Volunteer coordinator Chelsea Waldeck helped rebuild the volunteer program at the Hillsborough County Pet Resource Center after the coronavirus shutdown.

The Hillsborough County Pet Resource Center received the National Association of Counties’ Achievement Award for successfully rebuilding its volunteer program after the pandemic at the beginning of June.

The Building Back a Volunteer Program Post-Pandemic Award came after a two-year-long rebuilding process after the coronavirus shutdown decimated the shelter’s volunteer program. Despite the lack of volunteers, animals continued to come to the shelters, emphasizing the need for a new program.

“It was all about building a strong program for the future,” explained volunteer coordinator Chelsea Waldeck. “I wanted to try to utilize technology as much as we could to assist with trainings and things like that so, that way, we could better utilize staff time and provide our resources to our volunteers.”

Waldeck was hired to revive the program and, last year, had over 250 volunteers who dedicated 14,000 hours of direct care and enrichment to the pets.

Waldeck established a volunteer application for volunteers 16 years old and older, as well as an online training process. The online application and training made the hiring of volunteers more efficient and effective in order to introduce qualified volunteers to the newly revitalized program.

In April, the shelter applied for national recognition, highlighting how its volunteer program is not only back but also thriving.

“Trying to maybe be recognized at this level and maybe be able to help other shelters who are in the same boat as we were is really satisfying,” said Waldeck. “I’ve had other shelters reach out with questions, … and I absolutely love being able to help others to help as many animals as we possibly can.”

The Pet Resource Center houses around 15,000 dogs and cats each year, relying on volunteer and community support to care for the animals. The shelter is actively seeking volunteers, so those who are interested can apply online.

“For me, to be able to build this program back up is more animals that we get to help on a daily basis, and that’s the most important aspect of the mission that we have here: helping pets of Hillsborough County. So, we really need all the volunteer support that we can have,” said Waldeck.

For more information on the Hillsborough County Pet Resource Center, visit www.hillsboroughcounty.org.

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Lily Belcher
Lily Belcher is a writer for the Osprey Observer. She started as an intern in the summer of 2020 and has continued to write for the Osprey Observer since completing her internship. Lily is majoring in mass communications at the University of South Florida and is a staff writer for the university’s paper, The Oracle. She enjoys writing about local nonprofit organizations and community role models who have made an impact on her hometown.