Monthly Volunteer Profile: Beth Pollard, Adele Walker and Jennifer Polet
A group of volunteers founded the Winnipeg Humane Society in 1894 and are vital to our success today! With the help of volunteers, we can provide care, love and attention to our four (and sometimes two) legged friends until they find their forever homes. The MVP (Monthly Volunteer Profile) will recognize the work and get to know these special MVP’s in a spotlight each month that includes an article and photo shoot. MVPs will receive a framed photo and gift card as our thanks!
MVP is a volunteer-driven project with articles by Brian Kozak and pictures by Jim Harvey.
MVP: Beth Pollard, Adele Walker and Jennifer Polet
See Spot Read Volunteer Team
Late, great film legend W.C. Fields might have once warned people to never work with children or animals, but that hasn’t prevented Winnipeg Humane Society volunteers Beth Pollard, Adele Walker and Jennifer Polet.
This month’s WHS co-MVPs are the volunteer assistants for the See Spot Read program, operated in partnership with St. John Ambulance. See Spot Read offers children a safe and non-judgmental opportunity to develop their reading and comprehension skills, reading out loud to therapy dogs.
The program offers three 10-week sessions a year. In each session there are three groups of six students (selected by the participating schools). While three students read to three dogs for 20-25 minutes, the other three students work with Adele, Beth or Jennifer (depending upon the day and location) on reading-related activities, such as a word search puzzles or a discussion about the book they just read. Then the students switch from reading to activities, or vice-versa.
Three therapy dogs attend each session and the child will read to the same dog every week for the 10 weeks. By doing so, a relationship is fostered between the child and dog. By the end of the 10 weeks, the children often refer to their canine friends as ‘my dog,’ Adele noted.
“It’s important that we use therapy dogs for the sessions,” she continued. “They have to be dogs that will lie still for a long time period on command.” Beth added that while the WHS coordinates the program, it relies upon the St. John Ambulance for extensive help. “We have three volunteer dog handlers from St. Johns that are there every week with their dog.”
The dogs are an assortment of breeds: big labs, Chihuahua mixes and more. There was even one student who they found out was afraid of dogs and was paired with a large Newfoundland dog. By the end of the session, the two were best friends.
Each of the MVPs got their start in other areas of the Humane Society but found their calling in See Spot Read.
Jennifer had a career as an education assistant and had been a WHS volunteer for several years when she was approached to help out with this because of her background. “I jumped at it because it incorporates everything we’re all interested in,” she said.
Beth, who has also participated in the annual bake sale, Paws for the Season, and other events, said she came to the Humane Society after her dog passed away and “I needed a dog fix.” She learned about the See Spot Read at the volunteer orientation session five years ago and was drawn to the program.
Adele has been a fixture with the WHS. She often leads the tours at volunteer orientation sessions because at one time or another over her many years at the WHS, she’s done almost every volunteer job. Currently, in addition to See Spot Read, she does remote canine handling, is a photography assistant, prepping the animals for their pictures you see on the WHS website, and assisting at all sorts of special events.
The women’s hard work and dedication is appreciated at the WHS. “These volunteers work so hard for this program to run smoothly and they do it with such passion for the program,” said Angela Rinne, WHS assistant manager of Education, responsible for running See Spot Read. “They really believe in the magic that the program creates for the students that participate, and we could not run See Spot Read without them. They build strong relationships with our St John Ambulance volunteers and dogs, as well as the students and staff from our participating schools. They are truly appreciated for all of the hard work and dedication they show.”
Well, WC Fields’ opinion notwithstanding, Beth, Adele and Jennifer are very happy to work with dogs and children.
“We’re here because we love animals and we like working with children so this is the best of both worlds, said Jennifer.
“It’s heart warming to see the kids come out of their shells,” added Beth. “They can be very funny. One came in the first day and said to me “I’m here to face my fears. I said ‘What are your fears?’ and it turned out he was afraid of dogs. You get that kind of thing from the children.”
“The kids end up loving the dogs because they read to the same dog for 10 weeks and they get really attached,” said Adele. “The owners bring their dogs and if they’re a little late the kids will sometimes get upset, but all is forgiven once the dog arrives.”