Volunteer Spotlight: Paws and Effect

Nia Brown-Fonrose, Sarah Buerker, Dana Schroeder, Kelly NgOct. 8, 2018

By Mary Anna Sedlacek

Paws and Effect is dedicated to supporting local animal shelters through volunteering and fundraising. What started out as a small group of friends has become Binghamton University's only club that lets students volunteer with animals on a regular basis. A very new organization on campus, Paws and Effect has yet to be officially chartered by the Student Association, meaning they do not have a budget of their own, and the resources they do have are very limited. Despite such obstacles, the e-board members of Paws and Effect have dedicated themselves to providing students with opportunities to become active in the community while working hard to keep up with the large amount of interest in their club.

Part of what inspired the development of Paws and Effect, according to Sarah Buerker, a senior double major in sociology and economics and also the club's vice president, was the lack of a "volunteer-oriented animal group" on campus. While there are other animal-centered organizations at Binghamton University, each with great missions and goals of their own, Paws and Effect has differentiated themselves by providing students opportunities to have hands-on experience helping animals. For now, there are two main sites Paws and Effect works with, Project Paw and Willow's Wings, although Buerker and her fellow e-board members have been reaching out to more organizations with the hope that they will be able to expand opportunities for students in the near future.

Project Paw is a no-kill cat shelter located in Binghamton that is heavily reliant on the assistance of volunteers. Paws and Effect contributes to this shelter by taking student volunteers on a weekly basis to help clean the facility, which is a very important task, especially considering the large number of cats Project Paw houses. With roughly two hundred cats living in the shelter, everything needs to be scrubbed and cleaned frequently, such as the cages, walls and floors. In addition to the physical labor aspect of their volunteer work, Paws and Effect members also spend time with the cats, providing them with much needed love and attention.

Willow's Wings, on the other hand, is a nonprofit animal sanctuary and rescue located on a farm in Endicott. Like Project Paw, Willow's Wings relies on volunteers to assist in keeping the property well-kept. Members of Paws and Effect assist in many different tasks, such as cleaning the cages and stables, stacking hay, and things of that nature, while also spending time around all kinds of animals. According to senior integrative neuroscience major and Paws and Effect's treasurer, Kelly Sisson, "Willow's Wings has everything from cats, dogs, horses, goats, donkeys, birds, alpacas — you name it, she [Willow Sullivan, owner and creator of Willow's Wings] probably has it." In addition, Sisson says, "A lot of the animals at Willow's Wings are disabled." She gave an example of some dogs needing wheels to get around, as well as one dog that has a neurological disorder.

According to Stephanie Fisher, a regular volunteer at Willow's Wings speaking on behalf of Sullivan, "The student volunteers are helpful because they can complete tasks that the regular volunteers and Willow can never seem to find the time for, due to the large number of daily chores that come with caring for the number and variety of animals here." Fisher goes on to say, "Willow runs it [Willow's Wings] herself from her home, with the help of a few regular volunteers. She is dedicated to caring for animals that have been abandoned, neglected, abused or are disabled. She has over one hundred animals here, both domestic and farm animals, and the sanctuary will be their permanent home due to their age and/or very special medical needs." She also pointed out, "In addition to helping with regular tasks such as helping in the barn and walking dogs, the students have also taken on larger projects such as cleaning out and reorganizing sheds and storage areas, cleaning out the many bird cages, and putting away loads of hay and shavings." Members of Paws and Effect therefore contribute to Willow's Wings in more ways than one and are appreciated by Sullivan and other regular volunteers.

The e-board members of Paws and Effect pointed out that while their volunteer work at Willow's Wings and Project Paw may be strenuous, they truly enjoy the time they spend helping these animals. Maxine Riter, a junior integrative neuroscience major and the publicity chair of Paws and Effect, says, "Wherever we go [to volunteer], a lot of it comes down to physical work, like getting down on your knees, scrubbing things, stacking bales of hay, lots of physical things. We get dirty, but it's really fun."

Another way in which members of Paws and Effect help support animals that is less hands-on but of equal importance, is by fundraising for these two organizations in which they volunteer. The president of Paws and Effect, Dana Schroeder, a senior studying biology, points out that while "it's so easy to get people to come and volunteer because you get to see the animals, you get to play with them," it's much harder to get people to contribute to this aspect of fundraising for the shelters. Schroeder explains that they have recently added a new e-board member, Nia Brown-Fonrose, a sophomore also studying biology, to be the club's fundraising chair, "because it's such a big job to get people motivated to help with fundraising and donations and things like that." Schroeder stresses that the shelters are always in dire need of supplies, and that they are working on expanding their fundraising efforts and hoping to get more people to contribute in this regard.

"This club has the potential to do amazing things," says Riter, Paws and Effect's publicity chair, "and in the past couple of years, we've just gotten started with it. There are a lot of people out there who are genuinely passionate about animals and our big purpose...is to utilize that passion to actually do good in the community through donations and volunteering." Brown-Fonrose agrees, saying she has enjoyed volunteering in an environment with others who have the same passion to help animals, and adds, "Actively playing a supportive role in your community is really important, especially when it comes to animals," which is exactly what this club has allowed her to do.

Paws and Effect has recently experienced what Schroeder refers to as "exponential growth," in students who wish to become a part of their organization. And while they have faced difficulties with the process of becoming fully chartered, each e-board member stresses that they are still accepting new members and have been working diligently to make more opportunities available to students who share the same passions as they do for animals.

Get Involved!

Email Paws and Effect to join their listserv and receive information about upcoming volunteer opportunities with Project Paw and Willow's Wings.

Paws and Effect is always looking for donations of bottles to deposit and donate the profits to the shelters. They are more than happy to make arrangements to meet with anyone who would like to donate bottles, as well as other supplies and funds for the shelters, which are constantly in great need.

If you are looking to adopt a cat and are in a stable situation that would permit being able to provide one with a healthy environment, the Paws and Effect e-board members suggest going to Project Paw, as the cats up for adoption there are extremely loving, social and in need of good homes.

Photos: Banner (left to right): Dana Schroeder at Willow's Wings; Kelly Sisson at Project Paw; Nia Brown-Fonrose at Project Paw. Top: Nia Brown-Fonrose, Sarah Buerker, Dana Schroeder, Kelly Ng (secretary- couldn't make it to interview)