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Clowder House Foundation, part one of two: interview with Jody Armstrong

Clowder House feline residents relax
Clowder House feline residents relax
Photo courtesy Anna Eggemeyer

Clowder House, a no-kill sanctuary that provides rescue and adoption services - as well as lifelong care - for cats, always welcomes new volunteers. The experience can be rewarding, as volunteers often enjoy the company of the over 300 feline inhabitants of the 3134 Wyoming Street shelter as they work. Jody Armstrong, Volunteer Coordinator, explains why Clowder House and its volunteers are so important.

Q: How long have you been volunteering at Clowder House?

A: I have been with Clowder House with since late in 2009. My husband and I had just purchased a home and we were initially looking online for a shelter where we could adopt an older cat or two. We found Clowder House online and were intrigued by it because it was not a traditional shelter, but a permanent home for cats whose owners could make arrangements for the lifelong care of their pet at any time when the owner is no longer able to provide that care. We stopped in for a visit and it was so amazing that we both signed on to volunteer.

Q: How many cats are currently housed at Clowder?

A: Funny that you should ask – we just had a furry head count in December! We are currently at 303 adult cats and 17 kittens. When I first started, we had approximately 150.

Q: What is one of the best things about volunteering at Clowder House?

A: I have a hard time limiting it to one. There are different layers of satisfaction of volunteering at Clowder House for me. Being the first person to come in for the day and being met by a sea of cats that all want to be picked up and talked to. Being one of the last persons to leave after the cleaning is done and all is quiet and the kitties have curled up in beds for the night. As a volunteer trainer, I love meeting and working with everyone that comes through our door. One of the best things for me is when I am fortunate enough to watch as other volunteers fall in love with the cats, the place, and the idea of Clowder House the way I have over the years. There is something very special about working together with others towards a common end, especially in an environment where no one is paid to do it.

Q: What is Clowder House's greatest need for volunteers right now?

A: Like many nonprofits, our volunteer roster can be stable for nearly a year and then change dramatically in a month due to moves, job changes, or college graduations. We have many fantastic volunteers who come two or more times per week, and we have other amazing volunteers who come only once or twice per month. Our greatest need for volunteers is always for persons who are willing and able to come to do the general care-taking (washing food and water bowls, cleaning litter boxes, doing laundry, vacuuming, etc.). Ideally, I would love to see a person or a whole family adopt a space to clean once a week or bi-weekly where they would also spend time playing with and getting to know the cats – in general giving them love and comfort. I would also really love to have a list of persons who would like to volunteer on an on-call basis. We need volunteers of all ages – working or retired – days and evenings – weekdays and weekends. Shifts can be tailored to your needs. I try to balance our volunteers’ desires, what they hope to get out of their experience, with our need to take care of our kitties. For more information about volunteering, please e-mail clowderhouse@juno.com.

Q: How many volunteers do you currently have, and how often does the typical volunteer come to Clowder House?

A: We have about 52 core volunteers. Some of them come once per month, some come three or four times per week. Most of our volunteers come in for four hours on average. A few volunteers will stay longer than that to hang with the kitties when the work is done. We do have a large college student contingent of volunteers that are here in the Spring and Fall semesters that come in on the weekends for two-hour shifts.

Q: Do volunteers typically get together socially outside of volunteering?

A: We have gotten together around fundraising events, like making pet blankets to sell to raise money for Clowder House or working/attending annual fundraising events like Fur Ball and trivia night. We have a yearly volunteer appreciation dinner. Some volunteers make friends here and may socialize together outside of Clowder House.

Q: Do you have a favorite cat?

A: A favorite? I love them all! Here are a few: Itchy and Scratchy, who have memorable names and personalities. Maya always climbs my pant leg for a pet. Gabrielle thinks that she is a scarf to be worn at all times. Emma sits on the laundry, waiting for a chin scratch. Angel Bob doesn’t stand out, but if you rub his belly he will just purr and purr with contentment. Bailey gives hugs around the neck. One-Eyed Jack, an FIV kitty, is a survivor with a great story. Angel has green eyes, is less than a year old, and has had seven babies. Mittens, whose owner passed away recently, has soulful eyes and the biggest feet ever.

Q: Do you have any pets at home?

A: Cats, of course! We have several from Clowder House. Mattie was 10 when we adopted her and my husband selected her because she jumped on his shoulder every time he would come clean. Summer is a special girl who came to Clowder House pregnant – had her babies (all adopted), then came home with us.

For additional information, prospective volunteers can e-mail: clowderhouse@juno.com.