A huge part of our mission is our community outreach initiative, helping residents provide for their pets by giving them access to the resources they need. Eight months ago, we created a prompt on our voicemail system for “Community,” where East St. Louis residents could call 24/7 for help. Little did we know that this was going to add a whole new aspect to our program.
As you can imagine, we get all kinds of calls in to this line. What started as a resource targeted at East St. Louis residents soon morphed into a hotline for requests from all over the area. We received calls from people who were desperate in their mission to find a good home for their pet, report an injured animal, get advice on an animal they had found or frantically searching for a lost family member. We are an organization that is primarily volunteer based—how would we ever manage returning all of these voicemails? We considered turning it off, or only returning calls to people in our service area (East St. Louis, IL). But once we started listening to these voicemails, we quickly disregarded those thoughts. Even if we can’t help everybody, we can share resources and provide guidance to help in whatever capacity we can. One comment we heard time and time again: “Thank you for calling me back! I have called so many places and haven’t heard back from anyone.”
Being a part of a rescue group, we know how hard it can be to get back to the countless requests and calls. We believe this community line really makes us unique. We may not be able to solve your problem, but we will call you back and do everything we can to direct you.
Volunteer Sandy Gambill managed this line for about eight months before taking on a program lead role within the rescue. Here is what she had to say: “It can be emotionally draining to answer call after call from people dealing with what are usually heartbreaking situations, especially if you can’t offer to take in their pet. You might think callers would be angry when you don’t have an immediate solution, but most of them are just thankful to have someone to talk through the situation with. The gratitude they show you for calling them back can be really humbling.”
We began tracking the types of calls and where the caller was calling from. Here is a snapshot of 2015 (after we began tracking) and so far in 2016. We are happy to be here to try to help those in need in any way we can!
— Written by Natalie Creamer, Gateway Pet Guardians Outreach Program Lead