August is always a somewhat weird month for our department. Summer camps are over by the end of the first week, but for the most part, Chicago schools don’t start up again until after Labor Day. Historically, this month (like late December/early January) was considered a “slow month” for the Humane Education Department. This year, however, with the fresh injection of energy we’ve gotten since establishing the Community Programs Department, along with all of the work that we have to do for our two new Hive-funded grants and the increasing popularity of our Crafting Crew group volunteer program, August ended up being an incredibly busy month!
For starters, we officially kicked off our Youth-Led Badging program, with our Digital Badging Specialist (DBS) teens coming in to work and launching our Teen Drop-In Days on August 12. Maybe I’m speaking a bit too soon here, but from where I sit, this program has been a great success for us thus far. Considering that we were asking teenagers to take time out of their summer breaks to come in and work on service learning projects, I think that we’ve had a pretty great turnout, with 9 total teens attending the 4 Drop-In Days that we held in August. That also means that we’ve already awarded 9 Chicago City of Learning (CCOL) badges; I would expect that number to increase exponentially as the school year gets underway and students suddenly remember that they have to complete their service learning hours. To get caught up on the teens’ progress so far, and to keep up with the Youth-Led Badging program as it continues to develop, you can check out this blog, which is written and run by the Digital Badging Specialists across the entire program.
I was also fortunate enough to have the chance to attend a couple of off-site tabling events this past month. I always enjoy the chance to get out and interface with the public and talk about the work that we do and try to get people involved in our mission of creating a community of caring. Stephanie and I hosted a table at the American Dental Association as part of their corporation-wide volunteer fair to try to encourage ADA employees to sign up to volunteer at The Anti-Cruelty Society; or maybe the more accurate way to put it is that we provided those employees with the information they would reasonably need to make the decision to volunteer with our organization.
Two days after that I joined Elliott at the Brookfield Zoo to run a table just inside their north gate entrance (directly in front of the carousel). As part of the Chicago Zoological Society’s efforts to connect to the larger animal welfare community around the Chicagoland area, numerous shelters from the city and suburbs were invited to host tables on various dates throughout the summer. We were initially going to take on about 9 different dates, but due to scheduling complications, the aforementioned grants, and the unexpected development of our Community Programs Department, we cut our dates down to just two. Mary and Sarah went in early July, and Elliott and I took the August shift. These events are less about handing out information than they are about engaging (like the blog’s name, eh?) with kids, animal lovers, and members of the community. So needless to say, they’re a little more fun. We had crafting projects (making cork-based cat toys), coloring pages, an animatronic cat, temporary tattoos, and of course, some literature and handouts available for passersby. It was a beautiful day and we each got the chance to walk around and see the cool animals living at the zoo. Just like this peacock friend of ours who wandered up behind our table.
As for the Crafting Crews, that feels like a topic for another blog post.
Oh, and I almost forgot about one more fun activity that I was able to participate in last month. Actually, come to think about it, it’s starting to sound like I was doing a lot of running around in August while my co-workers were chained to their desks working hard to develop programs and prepare for the school year – let’s hope they don’t read this post and get wise! Anyway, as part of our efforts to create our final print issue of The Anti-Cruelty Society magazine for the year (which I am lucky enough to be heavily involved in on the editorial side), I got to help with not one, but TWO photo shoots. The first was very fun, bringing together shelter staff members from the Operations, Development, and Community Programs departments to pose as participants in one of our Pet First Aid & CPR classes (another Community Programs offering) along with Dr. Simuel Hampton, one of our on-site veterinarians who also facilitates the program. The second was an off-site photo shoot with one of the Society’s most generous donors, Steve Parenti, and his dog Peanuts. Steve and Peanuts are known around their neighborhood for taking daily drives in one of his two vintage muscle cars. For this shoot, a close friend of my family, who is herself a budding photographer looking to pump up her résumé. I’m sure you can imagine how fun it was to oversee a photography session that featured pictures of a cute dachshund-mix sitting in a cool old car.
I think it’s fair to say that August was a pretty fun month!