SPCA recognises its incredible volunteers with national awards
SPCA is celebrating another year of its exceptional volunteers with the 2022 SPCA Purina National Volunteer Awards.
Each year, we pay tribute to the thousands of volunteers across the country, who donate their personal time and energy to help make a difference to the lives of New Zealand’s most vulnerable animals.
The awards recognise the ongoing contribution that volunteers make to SPCA, from helping out at the Centres, to fostering animals in their own homes. Whether it’s cleaning cat huts, administration work, socialising with animals, or giving time each week to raise crucial funds through SPCA’s Op Shops, these volunteers are the beating heart of our organisation.
SPCA Chief Executive Andrea Midgen says volunteers are crucial in the essential running of Centres and Op Shops across the country, and without them, the charity would not be able to function.
“With more than 10 volunteers to every one staff member, our volunteers really are the heart of SPCA,” says Ms Midgen. “These awards are just one way we can share their incredible contributions with the rest of New Zealand. We are also thankful to our loyal partner Purina, who has sponsored these awards since 2016 and ensures all of the cats and dogs in SPCA’s care nationwide are well fed with Purina ONE. We couldn’t do what we do without their help.”
Extended lockdown periods due to the COVID-19 pandemic meant many volunteers weren’t able to help as they usually would this year. Despite this, SPCA staff and volunteers around the country nominated over 120 of our most exceptional volunteers, which were then judged by a panel of Purina and SPCA staff.
Purina Country Manager, Francois Le Berrigaud said “Purina believes people and pets are better together. It's for this reason we are so proud to celebrate and recognise the outstanding work of the SPCA volunteers as the sponsor of these awards for the seventh consecutive year. Beyond this awards celebration, Purina continues its partnership with SPCA to provide 95,000 kgs of cat and dog food per year to the animals in their care."
Six award categories put a spotlight on the different ways volunteers contribute to SPCA, and SPCA and Purina are announcing the winners to mark the start of National Volunteer Week. The winners receive a Nespresso Breville “Essenza Mini” Espresso Machine, and a large box of Purina ONE pet food.
Oustanding Young Volunteer: Jason Tang, Māngere
If anyone has a way with dogs, it’s Jason Tang who, despite only being in his mid-20s, is making an incredible impact on the animals. Jason started out in the Mangere Centre in 2018, and assisted with the start-up of SPCA’s Canine Field Trip Programme, along with a small handful of other wonderful volunteers. The programme involved taking the dogs offsite for walks every week but, as time went on, he also began fostering dogs too. His most recent foster was an incredibly timid dog who was struggling to cope in the shelter. But after spending a few weeks with Jason, the dog’s nature changed from shy and frightened, to confident and relaxed, and he has since found his forever home. Jason is always flexible with meet and greets and is happy to bring the dogs in whenever required. This is a huge help to the team, especially when going through the adoption process of some of our more sensitive dogs. Jason is now one of our most trusted canine volunteers who we can always call on to assist our adult dogs.
Fantastic Foster Family: Cherie and Graeme Buckler, Hastings
Cherie and Graeme only started as a foster family last year, but since then, they've been going above and beyond in every way. The dedicated and compassionate pair take on our most vulnerable bottle-feeding puppies and kittens. Whether it’s one litter, or three litters at a time, they are extremely generous with their time and investment in caring for the animals. The pair have shown such dedication in fostering, and have cared for 29 bottle-feeders in the last six months without a break. Caring for vulnerable kittens and puppies is a huge amount of work, with plenty of night-shift work involved. They also took on the special care of one little pup that needed them more than any of the others – little Dove, who had a cleft palette and needed round the clock care. Cherie and Graeme rose to the challenge and Dove blossomed in their care, all while also looking after another young pup and a litter of kittens at the same time. Their love for Dove grew so much they ended up adopting her into their family permanently. Cherie always keeps the team well informed of the animals’ progress, emailing through detailed updates regularly and keeping us in the loop at every turn and we cannot thank them enough for their wonderful service.
Best Centre Volunteer Team: Ian Blackler and Rachel Milner, Christchurch
Ian and Rachel always put their hands up for all sorts of weird and wonderful missions and nothing is ever too challenging for them. As SPCA volunteer drivers, they have been working as a solid unit for many years now. Ian and Rachel come in every single Thursday and the Christchurch team cannot recall the last time they took a day off, despite volunteering for five and three years respectively. The Christchurch Centre operates with only one ambulance for all of Canterbury, so having Ian and Rachel on the road to support the Centre effectively doubles the capacity to help sick, injured and vulnerable animals in the area. We are consistently asking if they are able to go on road trips to pick up animals or meet staff and transfer animals from other centers in locations such as Ashburton, Timaru, Oamaru and Kaikoura, and they are always willing and do so with a smile. When they’re not on the road, they’re helping around the Centre, doing admin, laundry, general cleaning and maintenance. Their can-do attitude and positive vibes are dearly appreciated at the Centre. Ian recently retired from his volunteer support on 26 May, so what better way is there to thank him for all his incredible work? Congratulations and thank you to Ian and Rachel.
Most Dedicated Volunteer: Marilyn Hagen, Renwick
The Renwick SPCA Centre has its very own superstar – and that’s Marilyn Hagen. The person who nominated Marilyn remembers the day they met her, as she was celebrating the fact she had been volunteering at the Centre for 20 years. Fast-forward another 15 years, Marilyn is going stronger than ever, with an incredible 35-years of service now attributed to her name. Week after week – rain, hail or shine – Marilyn is always there when you need her. Whether it’s cleaning cat huts, scrubbing litter trays, socialising and caring for the needs of the kittens and cats, Marilyn always goes about her work quietly and reliably, along with a great group of volunteers who bring their skills, patience, love and time. Marilyn's assistance enables staff to complete other tasks, which are equally important, but would otherwise be difficult to fit in the day if she wasn’t there. Not only is the Centre team able to achieve more in a day thanks to Marilyn, they can spend more quality time with the animals and better prepare them for their forever homes. Marilyn’s dedication is truly awe-inspiring.
Going The Extra Mile: Carolyn Callister, Nelson
As the old saying goes, ‘ask the busiest person to do something, and they get it done’ – and that person is Carolyn Callister. She has been volunteering at the Nelson Op Shop looking after entertainment, library and clothing for the last eight years. Carolyn shows such dedication to the shop that she sees it in her dreams, and even puts holidays off or comes back early, as she worries about the huge amount of books that come in. By helping friends clear out their homes of unused clothing, to securing designer clothes from a local store, Carolyn increased donations from a bag or two every six weeks, to multiple bags of clothes and accessories every month. These donations meant that the shop’s profit increased and more money was able to go towards helping the animals. Carolyn takes clothes home to be priced and goes the extra mile by removing buttons off any clothing that were classed as being sent to landfill. Her generosity and willingness to help is both an inspiration and asset to our shop.
Best Op Shop Team: Hastings
If one team can prove that age is just a number, then look no further than the Hastings SPCA Op Shop team. Some of the members are in their 80s and still come in three times a week for their shared passion – supporting the animals. The busy team put their heart and soul into making sure the shop is beautifully presented and items are treated with love. One team member even takes clothing home with her to iron, which she has kindly done for the past eight years, while others help greet our customers at the front desk and price all the clothes. Each volunteer contributes their valuable skills, experience and passion to make the Hastings Op Shop the special place it has come to be. Some team members work regular 9am-5pm jobs during the week and volunteer on the weekend, while others have taken annual leave from their jobs to make sure the store remains open. The shop usually has up to 32 volunteers, but due to Covid-19, the store has been running on a skeleton crew, with only two people running the shop at times. Even throughout the pandemic, they have found ways to keep operations going and continue raising money for our important cause. We are extraordinarily lucky to have these people champion SPCA and provide their support.
Special thanks to: Heather Allen, Francis Arts, Ruby Atkins, Joy Barber, Alison Black, Trish Boon, Bashi Chandrasiri, Jenny Cole, Treena Corby, Carmel Cournane, Irene Craft, Kelly Cruikshank, Tania De Moy, Margaret Evans, Shona Green, Bobbie Hicks, Linda Lawson, Diana Leijh, Miriam Leslie, Tyler Manson, Jan Peake, Ann Pillips, Lesley Rowe, Sandra Scott, Catherine Shillinger, Juliette Simms, Barbi Speers, Jane Teeuwen, Carol Thomas, Cathie Trotter, Sheila Wick, June Wong and Ian Wrigley.
Outstanding Young Volunteer
Lucy Cairns, Wellington
Lucy began volunteering with SPCA in 2020 in the vet care area with one shift a week, and started to pick up more and more shifts over time. We’re thrilled to have her now completing her vet nursing placement with us. When the afternoons are busy and fast-paced, Lucy is known for her calm and level-headed demeanor - when she arrives, it’s a breath of fresh air and she’s a pleasure to have around. We can’t thank Lucy enough for everything she does.
Marianne Venter, Whanganui
Marianne started with SPCA on a student placement, then continued to dedicate her time to us through her animal studies. She has become one of our most experienced and trusted volunteers, and takes on any job, large or small, with enthusiasm and a smile. Marianne also took on an amazing role as a fosterer, and is now volunteering with us for three days a week or even more when we’re short-staffed. Her work is greatly appreciated.
Fantastic Foster Family
Michelle Leadsom, Māngere
Michelle and her family have been a huge asset to the team at the Māngere Centre. They began fostering for SPCA in 2021 when the Centre had a very large numbers of rabbits. Michelle was quick to provide a wonderful, loving environment for these animals when our staff were stretched to their limits. When the rabbits return to the Centre, they’re always confident and social, and it’s easy to see that they’ve been given a fantastic start to life. Michelle also writes fantastic information about every rabbit in their return behaviour forms, which is invaluable when matching them with their new forever homes.
Yasmin Cruse, Ashburton
Yasmin is a kind, empathetic volunteer who has gone above and beyond many times to ensure the best outcome for the animals in our care. She has fostered countless animals over the years, and will always be prepared to make room in her home for cats and kittens in need. With her caring and patient nature, Yasmin is amazing with our more timid and vulnerable cats and kittens, and is brilliant at helping them gain confidence and come out of their shells.
Best Centre Volunteer Team
Hamilton (Hayley Spence, Kayla Mitchell, Annie Barry, Jaz Baid, Kellie Jewitt, Quinn Dickey, Daniel Cook)
The Volunteer team at the Hamilton Centre is made up of Hayley, Kala, Annie, Jaz, Kellie, Quinn and Daniel. This outstanding team of individuals bring high levels of positivity and enthusiasm which are extremely infectious to those around them. Over the pandemic and summer period when the Centre was stretched for staff, these volunteers have extended themselves in all areas. From fostering animals at home, training and supervising new volunteers, to coming in to work additional days, the wellbeing of the whole team was maintained thanks to their dedication.
Greymouth (Sue Stoddart, Neil Messenger)
Both Sue and Neil go above and beyond for the Greymouth Centre, taking a lot of pressure off the small team. Not only do they come in every Tuesday and clean the boarding facilities to an extremely high standard, they do a weekly rubbish run, collect newspapers and took over the monitoring of all SPCA donation boxes throughout Greymouth and Hokitika. They’re also happy to help with raffles and annual appeals! Their commitment over the years has been a huge help to the team in Greymouth.
Going The Extra Mile
Carol Osler, Kerikeri/Bay of Islands
Carol is an amazing help to our kennel team. Rain or shine, we can rely on Carol to visit the Centre and help out by taking the dogs for walks, or playing with the puppies - she even brings treats for the dogs, and coffee for the staff! Many dogs have gained confidence thanks to Carol, and she is very invested in their progression. This year she is travelling to Rarotonga and will be volunteering at SPCA over there – she’s even taken it upon herself to find donations for flea and worm treatment over there. The team is so grateful for all of Carol’s hard work.
Alan Speck, New Plymouth
Alan, or ‘Specky’ as he is fondly known by staff, helps with numerous tasks around the New Plymouth Centre. On Tuesday mornings you’ll find him in the wash up area helping with trays and dishes, before he sets off on the supermarket donation run. In the weekends he’s often seen with the lawnmower, and when animals need to be moved to another Centre he is happy to jump in the van and get this done. Everything he does takes pressure off the busy staff and allows them to concentrate on animal care. Specky is a devoted and kind volunteer, and we’re blessed to have him around.
Best Op Shop Team
Riccarton Op Shop
The lovely team running the Riccarton Op Shop are very dedicated, and this is evident with the many compliments received from customers. The team often take home items that need washing and mending, they do knitting and crafting, and bring in high quality donations from their friends and family. During the pandemic, it was very difficult to keep the shop running when short staffed – our amazing volunteers stepped up to cover vacant shifts when needed. They also ensure the shop is beautifully clean and tidy, and provide excellent service to customers.
Nelson Op Shop
The team at the Nelson Op Shop has collectively given over 70 years of service to SPCA. They work hard throughout the day, and take extra work home with them for the evening. These passionate volunteers give unconditionally, and donate many hours not just in the Op Shop, but out in the community too. With a group of incredible customer service professionals, a dedicated DIY-er, and enthusiastic teens gaining work/life skills, it's an amazing team here at the Nelson Op Shop that we’re extremely proud of.
Most Devoted Volunteer
Jay Sankaran & Suchi Mouly, Māngere
Jay and Suchi have been described by the Māngere team as absolutely irreplaceable. They are the only full time ringworm foster parents who are on call seven days a week, ready to spring in to action by coming to the Centre and taking any ringworm fosters home when needed. Jay and Suchi are in their 10th year of fostering, and their bright, kind personalities make them a joy to be around. They lighten up the day of everyone at the Centre when they visit, and we cannot imagine SPCA without them.
Andi Cossar, Christchurch
Andi has been volunteering and fostering for SPCA for over a decade within both the Wellington and Christchurch areas, and the team have called her “their rock”. She is always there to support the team both physically and mentally, and no challenge is too tough for Andi. She is willing to help out with any department with a positive attitude, and lightens the load for those around her. Whether it’s cleaning, providing animal care, or fostering at home, Andi has helped to create so many happy outcomes for felines – including many that needed behavioural rehabilitation.
Wilma Mayn, Māngere
Wilma has been helping SPCA since 1991, and is a truly devoted volunteer. Working with us on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, Wilma has her own department within the Hospital team. The veterinarians and vet nurse teams rely heavily on her in this very busy area of the Centre. Wilma is proactive and kind, making toys for the cats at home and bringing in donations of blankets and towels too. She buddies up with new volunteers to show them the ropes, and her caring nature makes everyone (both animals and staff!) feel at ease.
Colin Wheeler, Whanganui
Colin is our volunteer van driver, who has been providing transport for animals across the region for the last three years. His exceptional service is not limited to Whanganui, as he is called upon by Palmerston North, Levin, New Plymouth and Taumarunui to assist in transporting their animals to other Centres, such as Wellington. Colin also assists with Centre duties such as recycling, foster supply drop-offs, and supermarket donation collections. Every task is done with a smile, and his sense of humour is loved by the staff.