Volunteer Spotlight: All you need is love and a cat
By DEBORAH ANN TRIPOLDI
Jennifer McMillan, 48, of Montclair, volunteers her time at Montclair Township Animal Shelter. She spends seven days a week there tending to the cats and kittens. With her three kids in school—one in college and two in high school; she has the time to give to cats that have been abandoned and need forever homes. McMillian and her family moved to Montclair from Toronto, Ontario, Canada in 2011.
In this series we highlight a hometown person who has given freely of their time and effort to help people, animals or the environment. To suggest a person or an organization for this series, email firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com.
What inspires you to volunteer?
I love animals. I always had pets.
How many cats do you have?
Cats?- A lot. I have a lot of cats, two dogs and a bearded dragon. We have our own cats and we have cats that we are fostering from the shelter in our home. We have a separate floor for foster cats with two separate rooms up there. Two of our cats made the trip down from Canada with the family. We have several others that we have taken in from New Jersey and New York. Many of these cats would not otherwise be adoptable, they are not well socialized. We call them our indoor ferals. We had our entire backyard cat-fenced so we that can let our cats out into the yard, but they can’t wander the neighborhood. Streets and cars are dangerous for cats.
What are some of your volunteering duties?
Over the past two years, my role at the shelter has evolved. I started out at the shelter as a volunteer dog walker, but after the fire in April of 2016, I took on the responsibility of overseeing and coordinating the cats into foster homes. Its more a major role facilitating cat fostering while we were not in the building. As we moved back into the shelter, I continued supporting staff with the management of the cat foster program and also began helping with cat adoption screening. Late last fall, the acting director, Liz Morgan, asked me to assume the role of volunteer coordinator at the shelter as we move toward being fully operational again, hopefully, very soon. I also am part of the community outreach. I go to schools and tell the kids how the shelter supports the animals. I show slide shows of all the cats up for adoption.
What have you learned volunteering?
Every person should have a cat. And I have learned how important it is to know your own limits and to be humble.
Whats your favorite part of volunteering?
My favorite things about volunteering at the shelter are making a perfect match by helping someone who is looking to adopt a cat find the one that suits their lifestyle and expectations. And working with feral cats —the ones that have never lived with people. Helping them learn to trust and love people. It’s a beautiful thing. Very rewarding.
How do you feel at the end of a day?
Its awesome, I just left the shelter at 2:40 p.m. to pick up my kids from school and going back for one last hour. I’m exhausted, but its so rewarding. You find an animal that comes in shut down and then find its proper family, it’s great. I work with a great bunch of people, all motivated to do the same thing.
How does your family feel about your volunteering service?
My family is extremely supportive. My youngest Rowan, who is in the 10th grade, comes in and volunteers. She helps socialize the cats.
What do you do on your free time outside of volunteering?
Care for my own animals. When I can, I go visit my daughter in Montreal, Canada, she attends McGill University.
Do you also work?
No, I’m at the shelter seven days a week. Its like a full time job and something I love to do. My husband, David, has a good job and gives me the freedom to volunteer. If I had to work I wouldn’t be able to do this. He is a banker for RBC Capital Markets in New York.
Montclair Township Animal Shelter
77 North Willow St.
Hours of operation: noon to 4 p.m.
Shelter cats/kittens: 54
Foster cats: 12
Shelter Dogs: Five. Puppies are in foster and will be available in coming weeks.
Other animals: None at the moment. Bunnies, birds and reptiles from time to time.
Volunteer age: Ages 16 years old and up.
The shelter is always looking for individuals and families interested in cat/kitten fostering, especially as they head into kitten season.