April Volunteer of the Month - Bob Conn

Bob Conn and family
April 11, 2019

When did you start volunteering at PAWS?

I started volunteering at PAWS in November of 2011.  This was after I had worked with one of my favorite adoption counselors -- Jackie Wolfe -- who helped me to adopt Nutmeg in 2010, and then Jackie also helped me become a failed foster in January of 2011 with Sassafras (PAWS Hello Kitty).   Orphaned Kitten Program cat Houston later adopted my son Parker also with Jackie's help.

What jobs/roles have you performed at PAWS?

I started out as a cat-care volunteer with my son Parker, but shortly after began helping with cat-care volunteer training and then later assisted Lisa Bahr in leading the cat-care training team.  As any volunteer knows, there are many fun volunteer opportunities at PAWS.  Heather Mannion, my friend from Penn State, asked me to join the Publicity Committee, as she knew from work that I was a computer nerd and also wielded a camera.  I became involved in some low-level Web editing and photography, but that soon turned into a lot more.  I began helping out with events led by Chris Faust and Heather Mannion, including photographing and assisting with Bingo, Alumni Reunions, the Fur Ball, Centre Gives and more. I think the word spread that I was a cat-care volunteer, fundraiser helper, amateur photographer, a former Board member for another local animal-welfare non-profit, and a computer nerd, so some PAWS friends asked me to run for the Board of Directors.  In May of 2015, I was elected to the Board.  Shortly thereafter, Dave Abler, PAWS Board President, asked me to assist with technology at PAWS -- promoting me to the PAWS' Chief Volunteer Computer Nerd.  In that capacity, I've helped move the PAWS email system to Google's G-Suite for non-profits, helped transition the Web site from one hosting company to another with a complete technology overhaul, helped to migrate from several databases and spreadsheets to Animal Shelter Manager, led the effort to upgrade the phone system from old technology to a modern, Voice over IP (VoIP) system, installed a complete security video camera system, updated the wireless and wired network hardware, helped with obtaining music and music players for the animals, and upgraded or replaced every computer and printer at PAWS.

What do you currently do as a volunteer?

I continue to serve at PAWS in many of the same roles -- Chief Volunteer Computer Nerd, Publicity Committee, Board of Directors, fundraising events helper, photographer and occasional cat-care volunteer and cat-care volunteer trainer.  I'm currently working on improving the VoIP phone system even more, working on about a mile-long list on improvements to the Web site with the Web team, and keeping technology functional and upgraded.  We're now gearing up for Centre Gives.  A team of us will soon start to look for a more robust software application for donor and member management, and I also want to continue to improve wireless networking in the building as we use it more and more and in new ways.

Why do you volunteer at PAWS?

I volunteer for the same reasons that most PAWS volunteers do.  I believe that it's important to give back to the community and I'm especially drawn to animal welfare.  I've always wanted my son Parker to learn to give back.  I'm sure I learned a lot of this from my mother, who was a Nurse and also a regular volunteer in many capacities at my hometown hospital and in other organizations.  My whole family either has or still volunteers at PAWS, including my wife Kris, stepdaughters Riley and Jordan, son Parker and even my awesome mother-in-law Leslye Faulkner is a front desk volunteer.  On some days at the PAWS front desk, there are three generations of Leslye's family volunteering.  It's important to all of us.

When you're not at PAWS, what do you like to do with your time?

I love nature, animals, hiking and photography.  Pennsylvania has some fantastic state parks and forests, and some of them are my favorite places to go.  When I'm not getting critter therapy at PAWS, I'm out trying to get nature therapy in the woods.  Of course family dinners and outings to local pubs and music establishments are always essential for recharging.

What do you like best about being a PAWS volunteer? What do you find to be the most rewarding?

I love working with the hard-working staff and volunteers at PAWS.  They're all good, good people -- some of the best.  As the PAWS Chief Volunteer Computer Nerd, the work that I do falls under Lisa Bahr's management and oversight.  Lisa and everyone make it really easy and fun to want to do even more for PAWS.  But what I've observed is that even though I do a lot of fun work at PAWS, there are so many other volunteers who do so much more and give even more of their time to this great organization.  I enjoy helping everyone at PAWS meet the PAWS mission and objectives. 

If someone asked you why they should volunteer at PAWS, what answer would you give?

It would really depend on the person and what they said their interests were. I probably wouldn't give them an answer first, but would ask them a few questions. As I have said and have learned myself, there are many volunteer opportunities at PAWS.  Though we may advertise our greatest needs for cat-care and dog-care daily volunteers the most, I would love to help anyone interested in PAWS find their niche.  When I train new cat-care volunteers, I mention some of the other opportunities available, and I point out as many long-term volunteers as possible.  To many, PAWS volunteers are family and best friends.  When you tell potential volunteers that some have been at PAWS for 10, 20 and even over 30 years and that we have a lot of fun doing what we love to do, it's easy to get them very interested in joining PAWS.  Mentioning how many animals find their furever homes because of the hard work, love and dedication of PAWS staff and volunteers is always a selling point.