Volunteer of the Month

We’ve said it before, but we can’t say it too many times–our volunteers rock! VOKRA is driven by a fantastic team of dedicated volunteers. One way that we’d like to show our appreciation for this great bunch of caring people is by dedicating a monthly blog post to recognizing a volunteer of the month; someone who has really gone above and beyond (whether by fostering sick kitties, driving cats to vet appointments, taking on extra cat care shifts at our Operations Centre, helping with fundraising, or something else entirely) to help VOKRA save lives!

December 2017 - Pat Penner and David West

Pat and David initially discovered VOKRA when they wanted to add to their family of two senior, rescued cats. They adopted Cowboy and Arthur soon after, making it a gang of four. They met Brenda, who was Arthur’s foster, and she encouraged them to foster kittens after their senior cats passed away. While saying no at first, they soon agreed to foster Errol, Sheldon and Millie. Lo and behold, they fell in love with these kitties right away.

On top of fostering, Pat and David started driving for VOKRA in the summer of 2016. They’ve transported kitties everywhere from Richmond to Lion’s Bay (during rush hour!) and often pick up equipment to drop off at our Operations Centre. You can learn more about Pat and David on our blog here.

November 2017 - Anne Salomon

Anne has always been a cat lover, having grown up with a cat throughout her childhood. After she retired in 2008, she started volunteering with a shelter in Langley as their communications director and helped with fundraising. Taking a short break from that job, she quickly found herself volunteering with VOKRA, helping with trapping cats.

Anne came to realize how big the homeless cat situation is and wanted to help the best she could. She has now trapped and helped save several hundred cats and kittens! Some rescues that stand out to Anne are Little, Dude and their two siblings. These were day-old kitties found in an abandoned house under construction.

You can read more about Anne on our blog here.

September 2017 - Ellen Runnalls

Ellen’s been volunteering with VOKRA for almost six years. Time flies when it’s spent hanging out with cats! She mostly helps enter the cats’ bios and puts them up on the website. However, she’s taken on various other tasks in her “nine lives” as a volunteer that make it all a joyful experience. Volunteering is a great way to meet cats without having to take them all home… unless you do.

Some of Ellen’s favourite things about volunteering include meeting all the cats and getting to know their unique personalities (especially the shy ones); spending time with feral and semi-feral cats to watch them gain confidence while also earning their trust; and meeting the real cat ladies of this world who are all so dedicated and amazing, and without whom so many cats would never get a chance at a happy life.

You can read more about Ellen on our blog here.

July 2017 - Dania Sheldon

Dania discovered VOKRA when she rescued a cat who had been abandoned in a burning apartment; the humans had an illegal grow-op and left her there when an electrical fire started. She thought the cat might like company, so she looked online for options. It seemed to her VOKRA was a good fit as the foster system seemed a much better approach to cats’ welfare than the shelter model. Dania also had previous experience of caring for unweaned orphaned kittens. She has been volunteering with VOKRA since 2005, when she adopted her first three bottle-feeders who had been discovered in a bag in a dumpster.

Before moving to Gabriola Island, Dania was involved in the day-to-day running of VOKRA as the operations manager. She was in charge of many tasks, such as cat care, bringing kitties to new foster homes, picking up and delivering supplies, fundraising and developing publications such as our Mewsletter and annual VOKRA calendar. You can read more about Dania on our blog here.

June 2017 - Yana Sabanskis

Yana became involved with VOKRA around eight years ago when she worked at the Habitat for Humanity ReStore. There, she was familiarized with the faces of VOKRA – Karen and Maria – through their regular visits to restock supplies. She took the opportunity to understand our non-profit organization and the way we work to continuously provide the best care for kitties. Yana helped out with recycling and other odds and ends and, when our new Operations Centre opened in 2015, she continued recycling twice a week. Along with helping out at our Centre, Yana adopted from VOKRA and also fostered several cats, in which she has made strong, yet adorable memories with. You can read more about Yana on our blog here.

May 2017 - Marlene Smith

Marlene has always been a cat lover, having been involved with several cat rescue organizations. She joined the VOKRA volunteer team more than four years ago at an adoption event. She fostered a few cats here and there for a couple months, but decided not to continue due to her resident cats being less than amused by the lack of attention they were receiving. However, over the years she’s picked up short-term fostering again until longer term fosters can be found in Surrey or Vancouver.

Working from home, Marlene takes on many tasks at VOKRA. She enters health and medical information of kitties into our database, handles calendar distribution in Surrey and organizes community and fundraising events. As well, Marlene assists with the collection of donations, preparing tax receipts and documenting payments for online auctions. The volunteering doesn’t stop there! Marlene has also administrated and reported on two spay/neuter grants for VOKRA in Surrey. You can read more about Marlene on our blog here.

March 2017 - Nina Maravic

Nina began her role at VOKRA nearly two years ago, shortly after she adopted her two cats. In her first year, she took on the role of a volunteer recruitment coordinator. She wanted to become even more involved with the organization and so began her transition into planning events.

As an event planner at VOKRA, Nina works hard to make sure the events we participate in run smoothly. The first event Nina planned was the online Christmas Craft Fair in 2015 and included items from creative volunteers and local shops. Nina also organizes information booths at pet food stores, community events and pet conventions. Some large-scale events include the Pride Festival and Canada Day, which are great opportunities to raise awareness for VOKRA and kitties in need. In addition, Nina manages school visits where kittens are brought into classrooms and students learn about cat welfare and VOKRA. You can read more about Nina on our blog here.

Febuary 2017 - Peggy Sullivan

Peggy joined the VOKRA team seven years ago when her friend invited her to volunteer. As a busy individual, she always told herself she would work with animals in some way when she found time. As the adoptions team lead, Peggy’s in charge of training adoption counsellors and ensuring VOKRA’s kitties are going to the best forever homes available. She oversees the processes of matching kitties to applicants and making sure the adoptions team works together to make both the kitty and the adopter happy.

The best part of being the adoptions team lead for Peggy is to see how each and every adopter is so committed to the kitties and that the team gets to find furever homes for the kitties that come into VOKRA’s care. You can read more about Peggy on our blog here.

January 2017 - Joyce Grassi

If you’ve ever visited VOKRA’s website to adopt a kitty or two, learn about our organization or seek volunteer opportunities, you’ve come across our galleries of cats and kittens. Joyce joined VOKRA as a photography coordinator in September 2015. This role not only fueled her love for cats, but also her passion for photography. As the photography coordinator, Joyce is the link between our volunteer photographers and fosters who need a photo session done for the kitties in their care. Once the adorable photos are captured, it’s Joyce’s job to upload them to the website. Additionally, she coordinates with fosters when she notices cats need updated photos. Joyce has seen great success in getting kitties adopted quickly after new and improved photos have been uploaded to our site. She enjoys letting the photographer know when there has been a successful adoption – warm fuzzies all around! You can read more about Joyce on our blog here.

December 2016 - Mona Boucher

Mona’s been volunteering at VOKRA for approximately eight years, beginning by trapping a mom, dad and two teenage kittens in her neighbourhood. At VOKRA, Mona plays an integral role in several positions. She’s a trapper, feral tamer, colony caretaker, barn cat placer and a driver – she excels at all of them! Her favourite role is trapping as she loves being on the front lines and having first contact with cats and kittens in need. There’s no better feeling for her than when a trap closes and knowing that cat’s life is about to change forever.

As an outstanding VOKRA volunteer, Mona inspires all of us to work harder and give all we have to helping cats in need. She’s an amazing individual to work alongside and we thank Mona for all the time she’s dedicated to saving cats and kittens from all over the province. You can read more about Mona on our blog here.

November 2016 - Liz Menning

Liz first heard about VOKRA through the West Vancouver SPCA, then applied to be a foster in 2012. The current count for cared kitties in Liz’s home is 57! As much as Liz and her family enjoy fostering, it’s no longer feasible with four cats in their household – three of which are foster fails! Liz’s three kids are happily a part of VOKRA and even set up lemonade stands to raise hundreds of dollars to save the kitties. In the four years Liz has been volunteering with VOKRA, she’s taken on many tasks, including caring for kittens, creating the online foster handbook, helping out at adoption events and much more. Liz’s goal is to make sure all the kitties out there are brought in, cared for and, ultimately, loved.

As a volunteer, Liz has found a rewarding hobby in trapping and bringing in kitties to VOKRA. It doesn’t matter how feral or how busy the Ops Centre is, because VOKRA treats every incoming kitty with love and kindness. You can read more about Liz on our blog here.

October 2016 - Laura Deck

Laura was first introduced to VOKRA at the ‘Spay-ghetti No Balls Dinner’ fundraiser back in 2012. Just one week later she trapped her first feral cat, Mocha, who she’d been feeding for a while. After that she fell in love with helping kitties in every way – socializing, rescuing and general cat care. Helping all the sick, injured and feral kitties warmed Laura’s heart and all she wanted to do was continue her work at VOKRA. She helped out at the Operations Centre when it first opened and learned numerous volunteer jobs along the way.

“Mocha made it clear he was a vicious cat and wanted nothing more than food from me,” said Laura about the feral boy who started her work at VOKRA. “After trapping and neutering, he still came by every day to eat, but ran off right after finishing his meal. Eventually he started to understand I meant him no harm, which prompted him to stay and eat in front of me. After almost three years, he finally started to calm down and then it happened… one day he rubbed up against my leg and I couldn’t believe it!”. You can learn more about Laura on our blog here.

August 2016 - Natasha Wodak

Not only is Natasha a valued volunteer, she’s also a professional distance runner, athlete ambassador for Asics Canada and, come August 12, she’ll also be an Olympian when she steps on the track in Rio!

Running is no doubt one of Natasha’s top passions, but cuddling with kitties is definitely right up there. She started volunteering at VOKRA in October 2014 as a cat care volunteer coming in each Friday for a shift whenever she’s in town. She feeds the kitties, cleans litter boxes and cages, does dishes and laundry and, best of all, she cuddles all the kitties to help them socialize.

One of Natasha’s best moments volunteering was bottle-feeding a newborn kitten for the first time and it nearly brought tears to her eyes. Like all volunteers, Natasha has met a lot of cats that have a special place in her heart. You can learn more about Natasha and read the story of her first foster on our blog here.

June 2016 - Andrea Tremblay-Legendre

Andrea is a pianist and, after hurting her arm due to excessive playing, she had to go from playing the piano five hours a day to nothing. During this time she discovered VOKRA and thought we’d be the perfect organization to volunteer with because she loves animals, especially cats, and she’s an incredibly helpful person. Almost a year ago, Andrea started volunteering at our Operations Centre before becoming a foster parent in October 2015. At the start of this year she also joined our medical team.

The best part about volunteering for Andrea is socializing with her foster cats. The two fosters she has had were really shy cats upon arrival and she loved seeing them learning to trust her. She also enjoys watching the cats evolve, from when they first arrive at our Operations Centre as sick, feral or shy, to when they get better and go into foster care and on to finding their forever family and home. Andrea loves being a witness to those happy endings VOKRA helps to provide and knowing she’s a part of their successful recoveries and tamings. You can learn more about Andrea on our blog here.

May 2016 - Lindsey Dawes

Lindsey has been volunteering with VOKRA since June 2015. As someone who has an older cat, she felt volunteering at VOKRA would be an educational place to learn how to care for her aging kitty. Playing an integral role at our Operations Centre’s reception, Lindsey welcomes visitors and walk-ins. She is the fresh face of VOKRA! She explains how our organization works and about the programs we run, all designed to improve the lives of kitties. Other than working at reception, she also provides administration support, where she learns all about kitties through procedures, documentation and updates.

As a volunteer at VOKRA’s reception, Lindsey plays an integral role in extending our organization’s purpose by being the first point of contact for many current and future volunteers, as well as for those adopting! You can learn more about Lindsey on our blog here.

April 2016 - Charis Kalesnikoff

Charis has been volunteering with VOKRA since 2012. However, well before she came across our organization she frequently volunteered at various animal shelters doing cat care. Several years ago, Charis started researching cat behavior, prompting her to spend extra time observing and interacting with cats who were having trouble adjusting. Conducting this research and being alongside cats made Charis long to work with a positive, supportive organization that’s able to address the unique needs of all cats and help to make them “adoptable”. Valerie, whom she was acquainted with at other shelters, encouraged Charis to volunteer with VOKRA.

As a VOKRA volunteer, Charis cares for the cats as best as she can. She drives, delivers, traps, helps find lost cats, and just about anything that she can do to help. Soon, she realized that although VOKRA wanted to save as many kittens and cats as they could, costs were an issue. You can learn more about Charis on our blog here.

March 2016 - Trish Stamp

Trish came in contact with VOKRA by meeting co-founder Karen at an adoption event, where she adopted her first VOKRA kitty, Jack. Talking to Karen made her want to help the kitties and that’s how her volunteering began. She has been volunteering with VOKRA for just over four years – she’s fostered, run errands, helped with cat care at our Operations Centre, run the online store, fundraised and been a vaccinator. Whew! Anything Trish can help with, she does, which is why we love her.

Her favourite part of volunteering is being able to see the kittens and cats get their forever home after a rough start from being either homeless, sick, abused, etc. Trish loves working alongside all the other VOKRA volunteers; they remind her there are still good people in the world that really care. You can learn more about Trish on our blog here.

February 2016 - Tasha Bukovnik

Tasha’s been volunteering with VOKRA for over a year now, having found a volunteer opportunity with our communications committee via Facebook. Communications is Tasha’s day job, so it was no doubt the committee would be a purposeful position for her. After being on the communications committee for around six months, Tasha was asked to co-lead the integrated communications and marketing team along with board member, Majid Khoury. As someone with a serious Type A personality, her answer was obviously ‘yes’!

As co-leader of the communications and marketing team, Tasha oversees all of VOKRA’s social media activities, coordinates the quarterly Mewsletter, manages the blog, coordinates the development of marketing materials, helps promote events, handles media relations and generally supports other VOKRA teams with whatever they need. On top of all these tasks, Tasha also sits on the fundraising committee. You can learn more about Tasha on our blog here.

January 2016 - Claudia O'Hearn

Growing up, Claudia was taught to love nature but was never allowed any pets other than spiders and frogs. As she became and adult having a pet didn’t find into her lifestyle until she moved to Vancouver with her husband Tim. An encounter with a neighbourhood cat helped her decide the time was right so she told Tim they were getting a cat – it was finally time to get a kitten. They adopted a four-month old tabby that was “free to a good home” and so Claudia’s love of cats began.

After moving to Burnaby, one spring evening a white cat peeked into their dining room window. Claudia was unsure of what to do so she posted on Facebook and was lead to Janet Cox and VOKRA. Janet taught Claudia how to trap and together they were able to capture the white cat which they named Snowy. Snowy turned out to be very feral so, after getting him fixed, Claudia let him outside and tried to feed him until he hopefully moved on. Thereafter, more and more strays began showing up at their house and Claudia was able to trap a few. You can learn more about Claudia on our blog here.

December 2015 - Christine Rogers

Christine was introduced to VOKRA in August 2011 when she needed a buddy for her cat, Snuffelupogus. She adopted Quincy and then started volunteering before we opened the Operations Centre. (She actually helped clean all the debris from the metal cages that are now set up in the isolation pods!) Now Christine ensures the kitties have their necessities – food, water, a clean litter box and cage. She takes care of the cats from morning to night, from meowing for food to napping happily.

Christine loves volunteering at VOKRA because she knows she’s making a meaningful contribution each time she shows up. What she loves about volunteering other than playing with and cuddling kitties, is working with the other volunteers. She’s grateful to Karen and Maria for dedicating the time to teaching her how to handle cats, not to mention many other volunteers who have also taught her about cat care. can read more about Christine on our blog here.

November 2015 - Janet Cox

Janet started volunteering at VOKRA in 2005 trapping feral or abandoned cats, a skill she was trained for when she volunteered with the Maverick Cat Coalition in 2000. During the Janet works in a LA/life skills program at a Vancouver High School and she brings two students every week to the VOKRA Operations Centre for work experience. This enables the students to not only gain good work skills, but also extend their love for cats by learning about compassion and how to care for them.

What Janet loves about volunteering with VOKRA is that every rescue is never the same – they’re all unique. The greatest thing about her volunteer position is knowing the lives of the rescued cats and kittens will be forever changed, for the better. They’ll never have to struggle living on the streets in fear and starvation and will be sure to find a loving home through VOKRA. You can read more about Janet on our blog here.

October 2015 - Karen Wickerson

Karen started out with VOKRA as a foster parent in April 2014 and, like most other volunteers, she soon foster failed and adopted two kitties – and they’re sisters!

While volunteering as a foster parent, Karen was also doing her studies in energy medicine through Healing Touch for Animals. She got in touch with our Karen Duncan and offered her help as an animal communicator and energy therapist to help kitties release trauma, physical injuries, loss and grief, and behavioural difficulties. To this day, she still provides an immense amount of help at our Operations Centre helping other foster parents who are experiencing difficulties with their foster kitties. She is a very appreciated volunteer and we acknowledge and thank her for her genuine passion in helping all our kitties lives. You can read more about Karen on our blog here.

July 2015 - Elaine Lai

Elaine first started her volunteering at VOKRA in 2010 as a foster. Elaine cared for and saw many kittens off to their forever homes but there was one that didn’t quite work out that way. Apparently Kaleia’s forever home turned out to be Elaine’s house! We call this a Foster Fail but it’s really a success all around, don’t you think?

Since Kaleia made three permanent cats at Elaine’s house, there was now a shortage of room for fostering, which prompted Elaine to join Peggy’s rockin’ Adoptions Team to help interview potential adopters. She described this position as “playing matchmaker for adopters to their meant-to-be kitties” and the role is essentially eHarmony, but for kittens and cats! That’s one fun way to describe the Adoptions Team! Elaine loved being a part of the Adoptions Team, being able to help people find their lifelong partners. You can read more about Elaine on our blog here.

June 2015 - Tracey Smith

Tracey started her volunteering with VOKRA in 2013, but previously volunteered at Pet Smart, caring for VOKRA kitties when we had our adoption centre there. What she loves about volunteering with kitties is being able to spend time with them, to make small and large differences in their lives. Tracey loves how the kitties are appreciative with her presence, and she adores sharing her love, trust, and laughs with each and every adorable kitty. She has encountered countless kitties, but cannot choose a favourite – who can?!

She adopted her own VOKRA kitty, Bandit, in April 2005, and fell in love with her straight away. When Bandit’s feline companion died, Tracey went on the hunt to adopt another to keep Bandit company in 2010, which prompted her to volunteer with Pet Smart and VOKRA. Our volunteers are also appreciative of Tracey and all her hard work. After all, it is only from her gallery uploads that our deserving kitties and cats can be viewed and adopted into loving arms! You can read more about Tracey on our blog here.

May 2015 - Marion Sampson

Marion is a key player with our Surrey team and part of the backbone of VOKRA. She first expressed her love for animals and her helping nature by volunteering with the SPCA in Surrey, until it closed in 2005. She has since then picked up as a volunteer with VOKRA for three years and counting, beginning in 2012. When VOKRA Surrey lost its TNR Centre (Trap-Neuter-Return program centre) in 2013 – but was then later offered a building – Marion, at her cost, put the building on her property. It was fixed, re-floored, and newly painted. The renovated space was reborn as The Cottage.

Like a smaller version of VOKRA’s Vancouver Operations Centre, cats that are trapped by Mona, Marlene, Anne, or Marion, are provided a cage in The Cottage with the necessities – food, water, flea treatment, de-worming, vaccinations, trips to the vet for neutering or spaying, attention, assessments on their adoptability and lots of volunteer love before they go to foster. The Cottage has grown immensely within the past year. VOKRA Surrey, prior to the establishment of The Cottage, fostered 75 kitties in 2013, but with the introduction of The Cottage, that number grew to a total of 240 cats in 2014 and an additional 105 cats from the beginning of this year until now. You can read more about Marion on our blog at here.

April 2015 - Lucy Hough

Lucy has been with us for nearly three years now, her first interaction with us being our Walk for the Kitties event back in September 2012. She got in contact with us and started her volunteer placement by being a driver, which included driving kitties to vet appointments, to foster homes, etc. She was also superbly awesome for stepping in to care for kitties in foster homes when fosters were away for a period of time. Seemingly, Lucy has volunteered for VOKRA in every way, including helping with fundraising. She joined our Adoptions Team back in December 2012, and has since then only fallen more in love with kitties and VOKRA. Helping rescue, heal, and shelter 1,800+ kitties a year is truly inspirational for Lucy, and the commitment of all of VOKRA’s volunteers is another reason why she loves volunteering with us.

What Lucy loves about being a part of the Adoptions Team is that the role’s duties are so complex, yet so satisfying. Every adoption application has its own unique chapter, and all applications are bound together to create a meaningful novel filled with miraculous and heart-warming stories. She loves being a part of a kitty’s journey to living a vivacious and fulfilling life. Lucy also loves working alongside the rest of the team, developing a good process and always stepping up the game to make everything work better. You can read more about Lucy on our blog here.

March 2015 - Jessica MacDuff

This month we are giving big thanks and gratitude to Jessica MacDuff. We can also give a shout out to the internet for providing Jessica the opportunity to come across VOKRA. She came across us while doing research online about working with animals and knew immediately we were the right fit. She has been a volunteer for five months now, and counting. What can we say? Kitties are irresistible to work with; working with cats and just cats is a dream come true for Jessica.

Volunteering twice a week, we always look forward to seeing Jessica every Monday and Friday. She puts in a great amount of effort to make sure our environment is spotless. Along with cleaning duties, Jessica also shares her big and accepting heart with kittens.

Though picking favourite kitties is like picking a favourite child, Jessica has noted Poosh, Oskar, and Heathcliffe as a few of her favourite and adored kittens. Ultimate #SelfiesWithKitties for the win! You can read more about Jessica on our blog here.

February 2015 - Karen & Al Ingram

Since March of 2014 Karen and Al have been an amazing addition to our driving team – taking kitties to vet appointments and to foster homes all over the Lower Mainland. They are always quick to respond to driving requests and ready to do whatever is needed, often doing multiple trips a day or giving up their weekends. A reliable pair that we appreciate so much!

Long time cat volunteers, they were no strangers to the needs VOKRA faces. As Karen told us, "I had heard of VOKRA and talked to Al about doing some volunteer work. We volunteered for 10 years with Meow-Aid and Mandy Butcher in the 1990’s so we had a good idea of what volunteering for a cat group was about. We didn’t want to do cat care again right away and we noticed that there was a constant need for drivers. We felt we could best help VOKRA by being available to shuttle kitties." You can read more aboust Karen and Al on our blog here.

January 2015 - Wendy Rogers Kuramoto

Wendy has been a dedicated volunteer with VOKRA since she began fostering in June of 2011. Since that time she has fostered 125 cats and kittens. Wendy has volunteered with many aspects of the organization such as completing adoption paperwork, interviewing new fosters, supporting Richmond fosters, walking in the Pride Parade with the VOKRA float, helping with information tables, driving kitties, trapping cats, searching for lost cats, and helping with the annual VOKRA walk (just to name a few!).

Wendy has a heart of gold and is always willing to help a cat in need. She’s currently fostering Nala, a kitty who came to VOKRA neglected, starving, shy, and pregnant. After losing her premature kittens Nala was very sick, but she was nursed back to health under Wendy’s loving care and is now healthy, happy, and leaving for her forever home soon! You can read more about Wendy on our blog here.

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