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Featured Volunteer: Natalia Gmuca
When Natalia Gmuca was just 16 years old, she was compelled to make a difference in the lives of those less fortunate. Being an animal lover, she decided the best way to do that was sign up to be a volunteer at one of the places that specialize in such feats – North Shore Animal League America.
Now 23, the Queens resident is still making the drive every Friday evening to our Port Washington, N.Y. campus to care for all of the dogs, cats, puppies, and kittens that count on her and the hundreds of dedicated volunteers. At any given time Animal League America can provide temporary housing for up to 350 homeless animals, so our volunteers play a crucial role in our mission to provide them with the love and attention they deserve while they wait for responsible, loving homes. Without their help, Animal League America would never have blossomed from a tiny local shelter into the world’s largest no-kill rescue and adoption organization.
“I’ve always had a passion for animals, especially dogs, so as soon as I turned 16 years old I applied to be a volunteer. I remember taking a trip to the shelter with my family and I was inspired by what I saw. The staff and the volunteers cared so much about the animals and it made me want to be a part of it,” said Natalia. “At the time, I had a dog named Buddy who showed me how rewarding it is to take care of an animal. Knowing how spoiled he was and what a nice life he had, I wanted to help out shelter animals who don't have someone to do that for them.”
During her weekly Friday night shifts, Natalia can be found doing pretty much anything and everything that the Kennel Managers need – from walking dogs, to assisting potential adopters pick out a furry friend in the puppy room, to transporting animals, specifically the young puppies that just underwent spay/neuter procedures in the Alex Lewyt Veterinary Medical Center, back to the comfort of their beds. Natalia is the Swiss Army Knife of Animal league America volunteers.
“It’s so nice when I see someone who started as a young adult and stuck with it and grown through the years. She has become one of our most trusted and valued volunteers,” said Lauraine, who has known Natalia since she started as a wide-eyed high school student. Now as a graduate student studying to become a science teacher, Natalia continues to thrive and earn more responsibilities around campus. “It’s obvious she’s taken it all in over the years. She’s great with the animals and has taken on more and more responsibilities. It’s like having another manager out on the floor when Natalia is here.”
Not only does Natalia donate her time to improving the lives of our Animal League America Mutt-i-grees, but she’s made one of them part of her family. Four years ago while working in the Puppy Room, she fell head over heels for a handsome red and white colored Wirehaired Terrier mix. Naturally, her compassionate instincts took over and she wound up adopting the lucky pooch. Today, her and Louie, as she named him, are two peas in a pod! There’s no question that Natalia’s ties to Animal League America are strongly weaved with years of selfless service to hundreds, if not thousands of animals, and she has no plans of cutting those ties any time soon.
“I love coming here every week, spending time with the animals and helping out in any way that I can. I knew from when I was very young that this was something I wanted to do if I had the opportunity, and I don’t plan on stopping any time soon,” she said.
If you're interested in learning more about volunteering at North Shore Animal League America, visit animalleague.org/volunteer