Recruiting Volunteers in Animal Shelters for Dogs | Greater Good Charities – Rescue Rebuild

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Animal Innovations Show - Episode 65 - Greater Good Charities

Recruiting Volunteers in Animal Shelters for Dogs | Greater Good Charities – Rescue Rebuild

For many animal lovers, pets are often their ultimate companions, as their four-legged friends serve as their source of comfort.
Because of this, it’s no surprise that most pet parents would rather stay with their fur babies no matter what circumstances may arise.
This extends even to situations where the pet guardian becomes homeless or goes through a crisis.
Luckily, nonprofit organizations, like Greater Good Charities, established programs that promote animal welfare. One of these programs to note is Rescue Rebuild.
According to Zach Baker, the director of the Rescue Rebuild program,

“We’re part of a bigger charity called Greater Good Charities. And really, the easiest way to describe what we do is to think of Habitat for Humanity, but put that in the context of animals. So, we build things for animals, and we started doing that in animal shelters.”

Rescue Rebuild Program to the Rescue

A shelter renovation program, Rescue Rebuild recruits volunteers to help animal shelters for dogs take creative renovation projects from concept to development. The aim is to help improve the lives of animals and people in crisis.
rescue rebuild program webpage Some of the animals they’ve helped include those in animal shelters, domestic violence shelters, and homeless and veterans housing.

“We would go in with volunteers… And basically, our team provides guidance for them to be able to do these construction projects… So, the construction part is at the core of what we do. But really, as we’ve expanded and grown over time, we’ve seen a lot of different ways that we can help shelters,”

Zach said.
In fact, he added, another way they also provide help is through community building, where they spread awareness about the local shelters and teach people to reach out to them.

“Almost everyone has something they can offer to help a shelter. And I love seeing people surprised by the fact that they have no handy knowledge or experience. And in an hour, we’ve got them swinging a hammer or cutting wood or metal or hanging fence or whatever. So, that’s kind of the core of what Rescue Rebuild is.”

rescue rebuild program volunteer Apart from those efforts, Zach and the team at Rescue Rebuild have also started renovating rooms in domestic violence shelters to have pet-friendly spaces.

“So, maybe if there’s a carpet, we put tiles in. We build some exercise areas, maybe they’re even connected to the rooms we’ve put in… Any animal in that situation is just as stressed as the human. They’ve likely experienced a difficult time as well. And so, anything we can do to allow the animal and the human to stay together is just huge. So, we do that,”

Zach said, describing their work.

Rescue Rebuild on the Go

Since 2007, Rescue Rebuild has been working hard to make a positive difference in the lives of animals and their people.
As a matter of fact, they’ve partnered with more than 5,000 volunteers in this span of time.
Zach shared,

“We are a traveling program. We have six of us, and we have two trucks full of tools. And we drive all over the country, and we show up at these shelters, and we rely on volunteers.”

rescue rebuild program travel on the go With the pandemic, however, Zach and the Rescue Rebuild team couldn’t be on the go as much as they used to. This led them to look for other ways to provide help even with the travel restrictions.
One option they went with was the launching of a coaching or consulting program to help shelters take on their own renovation projects. They also partnered with Red Rover to expand more on the help they provide victims of domestic violence and home shelters.
When asked how he envisions Rescue Rebuild to help out further in the future, Zach commented,

“There’s just this constantly shifting animal welfare landscape, where we’re trying to jump into the things as they change. It’s really trying to take animal shelters from being a place that’s like…almost a prison sort of feel, to being a welcoming, exciting place. So, if we can have someone walk in a shelter, and it’s bright and airy, and there are smiling animals and smiling people, that’s what it’s all about.”

   

Learn more about the Rescue Rebuild program!

Check out their website at https://greatergood.org/rescue-rebuild.

Have suggestions for who we should interview next?

Send us a message at [email protected]!

Zach: My name is Zach Baker, and you’re tuned in to The Animal Innovations Show.

Chris: So, tell us who you are and how you’re innovating and helping animals.

Zach: I’m the director of a program called Rescue Rebuild. We’re part of a bigger charity called Greater Good Charities. We build things for animals. And we started doing that in animal shelters.

So, we would go into shelters that—you know, we’re doing good work already. Anything that’s in a shelter environment is just being cleaned so much, that it’s really tough on the materials. Basically, our team provides guidance for them to do these construction projects. So, the construction part is at the core of what we do.

But really is— we’ve expanded and grown over time, we’ve seen a lot of different ways that we can help shelters.

So, one of them is kind of that community-building element, where we teach people like, “Hey, your shelter is right here. They need your help.” Like, “Come on out.” Almost everyone has something they can offer to help a shelter.

And I love seeing people surprised by the fact that—they have no handy knowledge or experience. And in an hour, we’ve got them swinging a hammer, or cutting wood, or metal, or hanging fence, or whatever. So, that’s kind of the core of what Rescue Rebuild is.

More recently, there’s been a big push for domestic violence shelters, to have pet-friendly spaces. We saw that opportunity, and we started talking to some different funders, and there was a lot of interest. As far as how that pertains to us, we’re going into domestic violence shelters, and we’re renovating rooms to make them more pet-friendly. 

So, maybe if there’s carpet, we put tile in, build some exercise areas, maybe they’re even connected to the rooms we’ve put in little dog doors, where the dogs can go right outside—Little cat rooms, all kinds of just awesome stuff.

Pet is—like often your ultimate source of comfort, your ultimate companion, no matter what. And so I know if I was in that situation, I would rather stay with my pet.

So, we’ve really been expanding into a lot of different areas, over the last few years. It’s been awesome to see the impact that makes. More recently, of course, COVID came and—

Chris: Messed things up a little bit.

Zach: Yeah, for everyone, right? I mean, it’s just been crazy. And we are a traveling program. We have six of us, and we have two trucks full of tools, and we drive all over the country. And we show up at these shelters, and we rely on volunteers.

When COVID happened, we couldn’t use volunteers. We couldn’t travel. And basically what that is, is when shelters are taking on their own renovation projects.

A lot of the times, they just need a little bit of a leg up in terms of like, what kind of material should I use? Where should I buy this? Where should I get that? Who should I talk to? It’s the same sort of thing. If you’re renovating your house, you might talk to a friend that’s handy or a contractor friend. So, we’re the “contractor” friend in the animal world.

We partner with a great organization called Red Rover. Red Rover is a response organization. They do a lot of disaster response. They help with animal cases that require extra help. They have an awesome network of volunteers all around the country, and they come out and they help us with our domestic violence project.

So, Red Rover has partnered with us in that. And not only do they send people, they also give us grants to help with these construction projects. Just an awesome partner in this. They’re super passionate about this domestic violence cause.

Same thing for them when COVID hit. And it’s like, how do we help without going somewhere? And so our team and their team got together there and said, let’s launch a handbook, let’s launch a website, a forum, let’s expand on our trainings and make them online.

It’s been really cool. Just an awesome response to it. And a really great way to take a bad situation, and have some good come out of it.

Chris: Yeah. You guys have been doing the manual, the physical labor, right? Trying to rebuild or spruce up all these different organizations. How long has this program been in existence?

Zach: Gosh, like, lost track. I think it’s 14 years or so now, it really started like a grassroots. My boss basically saw a need and just got a bunch of people together, and drove them down to a really rural shelter down in West Virginia,  and just did what they could.

As that went on, people started to catch on and say, “Wow, this is pretty cool. I want to be involved ” And they help us work with these awesome sponsors, that are making this a really impactful program.

Chris: That’s amazing.

So, then for many years, then you’ve been traveling around the country, like you said, with your tool belt and all of your equipment and stuff like that.

So, you guys would recruit volunteers, or help the shelter recruit volunteers in their community and then schedule it, like you said, like a habitat day where everybody’s coming to the site.

And I’m guessing you’re doing a lot of the coordination and kind of planning. So, that when people get there, you know exactly what to put them to do.

Zach: The coordination and the planning, to have the tools and the materials, and the team to be able to teach people safely and effectively, is probably the hardest part of the whole thing.

So, yeah, that’s a lot of our time at home is coordinating all that. It’s a lot of logistics, a lot of planning.

Chris: So, you’ve gotten to do all sorts of different projects all over the country. Like you said, from homeless shelters, domestic violence shelters, regular animal shelters.

I mean, any particular projects come to mind that you remember?

Zach: Oh, there are so many. I think we’re in the ballpark of 160 projects we’ve done now, and everyone just has unique people and unique animals.

And when I first started doing this, I think my—hands down my favorite part of this was that we were going to places that are not vacation destinations. Mostly they’re usually areas that are underfunded, they’re struggling and just meeting amazing people in all walks of life.

All areas of the country that are just completely devoted, to helping animals— is just so refreshing. And it really just empowers you to want to do better.

Chris: Yeah. Now, what’s your background, Zach? How did you come to get involved with all that?

Zach: So, I have a construction background. I’ve worked in a number of different construction roles, from handyman work to finish carpentry. And before I was doing this, I had my own remodeling business.

So, I started at Rescue Rebuild as a volunteer, about 10 or 11 years ago now. As sponsors started to notice Rescue Rebuild, and as things started to get really busy, I started contracting a couple of weeks out of the year helping lead projects and coordinate them. And eventually I was asked to come on full time. And that was, I guess, a little over 5 years ago now.

Yes. It’s harder to step back and look at the forest, through the trees.

Chris: Right. And really see the impact you’re having and the impact that it has on you. Like you said, in getting to meet different people and really live your passion and what you’re doing every day.

You know, I’m not going to lie, It’s still a job. But when we’re out on a job and someone commends the work we’re doing, especially the shelter workers, it’s like: we get paid to do this.

The people that are out here taking their own time and putting some sweat equity in, they’re the ones that really deserve the thanks. And again, it’s just meeting people that are willing to do that, and maybe signed up for a day and they’ll come— and at the end of the day, they’ll say,

“Can I come back for some other days?”

“Yeah. Absolutely, come on up!”

The next day and the next day and the next day and the next day, and we get to the end of the project and they’re like, “I want to do this more.” “I want to come with you on other projects.”

To recognize that what we’re doing is making an impact enough, that people are wanting to be involved in that way.

Chris: You must be itching to get back out there then. Right. Obviously, with COVID, you guys have pivoted a bit and really embrace technology to try and do what you can.

Zach: It’s kind of hard to renovate something when you’re remote, but you’re at least trying to help them understand and break it down.

Chris: Maybe project management, coach, mentor things like that. Right.

Zach: Thankfully, now we are all vaccinated and we’re back on the road, taking precautions and just kind of limiting the number of volunteers we have, and structuring it in a way that we can have some distance between us all.

And it’s a good feeling to be back on the road. But we are really looking forward to getting to a point where we can have, a large number of volunteers out and kind of get back to really making a bigger impact.

Chris: Yeah, I can imagine it’s definitely different, right. Like you said, you have to kinda skill that a little bit, what you’re doing.

 

So, where do you see this program going? Obviuosly, you guys have morphed and evolved and taking on different types of projects. Where do you see this going in the next 5 years?

Zach: There’s a lot of positive changes happening— and I think as years go on, people have evolving attitude towards animals especially in places where animals, where more seen as a farm animal. Oh sorry—dogs are almost seen as a farm animal versus a pet. You know, I think as the younger generations get older, we’re seeing just a really big embrace of animals. And the awesome thing about that, is that in a lot of Northern States, there’s actually a demand for rescued animals that outweighs the supply.

There’s just this constantly shifting animal welfare landscape, where we’re tying to jump in to things that change is really trying to take animal shelters from being a place that’s like, “The pound.” You know, like a government building that’s just cinder block walls and you know, dog hall ways—almost a prison sort of field to being a welcoming, exciting place. So, if we’re gonna have someone walk-in a shelter and it’s bright and airy, and there’s smiling animals, smiling people, and— you know, that’s what it’s all about. Almost like the pet store vibe of back in the day. Where people would rather go into a pet store than a shelter because it’s not depressing.

Chris: So, tell people if they’re interested more in the programs, where can they go? The website, things like that.

How do they get involved?

Zach: There’s a lot of different ways to get involved in Rescue Rebuild. You can find us on Facebook and Instagram.

We’ve got awesome pictures on there of all of our projects, and we also post upcoming volunteer opportunities, and you can also go to RESCUEREBUILD.ORG

There’s some more information there. We’ve got some great videos on there, of how you can build some projects on your own. We have DIY series on YouTube, so I would highly recommend checking that out, and some of that stuff is even great for in your own house.

I’ve got some cat bridges and cubbies here. 

Chris: We’ll, remind our viewers and listeners, and if you’ve got an idea or know somebody that has an idea for something that’s helping people and helping animals, we want to talk to them.

So, come on the show. Just go to INNOVATIONS.SHOW, fill out the form, and we’ll get them on and talk to them.

So, we can learn more about all the great things that are going on out there.

So, thank you again, Zach, for coming on. I really enjoyed the conversation.

Zach: My pleasure. Thanks for having me.

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