Meet Daily Point of Light Award honoree Joelle Hoffman. During the third annual Global Volunteer Month, we celebrate the power of people who tackle society’s greatest challenges, and build stronger, more vibrant communities through volunteerism and everyday actions, like Joelle. Read her story, and join the Global Volunteer Month celebration.
Growing up, Joelle Hoffman saw her mother volunteering so much that it felt like the natural thing for her to do. That mentality led her to volunteer at her sons’ schools for years. After they graduated, the animal lover decided to try her hand at a new type of service work — raising funds for rescue dogs.
Joelle serves as a community outreach volunteer for Compassion Without Borders, a Sonoma County-based nonprofit that helps dogs in the northern California area as well as in Mexico. While Joelle wears many hats when it comes to her service, from fostering puppies to helping to find lost dogs, her primary focus is coordinating Compassion Without Borders’ fundraising events. Last year, she helped the nonprofit touch the lives of over 10,500 animals.
How does Compassion Without Borders help your community?
Compassion Without Borders is a northern California nonprofit whose mission is to bring brighter futures to animals in need on both sides of the border. To do that, they have a variety of programs. One is a monthly low-cost veterinary care clinic, and that includes spaying and neutering. They perform those in underserved communities. Typically, we go out to Sonoma County, which is in our backyard, and we’ll do it once a month. People start lining up at four, five, six in the morning and we will take up to 100 animals. They will do a general well-being check, microchips, sign up for spay and neuter. We also have another arm and that’s our shelter. It’s called Muttopia and it’s also in Sonoma County. We rescue, rehabilitate, and offer the dogs for adoption. Then we have a shelter, a wellness clinic, and a new puppy orphanage down in Mexico. The dogs down in Mexico get their medical review, and then they’re brought up to northern California for adoption.
Describe your volunteer role with Compassion Without Borders.
My business card says ‘Volunteer: Community Outreach,’ which is where I spend most of my time. I create and coordinate fundraising events, which raise the money for the rescue’s needs. … Not only do I do the fundraising, but I also foster puppies. It’s always better to have puppies in the home, and I have a rescue dog myself. So when there’s puppies, sometimes I’ll bring some home and play with them for however long it takes to find their home. On most Sundays, I will go to the shelter and fill KONGs. KONGs are those big plastic chew toys that have a hole in them, so we put some wet food and dry food in there and fill it with peanut butter and freeze them. We give them to the dogs as an enrichment at night, because I’m sure the dogs get a little bit bored, so they’ll play around with the KONGs. What happens, unfortunately, is if the dog gets adopted in a new home, they’ll sometimes flip their harness or slip their collar and dart out the door. I’m one of a group of 10 of us that gets the SOS call, and we go help find the dog and get it back to its owner. We’re 10-for-10 on that one.
What made you want to start volunteering in this way?
I’ve always volunteered. When I was growing up, my mom volunteered, so volunteering was nothing new to me. I have two boys. They’re now out of the house and graduated, but during their school times, I would volunteer with the Halloween festival, and I would volunteer for the boosters and the snack bar and putting on events for school. When they moved out and went to college, I thought I have all this spare time, what am I going to do? I knew my love was for dogs, and Compassion Without Borders has an incredible reputation within Sonoma County.
What about Compassion Without Borders has made you want to keep volunteering in so many different ways for the past four years?
I wholeheartedly believe in their mission — what they do for not only animals, but for people, by having the low-cost wellness clinics. It really gives the owners of these animals peace of mind to make sure they are in fact taking care of their animals. I’ve never worked with or met so many people dedicated to the mission as everybody at Compassion Without Borders. You have people driving four or five hours one way to pick up a dog in need. You’ve got [cofounders Dr. Christi Camblor and Moncho Camblor]. This is their life, just saving animals. It’s really incredible to see.
what are the goals goals that you’d would like to achieve with this organization?
My number one goal is to make as much money as we can so we can afford various things. We just got an X-ray machine at the shelter so Christi can take X-rays rather than having to outsource those types of veterinary care to other vets. We would love to be able to get a commercial dishwasher so the ACTs don’t necessarily need to run the dishwasher so often. There are little things like that for me that really drive me to do as much as I can and put on as many events as I can. Christi is a veterinarian, so we take in a lot of hard medical cases not only from Mexico, but we also partner with the Central Valley here in California. … Because we take so many medical cases, it costs a lot of money. My whole thing is to make as much money as we can and help as many animals as we can. That’s the bottom line. Unfortunately, everything costs money, whether it’s bandages, microchips, antibiotics, medicated shampoo, or what have you, not to mention spay and neuter.
Why do you think it’s important for others to give back?
My mom volunteered a lot, and I think I was sort of always under the impression that that’s what you do. I think a lot of people are scared about volunteering, because when I first was at the boys’ high school, people were like, “Don’t do it, you’re going to get sucked in.” What type of attitude is that? I went to a couple meetings and they said to just do what you can. I think there’s such a misconception about volunteering. I think some places do require minimum hours per month, but find a place that doesn’t and give what you can. Volunteering can just be one day a week, or one hour going to fill KONGs or fold laundry. Find your passion and go help whoever is joining in your mission and likeminded. I think volunteering feeds my soul. It gives me purpose, so I’m a firm believer in volunteering.
What do you want people to learn from your story?
I’ve had so many people say to me, “How can you work for a rescue? Isn’t it depressing?” What we see is sometimes pretty horrific, but the bright side is you have this incredible team surrounding you who are just wonderful, compassionate, motivated people. It makes you look at the world as a good place. We can sometimes get sucked into some of the ugliness, but there’s so much good in the world. I have to say that working with Compassion shows me everyday the wonderful people out there.
Do you want to make a difference in your community like Joelle? Find local volunteer opportunities.