Having committed volunteers who show up at the same time every day, every month is integral to the success of any non-profit. But also necessary, and often less noted, is the volunteer who may not have a permanent schedule but always picks up the phone in a crisis and can make anything happen at the drop of a dime.
Carolyn Malden is that Girl Friday for Bark Avenue Foundation—and for every organization she volunteers for. She’s a superhero of sorts with knowledge of all things feline.
It all started some ages ago (she’s unsure of the exact date, but it was in the prior century), when she was working for a bindery in Burbank. They needed help trapping some stray cats, and with just one “Yes,” she started a lifetime of caring for the feral, homeless, and underserved cats of her community.
Decades later, now retired, there’s no full time job to suck up the time she’d rather be giving toward the cats. Carolyn’s days, nights, and weekends are spent running adoption events, fostering, bottle-feeding, assisting with trap & neuter campaigns, and fielding phone calls from people asking for advice on who to contact for spay & neuter, transportation to a vet, food for their cat, foster homes, shelter contacts… the list goes on and on. She is a volunteer freelancer, helping more than one organization, and often making her own guerrilla rescue efforts under no one’s banner but her own.
When asked why she chooses to use her talents for Bark Avenue Foundation, her answer is simple: “Christy.” Christy Schilling has led various animal welfare organizations and campaigns, and her dedication to not just the cause but the people who support that cause, has given Christy a number of followers. It doesn’t matter what the legislative campaign is or what the name of the organization is, if Christy is in, they’d regret not being a part of it.
Carolyn’s network of animal advocates, rescuers, and organizations is instrumental to Bark Avenue Foundation. BAF’s work is more than just the regularly scheduled Humane Ed classes in the schools, Unsheltered People and Pet Clinics, and Mobile Spay & Neuter Clinics. Although the work never stops, the tasks on any given day vary widely. In a typical day, BAF may need to get food and supplies to a homeless person for a cat, arrange for discounted vet care for a beloved canine, help a concerned citizen trap a stray cat and her kittens to get spayed, and pick up a dog from the shelter whose microchip was registered to BAF at a recent clinic. All of this work supports BAF’s mission of keeping pets out of shelters to save lives through prevention.
It’s hard for Carolyn to choose what she likes best about volunteering for BAF or what the biggest reward is. “All of it,” she says with a smile and a shrug. Although you’ll probably find Carolyn out in public at an adoption event finding foster cats home, most of her work goes unseen, much like Bark Avenue Foundation itself. Tonight she may be in an alley behind a dumpster checking a trap for a feral cat that desperately needs medical attention; tomorrow she may be under a house looking for kittens someone told her a mama cat had hidden there before she was killed by a car; Thursday she may be calling her contacts to get a discounted spay; and Friday night she’ll be rising to an alarm every two hours to bottle feed three motherless kittens.
For over half a century, Carolyn has not only been helping cats and the people who love them, but literally saving thousands of lives. Carolyn has this unbelievable knack for saving the most vulnerable. Of course not all can be saved but if there is a chance Carolyn is the cat/kitten angel. Carolyn never takes a rest, for this is who she is. Bark Avenue Foundation is grateful to have her on our team. Although we may not see her day to day, she’s always ready to pick up the cat phone when we need her.