Barbara Brenke has lavished time on critters who can’t speak for themselves.
She spent years as a volunteer at the Humane Society of Central Arizona’s animal shelter in Payson, taking the shut-ins for a walk, nursing sick dogs and cats back to health and helping find homes for abandoned pets.
As if that weren’t enough, she also served on the Humane Society’s board of directors, helping the group raise money for a new shelter to replace the existing, ramshackle shelter in a 40-year-old converted house off Main Street.
Those she spent so many hours helping couldn’t thank her. All they could do was wag when she walked past — or showed up with a leash to give them a little exercise.
But the two-legged Humane Society fans made up for that last week, by naming her a special honoree in a banquet at the Payson Senior Center staged to thank the volunteers who make the whole thing possible.
“Without volunteers, we can’t do what we do every day,” said newly appointed Director Sarah Hock.
“They are the heart and soul of any organization, when you’re trying to accomplish a goal.”
Volunteer Coordinator Debbie Stephens also honored many other volunteers at the pizza lunch, handing out plaques and commendations.
The Humane Society has struggled through an eventful, but ultimately triumphant year. The Town of Payson backed off threats to dramatically cut its monthly contract and approved the indefinite continuation of its $7,500 monthly contract to handle strays picked up in town.
The shelter suffered a setback in January, when a storm damaged the roof of the aging building — but volunteers and donations from a local contractor helped get the damage repaired at minimal cost.
Finally, after two years of fund-raising for a new $2 million shelter, the Humane Society decided to go ahead with a scaled down plan to build a $500,000 shelter on land the group already owns next to the existing shelter.
Through all of that, dozens of volunteers kept the organization functioning — from taking care of the dogs and cats to running the aluminum can recycling operation.
“Without volunteers coming in, helping us in all different capacities — doing laundry, walking dogs, doing fund-raisers, brushing cats, playing with them — those are all things that as staff members we don’t always have time to do. They are such a wonderful contribution to any organization. I don’t think our shelter could get by without them.”