Once in a while, we have an event taking place that is so big it requires the assistance of not only an entire shift’s worth of shelter staff members, but also other personnel from around the organization. This past Saturday (August 15), we had just such an event.
As part of the company’s “Making a Difference” philanthropy campaign, the media juggernauts at NBC Universal hosted a nation-wide adoption event called Clear the Shelters, covering over 10 of their major markets around the country (and in Puerto Rico). The general gist of this program was that participating shelters in each metro area would waive their adoption fees for any animal 5 months or older between the hours of 11:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. In return, NBC would vigorously promote the event on all of its local affiliates (ours of course being NBC 5 Chicago).
Tons of TV time and the promise of free animals meant that we were swamped with people even in our adoption lobby waiting area before we were even officially opened for business that morning. It did not let up until we stopped even handing out adoption applications at 4:30 that afternoon. We held a similar event last summer over the course of two days, so there was some precedent and experience to pull from, and the main thing the organization as a whole learned from it was that we needed way more people than we normally have scheduled to man the shelter when dealing with so many customers and adoption transactions.
That’s why the Community Programs Department was called in to help. The 6 of us were split up into different roles in the shelter to support the regularly scheduled staff members and copious volunteers that were recruited to perform their normal duties on this otherwise abnormal day. Elliott helped with adoption counseling (sort of a post-interview with approved adopters where the staff member goes over an animal’s medical history, unique needs, and available services before the person leaves with his or her new pet) and handled media (NBC Universal owns the Spanish-language channel Telemundo, which was also covering the event, and Elliott is fluent in both Español and media poise). Sarah and Mary worked in the dog adopts room and helped potential adopters meet our furry residents and guide them into the adoption matching process. Stephanie worked in the cat adopts room, and also oversaw our display of cats from the Adoption Ambassadors program that were brought in by their loving foster parents to get a chance to be seen and heard at this exciting event. Lydia and myself weren’t scheduled for anything in particular and kind of floated around helping where we were needed, but eventually (as things started to get backed up), we were called on to help with adoption counseling and ended up doing that for the majority of the day.
It may sound corny, but days like Clear the Shelters are important in affirming why we all got into this zany (to put it delicately) industry. Seeing so many wonderful animals finally find loving homes with kind people and excited children is obviously the main motivator for this line of work, but these events are also important for bringing the many disparate departments from around our huge organization closer together, allowing employees to work directly with colleagues that they otherwise may only see in passing on a day-to-day basis. More than any other sort of team-building activity, these high stress, high stakes, all-hands-on-deck events are the best way to create a sense of camaraderie and understanding amongst a staff.
Sure, with so many tiny moving parts and nearly 100 people working at such a high volume and frenetic pace, there are the occasional mistakes or oversights that happen, but things were well-run from the top down and any issues that did arise were minimized immediately. The general feedback and buzz surrounding Clear the Shelters (at least as it relates to us at The Anti-Cruelty Society) was overwhelmingly positive. And now we have a whole year to prepare to do it again!