This December in Chicago started out incredibly busy, with people hustling and bustling through the streets lapping up the holiday sales. But this week (starting Monday, December 21) has seen downtown Chicago looking more like a ghost town that I’ve ever seen it look before. Our Community Programs Department – or at least the Humane Education wing of the department – is seeing a similar trend this month.
The early part of December was quite busy around here with a nice mix of school kids, corporate volunteer groups, and outreach events around the community. This includes, but is not limited to, hosting our second ever Kids Who Care workshop, a Pet Visitation event at the Illinois Institute of Technology, hosting a group of 60 fourth graders on-site for our multimedia humane education program “The Pact,” a session of the Veterinary Mentoring Program, a Pet Pause event at the Rush University Medical Center, the winter session of our Pet First Aid & CPR course, a Paw and Order presentation at Deerpath Middle School in Lake Forest, 6 Crafting Crews, and a special get together for our Pet Visitation volunteers and their dogs.
The Community Programs Department also found time despite all of this programming to go around and do some light decorating of the building for the holidays. For years now, this has been (for whatever reason) the specific task and domain of the Volunteer Services Department, but now that we’ve all rolled into one, Lydia had quite a few extra hands helping to festoon the Society with garland and lights and wreaths, etc. We actually technically did this on November 30, but for my money, it was really an integral part of helping to create an atmosphere of celebration, at least back in our Community Programs space. We even Christmas-bombed Humane Education Manager Elliott Serrano’s desk, because he notoriously dislikes your traditional Christmas décor.
All in all, I’ve been far more excited about the upcoming weeks of holidays than I normally am, and I think that I can attribute a lot of that to the willingness of the staff to “play along” and embrace the holiday spirit. Secret Santa gift exchanges, after hours department holiday gatherings, and the like have all helped create a sense of merriment among the department and made it easier to maintain focus and look forward to coming in, even as the last few weeks of December slow to a grinding halt because schools are out of session and most people start to use a lot of vacation time around the holidays, so there aren’t any groups coming in until January!
But the most rewarding part of the holiday season definitely comes from seeing the generosity of the community. As I’ve noted in past posts, being an animal shelter means that we often the charity of choice for many people looking to give back this holiday season (especially the cat and dog lovers out there), and this year we have honestly been humbled by the amount of generous gifts that we’ve received to surround the holiday trees placed in our Adoption Center lobby at our 510 N. LaSalle St. entrance, as well as inside the doors of the entrance of our Education & Training Center at 169 W. Grand Ave.
We’ve received plenty of gifts from individual donors and quite a few from local offices that held donation drives for the holidays, such as the Chicago branch of Purple Strategies. It’s also been great to see companies that volunteered with the Society as part of our Crafting Crew program come back and say that they enjoyed their time with us so much that they raised donations on our behalf, like Andersen Tax and the Boston Consulting Group.
Needless to say, it’s been a fun and exciting holiday season around here!