens as a cat cuddler so they will find loving homes!”

Cathy, like many others prospective volunteers, had expressed the universal concern of “I can’t do it because I will fall in love and bring them all home” but she then explained that “when you report for your next volunteer assignment and find one of those felines found a wonderful furever home, well, it’s just a perfect ending to the work you put into helping these fantastic felines!” She added that “every time I get a ‘nose bump’ from a kitten or cat, and see their daily progress in socializing, it is a reward hard to put into words.”

Cathy has seen from her time with YOUR Humane Society SPCA that there are so many other ways to make a difference even if volunteers don’t work directly with the animals. She has helped raise money selling merchandise, helped at bingo events and at the annual Lights of Love fundraiser each holiday season which really brings the holiday spirit into the hearts of people who can learn about the wonderful work of YOUR Humane Society SPCA.

If you would like to join our volunteer team and enjoy the personal satisfaction from helping change the life of an animal, please call YOUR Humane Society SPCA, Sumter County’s oldest and largest private no-kill shelter, at 352-793-9117 or complete your volunteer application at There are many ways to help, such as fostering a pet, offering dog walking, basic obedience, socializing and grooming pets, helping Admin. in the office, fundraising at our tabling events, basic maintenance tasks on our campus, and more. Reach out and let us know YOUR talents! We have reached 40 years in 2022 and it is largely in part because of caring volunteers like Cathy Krueger, our Volunteer of the Month this July 2022!

Our shelter appreciates all our volunteers as they give from their hearts, but we have had a handful of extra special volunteers that take on tasks more than the average helper over the years and only three individuals have been recognized as our Volunteer of the Month a second time. Lisa Lawrance now joins that group of extra special people who have taken on more responsibilities to keep things flowing when the needs arise.

Lisa was born and raised in Dearborn Heights, Michigan. While “pets” (fish and hamsters) were always part of the family life, at age 13, her parents felt that she and her brother were old enough to manage the responsibility of a dog. A true family affair, they came together to decide on the breed, sex and name. So, Chipper, a full-of-energy Dalmatian, joined the family. Lisa and her brother had ALL the fun while “mom” had the responsibility of raising a well-manned family member. As an adult, her first dog was a very smart, active and loving English Springer Spaniel named Patches.

Today, Lisa and her husband have a 14-year-old-female miniature Labradoodle named Sydney and feel like they hit the doggie-lotto because she fit in so quickly and so well. “Bob took on the task of training her to ‘not go on furniture’, so after about three attempts, Sydney realized that she got a treat when she got off the sofa. So, now that WE are trained, Sydney jumps on the furniture, jumps off, sits, and waits for her treat.”

Lisa walks Sydney up to an hour every day for exercise, enrichment and keeping her engaged in loving every minute of every day, just as she does for all the dogs at the YHSSPCA!

When asked about her time volunteering, Lisa said, “I hear from people I talk to about the shelter that ‘You are special’ and ‘I could never go there and see all the sad dogs.” My response is always the same: “YOU will come out of it a better person.”

“Once there, you realize that without volunteers, the animals’ lives would not be as enriched and active as they are. It is essential for all the animals to have daily exercise and socialization so that potential adopters can see the wonderful personalities of each animal. Sure, I have spent my share of time crying over some of our dogs that are passed over for smaller, younger dogs, but while these dogs are with us, I can play a role in making their daily lives enjoyable.”

Lisa’s most memorable events are many, but none more so than caring for a shy or shut-down dog that is afraid to leave the kennel. “When volunteers sit with them, perhaps read to them, or simply talk to them, watching those few steps forward is truly a wonderful experience. Whether reading, or our newest venture – providing live music by a volunteer – we strive to bring each dog to his or her full potential.”

We make sure to match the dogs with the skill level of the volunteers. Those volunteers, like Lisa, with more experience and dog interaction skills, may work with “staff only” dogs. These are dogs not immediately ready for adoption and may have some habits or behaviors we address prior to adoption. Lisa is now working with our team on an enrichment program as well as developing games to stimulate the minds and senses of the dogs awaiting adoption.

Lisa is also a valuable member of our Humane Education Committee who handles ambassador dogs at special school events or clubs for local children ranging from K-12. Topics include career days and working with animals as well as responsible pet ownership.

As you can see, so much goes into the journey of each dog and with volunteers like Lisa, we can be sure every pet is achieving his or her full potential. If you would like to join our volunteer team and enjoy the personal satisfaction from helping change the life of an animal, please call YOUR Humane Society SPCA, Sumter County’s oldest and largest private no-kill shelter, at 352-793-9117 or complete your volunteer application at There are many ways to help, such as fostering a pet, offering dog walking, basic obedience, socializing and grooming pets, helping Admin. in the office, fundraising at our tabling events, basic maintenance tasks on our campus, and more. Reach out and let us know YOUR talents! We have reached 40 years in 2022 and it is largely in part because of caring volunteers like Lisa! Will you be our next Volunteer of the Month?

Our May Volunteers of the Month cherish their parent/child time together as it is meaningful work for each of them. Nikki Zmudzinski-Hume partners with her young son, Mason, to help enrich the lives of the dogs at YOUR Humane Society SPCA. We recognize them as our May Volunteers of the Month for the time, energy and compassion given to our dogs as they await their fur-ever homes.

Nikki fondly recounts the story of how they acquired their furry family members “When Mason and I lived in Michigan, there were always at least three or four dogs in our lives at one time. My first dog “as an adult” was a big yellow Lab named Henry. Henry loved my son Mason before he was born and would literally sleep next to the crib before it even had a baby in it. We lost our sweet Henry unexpectedly about a year before we left Michigan. One day my husband suggested we go to the local humane society and just look.”

The family asked the shelter to “meet and greet” two dogs who caught their attention. The first was a scruffy blonde dog and Nikki knew immediately that her spunky and energetic attitude was for her. The other dog they asked to see was a small black and white dog who was found as a stray, heartworm positive AND pregnant!

Nikki was concerned about adopting the pregnant dog because of unknown history, so imagine her surprise when her husband said, “we’ll take them both.” So, off they went! She adds “The blonde who became our Trixie Marie, continued to be her spunky self on the way home. The black and white dog who is now our Penelope Rose LaRue (LaRue is French for “the street”) had doggie morning sickness in the car on the way home. Once they were home and I let them out of their crates, Penelope ran up and jumped on my lap, tail a wagging….and she has been my best friend ever since.”

Nikki added that she likes to tell this story because if you would have told her that the scared little pregnant dog in the corner who she was afraid to touch, would be the most loving, loyal companion she ever had, she would have told you that you were crazy. And she adds that Penelope is wonderful with Mason; so, she learned a very valuable lesson that day. “Prior to our current dogs, I had never adopted from a shelter. My opinion has forever changed because of this wonderful experience which led us to want to help more dogs reach a wonderful new life.”

Nikki points out that she works full-time and “I’m constantly overwhelmed with meetings, appointments, and responsibilities of daily life. Even on days I’m tired and want to stay home, I meet my promise to help the animals because those dogs are counting on us. And, I NEVER regret it. My time never feels ‘like a job’ because the dogs are SO excited to see us and the other volunteers! The staff and other volunteers are amazing. Everyone is there because they want to be and because they care about the animals.”

Nikki reflects on a favorite memory while volunteering with Mason at YOUR Humane Society SPCA and it was with a dog named Dixie. “Dixie loved attention, but we quickly discovered she loved Coca-Cola even more! Mason’s favorite story to tell is how whenever he had a Coca-Cola, Dixie became his shadow, whether she was following him or deciding to sit on top of him in a chair, she was there.”

She points out how the quality time together is re-energizing. “Mason and I are dog walkers every Sunday afternoon. We get away from the screens, TV, video games and take the dogs out on walks or in the play yards. It is a wonderful way to give back while having a wonderful time with Mason and the other volunteers who work so hard to help every dog have a wonderful new beginning.”

If you would like to join our volunteer team and enjoy the personal satisfaction from helping change the life of an animal the way Nikki and Mason do, please call YOUR Humane Society SPCA, Sumter County’s oldest and largest private no-kill shelter, at 352-793-9117 or complete your volunteer application at There are many ways to help, such as fostering a pet, offering dog walking, basic obedience, socializing and grooming pets, helping Admin. in the office, fundraising at our tabling events, basic maintenance tasks on our campus, and more. Reach out and let us know YOUR talents! We have reached 40 years in 2022 and it is largely in part because of caring volunteers like Nikki and Mason!

April is National Volunteer Appreciation Month and one special person we recognize at YOUR Humane Society SPCA is our Volunteer of the Month for April 2022, Kathy Kreiselman, who has quietly but passionately served from her heart filled with love for animals.

This Ohioan (Go Bucks!) grew up on a non-working farm, with two horses, and an uncle who lived “down the road” and owned a dairy farm. Since her marriage a bit over 37 years ago, Kathy had a Golden Retriever and five cats. In 2018, the decision was made to hold off on adding more feline members to the pack in order to travel more and not worry about any pets for a while. But, as it often happens, a visit to the local Cat Crazy Villagers meeting found Kathy wanting to foster a “no other cats” feline named Boots. Who else could be more qualified since they were likely the ONLY people in the club with no cats!? So, Boots was foster fail #1.

Last summer, Kathy was caring for one of our shelter’s cats, Ebay, a Manx, who was in a very large cage in Kitten Wonderland due to some litterbox issues. Kathy loved when Ebay would snuggle into her arms and found it more and more difficult to put Ebay back into her home. That’s when her decision to foster Ebay, work with her and make her adoption prospects much more viable due to in-home care. Foster Fail #2! Her “sister cat” Boots, is still not thrilled with a “roommate”, but deals with it in typical feline fashion.

Kathy is passionate about wanting all the cats and dogs to have homes, but until that time comes, she wants to shower them with love, socialize them to be expand their adoption prospects, and help others learn what an enriching experience it is to volunteer for YOUR Humane Society SPCA. When asked about her drive and passion to volunteer, she told us, “I love the setup YOUR Humane Society SPCA has, with their outdoor ‘catio’, and Kitten Wonderland. I love that we are ‘no kill’, and everyone is so dedicated.”

Kathy adds “I would tell anyone thinking about volunteering that there is so much you can offer these animals until they find their homes and there are many ways to use life skills. A volunteer can give time to hold and pet the animals, talk to them, and show them love and compassion. But if someone is unable to work directly with the animals, there is a need for so many other facets such as picking up donation of goods for the shelter. I get so excited every time I get an email that another adoption has occurred and tell my husband about my experience in caring for each one – especially the senior cats and dogs!“

Kathy, the entire team at YOUR Humane Society SPCA thanks you for your time, dedication, and love that you so freely give these animals as they begin their journey towards their new lives. If you would like to join our volunteer team and enjoy the personal satisfaction of knowing how much your efforts impact the community, please call YOUR Humane Society SPCA, Sumter County’s oldest and largest private no-kill shelter, at 352-793-9117 or complete your volunteer application at There are many ways to help, such as fostering a pet, offering dog walking and basic obedience, socializing and grooming pets, helping Admin. in the office, fundraising at our tabling events, gardening or basic maintenance tasks on our campus, and more. Reach out and let us know YOUR talents! We have reached 40 years in 2022 and it is largely in part because of caring volunteers all those years!

Spring will soon be upon us, and with it comes the promise that everything will begin anew. That is our biggest hope for every animal who crosses our doorstep at YOUR Humane Society SPCA. We couldn’t achieve our goal to find new homes for our adoptable animals without our wonderful volunteers, like JD and Bev Mabbitt, who have been selected as our Volunteers of the Month for March 2022!

Congratulations! We value and appreciate all those who give of their time to help care for our animals, and we recognize how important our volunteers’ efforts are in preparing them for their fur-ever families. “We are happy to volunteer,” Bev Mabbitt said. “We have the time now. We look forward to seeing those wagging tails.”

Bev and JD retired to Florida from Indiana. Both had pets over the years, but coincidentally enough, each had a special childhood memory of a Boxer in their respective families. JD loved playing with his grandfather’s Boxer, and Bev remembers her Scalawags fondly. When they arrived in Florida, Bev and JD had two Cocker Spaniels. Later, when they found themselves without Izzy and Zander Buttswiggle, their house felt empty, and they chose to go the rescue route to find a new member for their family. Enter Jesse “Good Boy” James, a 3-year-old Boxer mix. “He is a dream and matches our lifestyle perfectly,” Bev said. “He loves walks, naps and the occasional trek to the dog park, where he hasn’t yet met a stranger.”

“Rescue dogs need love and interaction,” Bev stated. “It’s so gratifying when they find their fur-ever home.” One of Bev’s most memorable experiences as a volunteer was with a dog named Chloe, who had lost her front leg. She was scared and kept her distance. Every week, Bev would visit Chloe and talk to her. Finally, Chloe accepted a leash, and they began to take walks. “She was a sweet girl, and with time she finally gained her confidence, and after that she soon found her fur-ever home,” Bev said. “I was so happy for her. This makes volunteering so worthwhile!”

“Two or three hours a week goes a long way, and you can work around your own schedule,” Bev added. “There are many ways to help. It just takes a little of your time.” JD also stated, “It’s scary to be a dog who’s never experienced a shelter environment. They need time outside with a friendly person, in the open air. It’s good for their well-being and happiness. The small amount of time you spend is an immense benefit to a dog who might otherwise not be out of his kennel more than a short while each day.”

JD and Bev contribute greatly by walking the dogs, handling them at adoption events, manning fundraising and info tables at our fundraisers, and also help clean at the shelter. For their dedication and efforts, we proudly honor JD and Bev Mabbitt as our Volunteers of the Month for March 2022!

If you would like to join our volunteer team and enjoy the personal satisfaction of knowing how much your efforts impact YOUR community, please call YOUR Humane Society SPCA, Sumter County’s oldest and largest private no-kill shelter, at 352-793-9117 or complete your volunteer application at There are many ways to help, such as fostering a pet, offering dog walking and basic obedience, socializing and grooming pets, helping Admin. in the office, fundraising, or gardening and basic maintenance tasks on our campus, and more. Reach out and let us know YOUR talents!

February is the month to recognize our sweethearts and one that comes to mind is YOUR Humane Society SPCA’s shelter volunteer Jeanne E. Rogers, who we celebrate as Volunteer of the Month for February 2022. Jeanne was born in the Bronx, New York, but spent most of her life in Connecticut, which she considers her home. She is a graduate of Western Connecticut State University and now lives in The Villages with her fifteen-year-old standard poodle, Phoebe, and her cat, Rocky. Yes, Jeanne is a failed foster mother and proud of it.

Growing up, there was always a furry pet at home. She has fond memories of a cat named Stinky, and dog named Babette and another named Lovey. When she established a home of her own, she had two Afghan Hounds that she showed extensively up and down the east coast, into New York City and Canada. It was an experience that was only eclipsed by her trip to Australia where she met some of the world’s most unusual animals. That trip to Australia led to the writing of two middle-grade novels and two early readers. All of the books contain anthropomorphized animals as the heroes and heroines.

After retirement, she wanted to give back and it was only natural to somehow incorporate her love of animals into that desire. A friend introduced her to the local Humane Society SPCA where she met other cat cuddling volunteers. Jeanne loves working with all the other volunteers and staff at our Lake Panasoffkee shelter. She has discovered that this is fulfilling work and knowing that she is trying to keep the cats at the Catty Shack happy and healthy makes her heart feel good. She helps clean the litter boxes, sweep, and wash the floors, and ensures that the water bowls are full and clean. She is convinced that the cats appreciate all that is done for them. Jeanne does what she can as life in retirement has become even busier than when she was working full time.

Her fondest memory at YOUR Humane Society SPCA was when Sierra Mist, an older and feral cat, was able to gradually adjust from a stressful life on the streets to becoming a happy cat with no more worries. Each day she seems to be more outgoing, and Jeanne is so happy when she seems engaged and playful.

All in all, her experience at the shelter has been very gratifying. Knowing that she, in a small way, is making a difference for her furry friends, makes it easy to return once a week to spend time with them. If you would like to join our volunteer team and enjoy the personal satisfaction of knowing how much YOUR efforts impact your community, please call YOUR Humane Society SPCA, Sumter County’s oldest and largest private no-kill shelter, at 352-793-9117 or complete your volunteer application at There are many ways to help, such as fostering a pet, offering dog walking and basic obedience, socializing and grooming pets, helping Admin. in the office, fundraising, gardening, basic maintenance tasks on our campus, and more. Reach out and let us know YOUR talents!

With the start of the New Year (or “Mew Year” as we like to say at YOUR Humane Society SPCA), we are recognizing Mike and Terri Young, a husband and wife volunteer duo, as our Volunteers of the Month for January 2022. Our volunteers can’t be thanked enough for all they do in the way they nurture and contribute to saving our dogs and cats. Their efforts give our adoptable animals the best chance of finding their loving forever homes. We appreciate Mike and Terri for their help and spirit of teamwork as we accomplish our daily objectives.

Growing up, Mike had both dogs and cats as pets, and Terri grew up with dogs and hamsters. “Over the years we’ve been married, we’ve had several cats and dogs. At one point, we had four cats and two 65-pound dogs, one of whom was blind at the time of adoption,” Terri said.

Now, Mike and Terri have two cats. Phoebe is a 14-year old black cat whom they rescued from a feral colony in their backyard in Virginia, where they resided for 23 years before retiring to Florida. Once here, they adopted Milo, a 4-year old black and white cat from YOUR Humane Society SPCA in February 2021.

“We are both inspired by the simple need of the cats and kittens to be shown some love and kindness,” Terri explained. “We come in the afternoon once a week to simply cuddle with them and scoop litter.”

However there really is more to it than that. Having the opportunity to adopt Milo was a momentous occasion to both Mike and Terri, as Milo is a big part of their family now. But Terri reports there is so much enjoyment and gratification that comes along with volunteering. “We love to see the cats warm up to the staff and volunteers, even though at first they were so skittish, and it’s very heartwarming to comfort the senior cats who are often scared and confused,” Terri stated.

“You'll receive ten times more love in return than what you give to the animals,” Terri said. “I urge anyone who loves animals to consider getting involved with YOUR Humane Society SPCA.”

We are pleased to name Mike and Terri Young as our Volunteers of the Month for January 2022! Thank you so much for your compassion, willingness to help and your commitment to caring for the cats who need your support. They are comforted by your presence and YOUR Humane Society SPCA team members thank you for your dedicated service.

If you would like to join our volunteer team and enjoy the personal satisfaction of knowing how much YOUR efforts impact your community, please call YOUR Humane Society SPCA, Sumter County’s oldest and largest private no-kill shelter, at 352-793-9117 or complete your volunteer application at There are many ways to help, such as fostering a pet, offering dog walking and basic obedience, socializing and grooming pets, helping Admin. in the office, fundraising, gardening, basic maintenance tasks on our campus, and more. Reach out and let us know YOUR talents!

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