Youth Volunteers Are Always Welcome at the Humane Society of the Tennessee Valley

Cera Smith, the volunteer coordinator at the Humane Society of the Tennessee Valley, spends the bulk of her day reviewing volunteer applications, organizing events and training those who donate their time to care for the animals. Having worked for the Humane Society in almost every capacity, she has a keen eye and big heart for the volunteer program, particularly when it comes to the younger ones.

“Youth volunteers are my favorite part of the program. I love the adults, and they’re capable of doing things kids can’t do, but kids come in here and learn, and then they go out in the world and tell others about it,” Cera says. “Having youth volunteers is the fastest way to achieve our mission because as they grow up, they’ll teach other people. We’re essentially working with the next generation of pet owners.”

There are plenty of jobs for young, eager animal lovers, from reading books aloud and playing to sorting newspapers and other donations. The first step is a child volunteer application online, followed by participating in orientation and training. (Those under 18 who aren’t able to drive must be accompanied by an adult when in the facility.) Once a volunteer is approved, Cera endeavors to match the child with his or her desired program and coordinates a workable schedule.

“It’s awesome to have volunteers who spoil the animals rotten,” she says. “We don’t limit people to anything because everyone has different skills sets.”

Donate Time
There are myriad tasks at the Humane Society that require volunteer efforts. The Reading Team incorporates readers of all ages who understand how a comforting voice makes for good company. If the volunteer prefers something more active, he can participate in Doggercize, a program designed to help older dogs get regular exercise. Animal enrichment is valuable, because while most animals aren’t at the shelter for too long before getting adopted, living in a cage temporarily can be stressful. They need mental and physical stimulation, so human interaction helps keep the dogs and cats healthy while awaiting their permanent home.

Donate Money or Supplies
What many may not know is that it takes $2 to feed one dog for a day. For that same $2, a dog can receive a rabies vaccine, while a $10 donation covers both rabies and distemper.

“We try to show people that even if it’s a small amount, that donation makes a difference. It allows us to vaccinate an animal that otherwise wouldn’t get it,” Cera says.

For a young person, those few dollars can be a significant portion of his or her allowance or birthday money from Grandma. Just as significant is providing a life-saving vaccine or feeding a hungry animal that isn’t used to regular meals.

If they’d rather donate supplies, the Humane Society maintains an updated list of needs online at

Volunteer as a Group
Scout troops, ball teams and clubs alike are always invited to spend an afternoon sprucing up the facility, cleaning and reorganizing, and wrapping the day with animal enrichment—playing!

“Kids always want to work with puppies and kittens. Enrichment includes puzzle toys and treats and emotional attention, literally the best parts of being in an animal shelter,” Cera says.

One task that many groups tackle is sorting the newspaper shed and getting those donated newspapers moved to the puppy room. Groups aren’t required to go through training as individuals are, so it’s only a matter of contacting Cera and checking the calendar.

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