Monthly Volunteer Profile: Robert Hazelton
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: Robert Hazelton
Story by Brian Kozak, photo by Jim Harvey
The Winnipeg Humane Society is by-and-large a happy place with staff and volunteers excited to see our furry friends find them new homes. And visitors – especially the younger ones – are thrilled to see all the cats, dogs and other animals.
But you’d be hard-pressed to disagree that the shelter’s happiness meter doesn’t get a bit more amped up on Wednesdays when Robert Hazelton comes in for rabbit wrangling, with some joke-telling and a bit of conversation thrown in.
Robert volunteers with the rabbits every Wednesday through Community Venture, an agency that provides developmental day programming and a variety of other services to adults living with intellectual disabilities.
He’s been coming to the WHS each week (as long as there are rabbits at the shelter) for more than seven years. He’s worked with cats and dogs in the past but “I love working with the rabbits,” he says. “I like to pet them and they see me as a friend.”
“Robert is an all-around great guy who wants to be involved, and out in the community giving back,” said Ashley Andrews, Community Venture Program Coordinator. “He wants to be part of his community. He comes up with new ideas and different ways of improving our programming.”
“Community Venture tries to get participants out into the community,” explained Robert’s mother Valerie. “When Robert first came here he started socializing puppies then switched to wrangling rabbits rabbits five or six years ago.
“The rabbits don’t cuddle me very much,” he said. “They just hop around and play with each other.” Usually there are only one or two rabbits at the shelter, but sometimes as many as five or six. Robert feeds them and cleans up after them. He always tries to learn their names.
Outside of the Winnipeg Humane Society, Robert keeps a hectic schedule. He volunteers one day a week at a daycare, walks laps around the Pan-Am Pool at least once a week, paints, sews, quilts, writes short stories, has taken classes at Prairie Theatre Exchange (for a number of years) and once a month he is a volunteer performer at the Church coffee house.
“I get to do Happy Mikes,” he said. “I go up on stage and I tell people nine or 10 jokes. I get my jokes from the computer or from a couple of people.
Valerie said Robert loves telling jokes, something to which other volunteers and staff at the WHS can attest. “People will see him at church and will say ‘Robert, what’s your joke this week?’” she noted.
“You can’t meet Robert without him letting you know a new joke that he learned that day,” said Ashley. “His daily routine is learning a new joke to tell and he’s always wanting to put a smile on someone’s face.”
“Robert is a delight visiting with the rabbits in the shelter on Wednesdays,” explained Kelle Greene, WHS Manager, Volunteer Services. And he enjoys working with the staff and fellow volunteers.
“They think I’m an angel with white wings,” he said, with a grin that lit up the room.