Whether it’s a bird with a broken wing or an injured opossum, Operation Wildlife takes care of all kinds of injured critters in the area — but that takes time and manpower. The volunteer group is facing a serious shortage of helping hands right now.
Operation Wildlife director Diane Johnson estimated that in August, they lost approximately 38 percent of their volunteer workforce. Some of that is because students who were helping them over the summer have returned to school, but volunteers say it seems like more than the usual loss this year.
It’s a big problem when you have anywhere between 200 and 400 animals that need care every day. The group usually has about 100 volunteers on its roster.
“We have animals that have to be fed every 30 minutes, 16 hours a day. They have to be fed on a schedule. It’s multiple feedings and cleanings per day,” Johnson said.
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For now, existing volunteers have been taking on extra shifts to make up for the smaller workforce, but that’s not a permanent solution.
“Once you’ve been there and start working and you see how much good is being done, it’s hard to not go in,” said Trisha Still. “Once you see the need and how much good you can do by just stepping up six or seven hours a week — it’s so rewarding.”
Still, who lives in Lenexa, volunteers as an administrative assistant for the group, but she also gets her hands dirty, helping with the laundry, food preparation and other housekeeping duties.
“The washing machine never shuts off from the time people arrive at 8 a.m. until they leave. (It’s full of) sheets and towels from stalls and kennels,” Still said. “It is just a lot of hard work to make sure they’re fed and have clean bedding.”
Preparing the food for the animals involves lots of chopping and pureeing.
“It’s like being in a hospital. (The animals) get that kind of care every day, so every shift, people have to take care of every kind of animal that’s there,” Still said. “Everybody wants to work with puppies and cats but I just thought Operation Wildlife seems to have a greater need, because it’s very specialized.”
Signing up to help is a big commitment, because the group requires that volunteers be available for the same shift on the same day each week. The three shifts available are 8 a.m. to 3 p.m., 3 p.m. to 9 p.m. and 4 p.m. to 10 p.m.
There are other ways to volunteer with the group by doing things such as educational programming, but the place where they really need more hands is direct animal care.
“The main thing is that people need to understand that we are working with live, injured animals, (and we) need consistency,” Johnson said. “A lot of folks think, ‘I’ll just go in for a day.’ ”
To reach Beth Lipoff, send email to email@example.com.
You can help
Volunteers must be 18 years old to work with the animals. For more information on how to volunteer with Operation Wildlife, visit www.owl-online.org or call 913 631-6566.