Heartland shelter seeks volunteers
Heartland Animal Shelter manager and volunteer coordinator Lisa Dister is shown with a cat on Thursday, Sept. 20, 2012, at the shelter in Northbrook. | Buzz Orr~Sun-Times Media
Updated: October 28, 2012 6:15AM
NORTHBROOK — As much as Heartland Animal Shelter – a no-kill, non-profit tucked away at the side of non-stop Milwaukee Avenue – depends on donors, it relies as much on volunteers to keep it running.
With only three full-time and five part-time paid personnel taking care of about 100 cats and 40 dogs, volunteers do the work that has kept the organization going for the last 10 years.
Dr. Herbert Preiser, DVM, opened Heartland Animal Shelter in October of 2002 in his former home next to his business, Preiser Animal Hospital, 2975 Milwaukee Ave.
Preiser’s daughters have now taken over; Dr. Kristine Preiser, DVM, of Mount Prospect oversees the hospital, and Stephanie Preiser Hoffman, of Barrington, runs the shelter.
“We have a community-like connection with everyone who comes here, but especially with the volunteers,” Hoffman said. “We couldn’t do what we do without them. They are very special people, hard working and compassionate.”
Beyond the overpopulaton of pets, people are relinquishing them because of the recession. Some don’t have the money to feed them. Others have lost their homes and must move into apartments that don’t allow them, Hoffman said.
In better times, the shelter usually finds homes for 60 to 100 animals a month, but this month only 20 dogs and 11 cats have been placed. Last month only 43 cats and 34 dogs were adopted, said Lisa Dister, the shelter’s volunteer coordinator.
“Everyone here is like a big family, and in spite of the numbers, we treat our animals like part of it,” Dister said. “Anything we do for our animals at home, we try to do for the animals here.”
Barbara and Jack Isaacson, of Northbrook, have worked together in the medical unit together for three and a half years.
“It’s very rewarding, because we love animals,” said Barbara, a retired elementary school teacher.
“We don’t work for money. Our pay is seeing the animals find homes,” added Jack, a retired mircro-biologist.
Helen Carter, a Northbrook resident who arrived six months ago from the United Kingdom, said it was her love of animals that had her emptying an entire room-full of dirty litter pans.
“It’s important for me to work in a no-kill shelter, because I take everything home with me and I couldn’t handle that,” she said.
Kathleen Kirkpatrick, of Evanston, volunteers to breathlessly run dog after dog. She owes “the job of her dreams” to her volunteer work here.
“I loved what I was doing so much I switched careers,” she said. “Now I’m a veterinary assistant at Bramer Animal Hospital in Evanston.”
Volunteers exercise dogs, clean kennels and feed, bathe and show pets to interested families. They may even facilitate adoptions at the Golf Mill Shopping center on Saturdays by bringing animals there to meet prospective adopters, too.
Volunteers also may answer phones and show visitors through the catteries and kennels, as well as foster animals that need extra attention because of health, age or temperament.
They may even join the fundraising committee to support the shelter’s operations, write letters to raise awareness about pet overpopulation, and write grant requests.
Volunteer veterinarians also are needed to spay and neuter. Donated services of graphic designers and printers also would be helpful.
For more information, visit www.HeartlandAnimalShelter.net.