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This page is devoted to the management of volunteer programs at the local level, including information for cities, counties, boards, commissions, and districts.

~ May 2008 ~

Lessons Learned From A Cat

When the weather starts to get warmer, everyone and everything start to emerge from hibernation.  People are no longer feeling cooped up in their houses.  Animals can run and roam freely.  My kitten, Oscar, is no exception.  He’s an indoor cat that I rescued in July 2007.  I am his third owner within 12 weeks of the poor thing going from a trash can, to a home, to a vet clinic, back into someone’s home, then into my arms and heart.  When I held him at 8 weeks old, I knew he was meant for me.

So, Oscar, being the curious love-bug that he is, has been jumping on top of my TV, purring endlessly, meowing and chirping at the birds and at me, and opening his food container, pushing it off the counter, and onto the floor. He runs and jumps on my bed and on my back…when I’m asleep.  But he just enjoys being a kitten.  For me, unfortunately, I have been losing my patience with him because I come home from work and want to sit and relax.  But my precious little ball of gray fur wants – almost demands – my attention.  So, instead of being annoyed at this creature for only wanting to greet me after a long day after being alone and just wanting to fall into my arms.

I surrendered to him.  I gave in to the chaos.

I take time in the morning to play with Oscar, giving him lots of hugs and kisses because that is what he needs.  When he’s had enough kisses, he walks away and does his own thing.  He’s “done” with me for now.  After a long day at work, I walk into the door and we have our routine.  I drop my bags, chase him up the stairs, and entertain him with his game.  He’ll purr loudly, follow me around, lay at my feet when I’m cooking dinner, just for him to let me know he is there…ready to play at moment’s notice.

Oscar reminds me of our volunteers.  They ordinarily don’t do anything wrong and just want attention.  They want to tell us about their weekend, their 3-week trip to Italy, their new great, grandchild.  We are so hurried and focused with what is on our desk – the reports, the papers, the e-mail and voicemail messages that we can’t forget to keep in touch the heart of what we do.  If we just take a few minutes for those volunteers, we’ll have less anxiety (I hope) when they do interrupt us.  They’ll walk away content that you gave them the attention they needed.  We, then, can continue on with being in “the zone.” 

Many of us are type A doing this job as director of volunteers (including myself).  When we’re focused, it’s challenging to have open, welcoming arms, with constant interruptions.  As someone who schedules everything, I haven’t found a way to build in interruptions…sorry Franklin Covey.  But we survive as we always do. 

When things are too busy for you to not listen or give that attention, just let them know you are on a deadline and would be happy to hear about their trip, children, new car, etc. later that morning or afternoon.  Or better yet, you could call them if you feel you’ve given them the cold shoulder and just chat for 2-3 minutes.  So, take a moment to listen to your volunteers.  It won’t hurt, I promise. 



Short description of this series: "Organizations are successful at achieving their mission when volunteers and staff are a team. Evaluate the elements of the relationships in your organization and outline the strategies to make things better."

Purchase this package by clicking on either of the following links, which will redirect you to a secure shopping site. Evaluation Only $25.00 and Evaluation & Consultation Package - Best Deal! $99.95 (Resource List not available on this package.)

The author of the Federal Government Volunteer Programs page is melissa.heinlein@va.gov, MA, MS, CAVS. Melissa is the Chief of Voluntary Service at the Philadelphia VA Medical Center, (215) 823-5868. Before venturing to the nonprofit sector, Melissa Heinlein spent time working for financial, IT, and pharmaceutical companies. With her business and marketing background, she took those skills and worked for Junior Achievement and structured a formal volunteer program at Hope Springs Equestrian Therapy before going into healthcare at Abington Memorial Hospital as the Assistant Director of Volunteer Resources. Her latest adventure is Chief, Voluntary Service at Philadelphia VA Medical Center. Melissa is past president and current board member of the Delaware Valley of Association for Volunteer Administration and current member-at-large for PSDVS, Eastern Chapter. She serves as an advisor for a grassroots organization “Spark the Wave” to encourage youth volunteerism. She holds a MA in Communications from West Chester University, MS in Administration of Human Services from Chestnut Hill College, and is a certified administrator of volunteer services through ASDVS. She is currently pursuing her PhD in Human Development at Marywood University. In her spare time, she enjoys spending time with family and friends, writing, sports, and exploring the outdoors. She prides herself when she talks about interacting with volunteers 5-99 years old – horses and dogs included.


The National Association of Volunteer Programs in Local Government (NAVPLG) is an association of administrators, coordinators and directors of volunteer programs in local government. Its purpose is to strengthen volunteer programs in local government through leadership, advocacy, networking and information exchange. NAVPLG is an affiliate of the National Association of Counties and is seeking affiliate status with the National League of Cities. Cost is $20 for individuals and $75 for group local government membership. An affiliate membership is $25 and is intended for those who are not local government members but may have an interest in the group. There is a quarterly newsletter, national network, and access to NACo's Volunteerism Project. For more information contact Robin Popik, who is a Volunteer Resource Supervisor. She can be reached by phone at 972-941-7114. Be sure to mention you read about this in Volunteer Today.

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