Ask Tammy Halaburda, a volunteer at the brand new Best Friends Pet Adoption Center in New York, to describe herself and she’ll tell you she’s just an average person doing average things. But spend a few minutes watching Tammy help visitors and you’re apt to respectfully disagree with her.
She’s hardly average.
“Tammy is incredibly warm and friendly and is always happy to help in any way she can with a smile on her face,” says Laura Barnes, adoption specialist for Best Friends in New York. “She brings a great, positive energy to the center every day.”
Tammy, who owns a dance studio near the center, channels her passion for helping save New York’s homeless pets into her work with Best Friends. She welcomes visitors and assists them by answering their questions about the dogs and cats there.
“Our volunteers are so incredibly important to the center. We could not run the place without them. Every job they do, from walking dogs to cleaning litter boxes, is key in helping things to run smoothly,” says Laura. “We have a wonderful, passionate group of volunteers who all bring a great positive energy to the center every day and the staff is so grateful to all of them."
We asked Tammy to share what she loves about volunteering at the Best Friends Pet Adoption Center in New York and here’s what she told us:
Why did you decide to volunteer at the Best Friends Pet Adoption Center in New York?
I was so excited when I heard there would be a Best Friends adoption center here in New York. Most other volunteer opportunities were mainly on the weekends, and the center allows me to give my time during the weekday when I am available. It also helps that the location is just two subway stops from my business as well. I could not have asked for a more perfect situation, and am thrilled at the opportunity to help out in an area that I am passionate about.
One couldn't ask for a better organization to be involved with. Everyone I have met with the organization, employees and volunteers, are positive, friendly, happy and excited to be involved. I think the positivity of the message, goal and attitudes of everyone associated with Best Friends is refreshing. It makes you want to give your best when representing them.
What inspires you most in the work you do as a volunteer?
The animals we work with are the most inspiring. They remind us that we are their caregivers and responsible for their well-being. What could be more inspiring than an animal that wants to give you their love, and helping them find their forever home?
In terms of your volunteer work for Best Friends, what are you most proud of?
I'm proud to just be a small part of this organization. Through their vision and willingness to help other organizations, they create a space for others to do good. I'm proud of the mindset to set up other organizations and cities for success.
What does volunteering mean to you and why do you do it?
Volunteering gives me a way to help out in areas I feel passionate about. It gives me a sense of being more connected to others and their needs, and a feeling of being less selfish or self-centered.
What are you doing when you’re not volunteering with animals?
I have a ballroom dance studio here in in New York which I'm so proud of. This takes up most of my time, but I have an amazing staff that really helps me to be able to spend time here at Best Friends.
My boyfriend and I love going to baseball games (Let's go, Mets!), live music and the company of friends. I also have pets of my own to care for, including a foster rabbit.
Besides volunteering for Best Friends, how else do give back to your community?
Through my dance studio, I offer free space to different groups in need for dance classes, rehearsal space and fundraisers, as well as donating gift certificates from the dance studio to help other organizations in their fundraising endeavors.
I’ve also held dance parties where the proceeds went to different organizations and I donate to other local charities I care about.
Do you have pets?
Right now I have a gorgeous five-year-old boxer, whippet and American Staffordshire terrier mix. I adopted him from a shelter in New Jersey. He is an athlete! His two favorite things to do are go swimming and play catch.
I have two rabbits, both adopted here in New York. I am also currently fostering another rabbit who is about six months old.
Tell us something we don’t know you or share an interesting fact.
Years ago, I won a dance contest and had the chance to dance the twist on stage with Chubby Checker.
What would you tell others who are thinking of volunteering Best Friends?
Just do it! Even if it is just two hours a week, every shift covered helps make the day’s tasks get done without interruption. Never think that your participation won't make a difference, because it does. Knowing you helped out in some way can be very gratifying, and you get to meet and interact with some really great people as well.
Tell us about your favorite volunteer moment.
It's hard to pinpoint a particular moment. But I think when I tell people about Best Friends, the mission and goals, and getting them excited enough to ask about volunteering or making a donation, that's priceless. I've connected with someone in a way that inspires them to become part of this snowball effect of Saving Them All.