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GDB Celebrates National Volunteer Week

Monday April 08, 2024

GDB Volunteer Laura holds up arms full of gift bags in the California Gift Shop.

Nonprofit organizations like Guide Dogs for the Blind (GDB), who depend on the commitment and service of volunteers, set the week of April 21st to 27th to honor and thank the volunteers who give of their time and talent. During the week, GDB will be hosting a Volunteer Education Day and Recognition Luncheon. Campus Volunteers, Breeder Custodians, and Foster Care Providers are invited to a morning filled with information and updates from our leadership and program managers. A celebration of volunteers’ achievements and a picnic lunch follows.

About 500 Foster Care Providers like Aerial Gilbert offer essential care for GDB dogs in their homes. Foster Care Providers care for dogs on a short-term basis. “These are folks who are so giving and so generous of their time and resources, taking the dogs to and from campus, sometimes every day,” says James Dress, GDB Dog Placement Manager.

Another 350 Breeder Custodians like Tracy Hoffman provide loving homes to GDB’s breeder dogs. “Our incredible Breeder Custodians play a critical role in our ability to usher in the next generation of guide dog puppies, and for that, we are so grateful to them,” says GDB Breeding Manager Lauren Holtz. “These breeding dogs are cherished family members who live enriching lives, both during their career and in their retirement.”

Jen Bernstein, GDB’s Volunteer Engagement Manager, says another 400+ volunteers help with various jobs on our California and Oregon campuses. These positions include brood and puppy socializers in our Puppy Center, dog walkers, dog bathers, meal preppers, and dishwashers like Ric Sward.

Others, like volunteer Jean Rice, assist clients, serve meals, or drive them to and from the airport to campus while they undergo training. And plenty of volunteers help in the office, GDB’s gift shop, or lead campus tours. “There’s no shortage of ways to help,” says Jen, noting that her team works hard to ensure each volunteer is placed in a position they find exciting and meaningful. “We’re enormously grateful for every person who chooses to spend a few hours of their day with us,” says Jen. “We simply could not do what we do without them.”

Sarah Blevins, Director of Puppy Raising, oversees approximately 3,000 volunteers in the western United States who raise 800 puppies each year. Since this group of volunteers is so large, GDB recognizes them by hosting two separate appreciation events on our California and Oregon campuses each summer called Fun Day. Each year Fun Day takes on a different theme to celebrate and honor puppy raising volunteers for their contributions to nurturing future breeder dogs, guide dogs, and K9 Buddies. “We always say it takes a village to raise one puppy, but it really does,” says Sarah. “No one person raises a puppy. “It truly does take a dedicated group of people, and we couldn’t be more grateful.”

Jen, meanwhile, says one of the questions her team asks people who want to become volunteers is: “What do you hope to take away from volunteering?” She says sometimes this question throws people, but it shouldn’t. “We want our volunteers to know that it’s okay to want to get something out of volunteering, so recognition and appreciation is a large part of what we do.”

Jen notes that many volunteers talk about how much they love being a part of the GDB community and working toward something greater than themselves. “Our volunteers are a community. They care about each other, and some of them have been volunteering for decades.”

During the week-long celebration, Jen says awards will be handed out to volunteers who have volunteered for one to 40 years. “We even had a couple of volunteers celebrating 50 years of service in the past, which was quite a milestone to celebrate, but one year of service is worth celebrating, too.”

Categories: GDB Community, GDB Volunteers, Puppy Raising