Honoring the community’s many volunteers

Published 7:03 am Sunday, August 2, 2015

Kelly Rush and one of the humane society’s furry friends.  Photo provided

Kelly Rush and one of the humane society’s furry friends.
Photo provided

Vision 2020’s Community Pride and Spirit committee is partnering with Bremer Bank of Austin to honor volunteers in 2015. This month’s column focuses on long-time animal friend and volunteer, Kelly Rush.

Kelly has been a regular face at the Mower County Humane Society (MCHS) for quite a few years. She started volunteering regularly in 1997 after her son did a Boy Scout Eagle project at the old MCHS location. She came in to clean whenever she was not working and, in the process, got “hooked.”

Kelly currently volunteers about 40 hours per week. She helps to organize the all-volunteer staff of cleaners on the cat side, gets supplies and administers medications, takes cats to the vet clinic for spaying and neutering, helps with maintenance on the building, handles phone calls, cleans cages, and fosters kittens at home.

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She stresses keeping up with the cat side of the Humane Society is definitely a team effort, as is the success of the entire organization. MCHS is run entirely by volunteers, including community members, school groups, and more.

A passion for volunteering seems to run in Kelly’s family. Her husband, Jay Lutz, also started volunteering in 1997. He was president during the fundraising of the current building and is now the Secretary of MCHS. (The MCHS raised about $600,000 and built a 9,000 square foot new shelter near the airport in 2013.) He cleans on the dog side of the shelter once or twice each week and does maintenance on all of the new, more complicated air exchangers, air conditioners, underfloor heat, and solar panels.

Kelly recalls the story of one of her own favorite personal rescues. Jefferson was a “teenage” cat that her family adopted, knowing that he needed special care. Every time she cleaned at MCHS, Jefferson would follow her, looking for attention. He had chronic upper respiratory issues that could not be cured. During the three years that Jefferson shared their home, he would play, purr, and be charmingly naughty despite breathing problems. Kelly says, “We had the honor of residing with one of those pets that loves and gives unconditionally.”

“Some of the best qualities for volunteers at MCHS are determination, patience, consistency and being kind of a neat freak,” Kelly explains. “We joke about our passion for scooping poop.” One of the best parts of volunteering at MCHS is the feedback from someone who has adopted and created a “forever bond” with a cat or dog from their rescue group, she admits.

For those interested in volunteering, Kelly offers this sentiment, “In exchange for ‘scooping poop,’ you get a very real feeling of satisfaction for helping rescue a pet, and you know that you have done something positive not only for an abandoned pet, but also for our community.”

Responsible adults are always needed for daily cleaning, socializing and exercising of pets. Evening hours are available for dog lovers. Youth groups are welcome for help with maintenance projects, such as window cleaning and grass trimming. For more information on volunteering at MCHS or to get information about animal adoption, visit http://awos.petfinder.com/shelters/MN78.html or contact Kelly at krush@charter.net.

Did Kelly’s story inspire you? Consider participating in Vision 2020’s Community Pride and Spirit community service challenge for the year 2015—making a commitment of 24 hours of volunteer service. You can volunteer anywhere you like, doing any activity that you like. There is no paperwork or registration process—simply a personal commitment to serve the community this year.

To find — or post — volunteer opportunities, make the connection on the Vision 2020 Community Pride and Spirit website www.vision2020austin.com/spirit or find us on Facebook at “Spread the Spirit in Austin, MN.”