Following a 27 year career with the Osceola County, Fla. school system, John Patience started looking for a good way to spend his retirement. Having always liked dogs and himself owning a chihuahua named Shorty, John decided to start volunteering for Osceola County Animal Services. He began walking dogs and helping out where he could. Eight years later, he is now the shelter’s technology volunteer, dedicating sometimes up to 40 hours a week to helping with any and all of Animal Services’ technology-based needs.
John works on Osceola County Animal Services’ website, creates online learning modules to help train fellow volunteers, writes articles and makes short videos for the newsletter, produces content for digital promotional materials, and works on other technology-based projects. He was also integral in helping Animal Services obtain Points of Light’s Service Enterprise Certification last year. He was in charge of the technology and data collection as well as the presentation required for the project. While John primarily serves technology-based needs, he has also spent time volunteering in the vet clinic and fostering kittens.
Describe your volunteer role with Osceola County Animal Services.
It’s been changing since I started. I started about eight years ago, pretty much just walking dogs. Then as things developed, I wound up getting into the technology side, which is pretty much all that I do now — work on the website, work on training modules, and that kind of thing. … I do a lot of the daily shelter website operations, posting found pet reports. People who have volunteered to be fosters, I go through that kind of paperwork all through the website. It’s pretty much daily.
I did for a time volunteer in the vet clinic and for awhile I was also fostering kittens, which was a surprising revelation for me because I never had much use for a cat. I really enjoyed them and the dog really enjoyed playing with them. It was a really good experience.
How did you get involved in the technology side of volunteering?
In my other life, I worked for the school system for 27 years. For about 13 or 14 of those years, I was an instructional technology specialist, so I was very interested in that kind of thing — in building websites, in building things that would make operations easier. When the new volunteer coordinator began at Animal Services, she and I just clicked together and decided to start to do online learning modules, and it kind of grew from there.
Can you describe what the online learning modules are for?
The learning modules are for volunteers. For example, when you begin, right after you come to an introduction orientation, you take a shelter basics module which tells you what the rules are, where to park and things like that. Then as you go to different steps in your volunteering, for example before you can walk dogs, you have to take the dog module which gives you the basics. It’s a lot of safety information and procedure information and that kind of thing. I think we have probably eight to ten of them up now.
Have you always been passionate about animals?
I had pets as a kid, and I always enjoyed them and always enjoyed other people’s animals. They can be a whole lot of fun.
What’s been the most rewarding part of your work?
I think when somebody tells me that I’ve been a part of creating something that has made things easier or made things more efficient.
What do you want people to learn from your story?
I would hope that people, particularly when volunteering, wouldn’t be afraid to ask questions and wouldn’t be afraid to ask to try to do something. An example is when I volunteered in the vet clinic, I just went up and I asked someone, “Hey, can I volunteer in the vet clinic?” And they said, “Yeah, just go in and ask if you can do it.” The process for that is different now, but that’s how I became a part of the website. That’s how we started the newsletter. That’s how I got into everything I’m doing now, is pretty much asking “Can I be a part this?” People shouldn’t be afraid to do something they’re interested in. If there’s a skill they can share with an organization, they cannot be afraid to ask if they can share it.
Why do you think it’s important for others to give back?
I think it’s your duty to give back to the community in some way. It doesn’t have to be volunteering at the shelter or anything like that, it’s just got to be helping. It seems to me everybody is going to need help — or everything, I guess in this case with the shelter, is going to need help. You have to do your bit to try to to help someone or something just as part of being a citizen, as part of being a part of the community.
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