Column: Here’s how volunteers are ‘vital’ to Pasadena Humane

Pasadena Humane volunteers

Pasadena Humane’s 2023 Volunteer of the Year Juan Vargas (center) is pictured alongside shelter staff at a recent volunteer appreciation event. Juan accrued an astonishing 1,500 hours of service in 2023 alone. He also received a Presidential Volunteer Lifetime Achievement Award from the White House, which recognizes volunteers with 4,000 or more lifetime volunteer hours. Learn more about volunteer opportunities at

Every April, we celebrate Volunteer Appreciation Month. I am incredibly thankful for our volunteers at Pasadena Humane. Simply put, we can only do what we do because of them.

More than 2,000 Pasadena Humane volunteers donated 116,488 hours of service in 2023. That’s equivalent to the work of 58 full-time employees! By these metrics, 2023 was by far the most successful year of the volunteer program in its history.

With more than 40 volunteer opportunities, volunteers help our organization in so many ways. Of course, volunteers walk the dogs, provide enrichment for our cats and critters and foster kittens and other animals in their homes.

They do so much more! Volunteers check in pet parents at our vaccine and spay/neuter clinics and assist with training classes.

They distribute food and supplies at our Pet Food Pantry and educate children in our humane education programs.

A dedicated crew of volunteers works in our laundry room, ensuring that the animals always have clean bedding.

Our fabulous volunteers also help pets find new homes through our adoption programs.

Volunteering as shelter ambassadors, adoption counselors, part of the mobile adoptions crew, or at adoption partner locations, like Pet Food Express, these passionate folks connect pets with adoptive families.

Let’s not forget our wildlife volunteers. Volunteers assist community members in resolving wildlife issues through our Wildlife Helpline.

In our wildlife rehabilitation program, volunteers assist in caring for and transporting sick, injured and orphaned wild animals.

In too many ways to list here, volunteers are vital to our daily operations at Pasadena Humane.

We recently held a celebration for 150 leading volunteers from all volunteer programs. Among those in attendance was Juan Vargas, our Volunteer of the Year. Juan accrued an astonishing 1,500 hours of service in 2023 alone.

Juan was voted Volunteer of the Year by his fellow volunteers and Pasadena Humane staff.

A common theme emerged from his many nominations: his continued willingness and eagerness to help whenever and wherever needed.

Whether fostering kittens, transporting injured wildlife to a specialized treatment center, helping with outreach events, or greeting prospective adopters during our daily walk-in adoption hours, Juan was always willing to lend a hand.

You may have even seen him walking alongside our Rose Parade float on New Year’s Day, proudly carrying the ”Foster” banner.

Juan is a veteran who served our country in the armed forces, and now he is a volunteer who is dedicating his talents and service to the benefit of animals and the people who love them in our community.

We were happy to present Juan not only with our Volunteer of the Year award, but also with a Presidential Volunteer Lifetime Achievement Award. This medal from the White House recognizes volunteers with 4,000 or more volunteer hours over a lifetime.

Like most days, Juan was in the shelter volunteering the day of the awards ceremony.

In addition, along with 200 other volunteers, Juan will be volunteering this Sunday, April 21 at the “Wiggle Waggle Walk & Run,” our signature family and dog-friendly event around the Rose Bowl.

“Our ‘Wiggle Waggle Walk & Run’ volunteers go above and beyond, turning a day of fundraising into a vibrant community festival,” explains Chris Briffett, Director of Volunteer Services.

“They handle everything from registration to refreshments to cheers of encouragement, providing both two-legged and four-legged participants with an unforgettable experience that not only raises funds for Pasadena Humane but also strengthens bonds within our community,” Chris adds.

Volunteer positions for the “Wiggle Waggle Walk & Run” are now full, but you can still join us at the event! Onsite registration starts at 8 a.m. on Sunday, April 21 at  Brookside Park.

Learn more about the “Wiggle Waggle Walk & Run” and volunteering at the shelter at


Dia DuVernet is president and CEO of Pasadena Humane.

This blog post originally appeared as a column in the Pasadena Star-News on April 18, 2024.