By Judy Marihaizy, RedRover Responders Team Leader
I became a RedRover Responders volunteer in 2006 but didn’t have the opportunity to go on my first deployment until January 2011, when I travelled to northern Arizona to help care for hundreds of dogs and cats rescued from a hoarding situation. Assisting in the rescue of these sweet, neglected creatures was as rewarding as I expected. But the people I met and friendships I made, from RedRover and the other animal advocacy groups — HSUS, Petsmart Charities and more — was truly inspiring. One of them was Beth Gammie, now RedRover’s Director of Field Services, who had deployed to Arizona as a volunteer photographer.
In June 2012 I became a RedRover Responders Team Leader and led my first workshop to train other new RedRover Responders volunteers. My best friend and fellow RedRover Responders volunteer, Jan Wieneke, co-facilitated, and Carol Dangelo Treska, whom we both met at the Arizona deployment, helped in organizing and sharing experiences. Since that first workshop, I have facilitated about seven others in the western United States, from Seattle to San Francisco and Redondo Beach. I always tell participants to be sure to keep their volunteer profiles current and to be patient in waiting for the deployment email from RedRover, using as an example my own five-year wait before getting the call to deploy.
Fast forward to my most recent deployment in late February 2019. RedRover partnered with GreaterGood and Rescue Rebuild to upgrade and improve the pet areas at a domestic violence shelter in central Phoenix. Shortly after the first morning briefing and introductions, all the “red shirts” began happily demolishing walls and using power tools. I looked at a volunteer next me and we both said, “You look very familiar.” Within a few minutes we placed each other at the workshop I facilitated in San Francisco in 2017 in which she had participated to become a RedRover Responders volunteer. The volunteer turned out to be Sheri Madsen, who is also the PR Specialist on the RedRover staff in Sacramento.
The next morning briefing and introductions to new RedRover Responders volunteer arrivals led to another workshop reunion. Elise had just flown in from San Diego and after our greeting said, “You were my workshop teacher last August!”
By the last day of the shelter deployment, we were all exhausted from the long days of hard work demolishing, sawing, carrying, painting and building. But we also felt so rewarded because the new pet areas were beautiful and would be an enriching environment for the pets and their families. As another RedRover Responders volunteer, Jennifer, and I walked towards our cars, we talked about all of our past RedRover Responders trainings and deployments. This was Jennifer’s first deployment, and we discovered that she was a participant in my very first Team Leader workshop training in Phoenix in June 2012!
I decided to look up the other participants that attended the two workshops in Phoenix and found that Tammy had, likewise, been to the workshop in 2012. I emailed Tammy to discover that this shelter rebuild was her first deployment, as well. I was thrilled that four of my workshop participants and I had reconnected here and find it very affirming when folks who attend my workshops not only are deployed but are such valuable participants at these events.
To RedRover Responders volunteers all over the U.S. and Canada, you will be contacted to deploy. Be patient, keep your profiles updated and follow RedRover on social media. You may get that email in five months, like Elise, or your first event might be in six years like Jen and Tammy. But it will come, and you will get the opportunity to make a real difference in the lives of animals.