It was a sad day for the cats of Oakland – not to mention for the volunteers and staff of Oakland Animal Services (OAS). Warren Kennell, one of the shelter’s most committed volunteers, had left the building on Saturday, on his way to adventures in Europe.
Last week about 25 volunteers and staff gathered at a restaurant in Oakland to wish Warren “Bon Voyage.” The appreciation dinner, full of hearty laughs and memorable anecdotes, was testament to the impact he has made on both the animals and people in his seven years of service.
From the beginning Warren’s ability to relate to each cat’s unique personality made him stand out. His genuine appreciation and knowledge of cats—and his excellent people skills–eventually made him a great candidate to become an OAS mentor, a vital role in the shelter’s volunteer program. Socializing cats, assisting in cat-dog tests, doing adoption counseling and follow-ups, and helping to train new volunteers were just a few of the tasks he performed regularly. Almost every day at the shelter, visitors, staff and other volunteers would routinely see him hustling around the cat condos in the adoption gallery.
“I have known him both as a volunteer and a friend,” said Mary Cochran, a fellow cat mentor who has worked with Warren since he started at OAS. “He was the ultimate cat whisperer, who never got flustered. I always felt comfortable knowing that he would be around.”
In fact, Warren became a fixture for everyone at OAS, and so his planned departure shocked his colleagues. “Warren has played such an important part in growing and improving our cat program and has literally helped hundreds of cats, citizens and volunteers. We will miss him,” said Megan Webb, Director of Oakland Animal Services, who was volunteer manager when Warren signed up — a thought that many have echoed.
Last year alone Warren clocked more than 900 volunteer hours, a number that is calculated to equal a donation of more than $18,000*. (Considering this, it is even more apparent how vital and valuable volunteer programs are. In 2012 OAS volunteers totaled more than 19,000 hours of service.)
The oddsmakers at OAS are guessing that Warren will continue to make an impact with homing cats in need, regardless of where he is in the world. His first destination is France, but when it comes to making definitive plans on what will follow, Warren takes a lesson from his feline friends and is leaving his agenda open.
In the meantime, OAS will be looking to its amazing pool of current and future volunteers to help fill the Warren gap. His departure is bittersweet, mixed with all the emotions of saying farewell to a friend, but full of the excitement and anticipation in welcoming new ones and helping them grow to their full potential. If you are interested in volunteering at OAS, please sign up for an Open House to find out more about our volunteer program.