Volunteering in a Pandemic: How Volunteers Continue to Embody Our Mission

by Vicky Medley, Volunteer Manager

Bird Alliance of Oregon’s volunteers enrich our community with their personalities, skills, interests, and dedication. We are not just supported by volunteers, we were founded by them, and they lead and serve at every level of the organization! Their contributions expand the reach of our conservation mission in ways that limited paid staff would never be able to achieve.

Kristin Jamerson, a longtime volunteer, removing invasive vines as part of the Wednesday Work Crew.
Kristin Jamerson, a longtime volunteer who serves on the Sanctuary Board Committee and is a Mamie Campbell Award winner, removing invasive vines as part of the Wednesday Work Crew.

How painful it has been to limit volunteer activities and staff presence on campus due to COVID- 19! We miss the chats on the breezeway, the impromptu lunches between shifts, and the staff and volunteers stopping by our front desk to say hello. I miss hearing about the grandkids, a volunteer’s new job, or the rare bird that someone spotted. Those interactions are what strengthen our community fabric at Bird Alliance of Oregon; it is how we get to know new volunteers and stay connected to our long-term volunteers.

And yet, despite the inability to gather in person, volunteers continue to rise up to support Bird Alliance of Oregon. Since the beginning of the pandemic, our Wildlife Solutions Counselors have served from home. They guide callers through solutions to wildlife conflicts, whether it be advising a caller with an injured animal, answering a question about Salmonella in a birdfeeder, or helping manage a nest of baby skunks under a porch. Together, that team contributed more than 3,000 hours of volunteer service and answered more than 10,000 phone calls in 2021! Their contributions have had an enormous positive impact on the wildlife in our area.

With careful adherence to CDC guidelines, the Wildlife Care Center remained open this entire time. During the darkest days of the pandemic, few volunteers were able to serve indoors, but that has changed with access to vaccines. In 2021, Care Center volunteers contributed more than 10,000 hours of service! They have assisted in animal care and feeding, prepped diets, cleaned outdoor cages and enclosures, helped with admissions, and washed many, many, loads of poopy laundry and dirty dishes. Our Ambassador Animal volunteers continue to provide care, feeding, and enrichment to the four birds and one turtle who live permanently at Bird Alliance of Oregon.

While for many volunteers, serving at Bird Alliance of Oregon has been a source of connection and comfort over the last two years, but for others it has become a burden. The easing of the lockdown has not meant a big surge in returning volunteers; we are facing normal attrition as well as challenges created by the pandemic. Volunteers may have health complications that continue to demand isolation. Others have faced a difficult two years of additional pressure at work, and at this point something needs to give. Some volunteers are caring for children or grandchildren to keep their exposure bubble small. And for others, we have not yet brought back the activity that keeps them active at Bird Alliance of Oregon.

Rock painted by volunteer Shelley Reynolds to celebrate Volunteer Week

Even though many of our traditional volunteer roles are limited now, we welcome YOUR involvement at Bird Alliance of Oregon as a volunteer! It only takes a few minutes to follow our Activist alerts and write to a legislator to support our conservation efforts. If you want to spend a weekend with us, check out our Stewardship Weekends in Harney County. Our Community Science projects can be done in isolation and do not require an ongoing commitment. As this pandemic hopefully eases, we look forward to the connections, the community and the interactions with our volunteer flock.

To find out more, contact Volunteer Manager Vicky Medley, at vmedley@birdallianceoregon.org.