(ROCKWALL, TX – Feb. 4, 2016) I still get excited when a presidential election year rolls around. It’s one of our great American traditions: debating the future of our country every four years, then voting to see which vision attracts a majority. In fact, I’ve always believed that our right to vote is our most valuable heritage (or privilege or obligation or power) as Americans.
Back when I used to be an election judge for my old precinct, we always knew that presidential elections would be our busiest days. It was the only election in which some of our neighbors would participate. “See you in four years!” they’d jauntily exclaim as they headed for the exit.
This all came to mind when I saw a quote on Facebook recently. Attributed to an unknown person, it read, “Volunteering is the ultimate exercise in democracy. You vote in elections once a year, but when you volunteer, you vote every day about the kind of community you want to live in.”
So many of the things we enjoy about living inRockwallCountyhave come about through the efforts of volunteers. For instance, the civic pride we share about the Rockwall animal shelter wasn’t always there. Back in 2008, not even half the homeless animals that entered the Rockwall shelter got out alive. At this time five years ago – February 2011 – 30% of all the pets in the shelter were killed, according to City ofRockwallstatistics. But thanks to a spirited volunteer effort that led to a city council vote in August 2011, more than 96% of the shelter’s homeless pets find happy homes. (For the first time since then, that figure dipped to 94% during 2015.)
Volunteers like Kay Hancock gave up their Sunday afternoons to make sure the shelter was open for adoptions. Volunteers like Barbara Seed were instrumental in staffing weekly adoption events at the Rockwall Petco, an effort that continues to this day. Volunteers like Jill Hubbell implemented innovative marketing techniques to find a home for every homeless pet in her care. And even while she was serving on the Rockwall City Council, Margo Nielsen was part of the volunteer team that worked at the shelter during low-cost shot clinics.
These people didn’t show up once every four years to cast a vote. They worked hard on a daily basis to make sure the Rockwall shelter became one of the best in the nation. Thanks to their efforts – and the efforts of many volunteers like them – Rockwall has something to be proud of.
And the impact of their generous spirit spread throughout the county. Carl Alsabrook, the city manager inRoyseCity, studied the volunteer campaign underway at his animal shelter and liked what he saw. It wasn’t long before he set theRoyseCityshelter on its own lifesaving trajectory.
That’s why volunteering is the “ultimate exercise in democracy.” The power of giving back is strong. Even though this is a column about pets, I haven’t mentioned a single animal. That’s because these volunteers have saved the lives of thousands of animals over the past five years. And their hard work and dedication will continue to save the lives of thousands more far into the future.
To be sure, there’s much more than elections and volunteering on my mind as Valentine’s Day approaches. Love is in the air. And those of us who live inRockwallCountyare better off today thanks to the love exhibited on a daily basis by our hard-working volunteers. Loving your community really does make a difference for all of us.
Story and photos by Blue Ribbon News guest columnist Michael Kitkoski, co-founder of Rockwall Pets and No Kill Solutions.
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