A Smart Conversation with Yvonne DiVita and CEO of the Hinsdale Humane Society, Tom Van Winkle
Tom is another one of my connections on LinkedIn. I follow his posts daily and share wherever I can. His focus on the health and welfare of all animals is beyond measure. I appreciate his work so much.
To share just a little of his backstory, he has a degree in mathematics from the University of Illinois, an MBA from Loyola University in Chicago and is a certified animal behavior consultant. I'm sure that last one serves him well in his work at the humane society. He has been the CEO of the Hinsdale Humane Society, which operates the Tuthill Family Pet Rescue and Resource Center in Hinsdale, since 2017 and has over 20 years experience in animal welfare. Tom is also the CEO of the American Association of Pet Parents and believes collaboration among all animal welfare agencies, big and small, will lead to saving the lives of more animals in need. To that end, he currently serves as a board member for the Illinois Animal Welfare Federation, sits on the steering committee for the Chicagoland Life Saving Coalition, and is a member of the PEDIGREE Foundation Advisory Council.
And there you have it - all the reasons he had to be on Smart Conversations. I am all about words and books and stories how the pen is mightier than the sword, but in the end, much of what I am passionate about is animal welfare and when I see people writing about how to improve animal welfare, I always want to hear more of what they're doing. Case in point, a few weeks ago I had Ciaran Walsh on the show talking about his book, One Eyed Leo.
Today, on this conversation, we talk about how Tom came to be a part of animal welfare (which wasn't his first choice and isn't that the way sometimes? We do one thing but end up realizing our heart isn't into the work, and we pivot?) and how the American Association of Pet Parents is designed to be that one stop place for all your pet questions, concerns, shares, and stories. A big part of Tom's story is about collaboration and what he sees as the evolution of animal welfare work. He believes in organizations working together to the betterment of all. It's something that has been a part of all the advice I give from my early days as an entrepreneur, almost 20 years ago.
I love the way Tom approaches problems - with that insight of, the solution is there, I just need to get the right people together to figure it out. For instance, how can he help keep pets in families when it seems the only solution is to let them go?
Tom tells us how he's working to keep more pets with the families that love them. Today, with Covid causing all manner of disruption in everyone's lives, it's important to look at the big picture and not cry over spilled milk, to mix a couple of metaphors. My point is this, families love their pets. But in dire need, if they can't feed themselves, or they've lost their home, they turn to places like Tom's, the humane society, to rescue them by taking in the dog or cat or bird or ferret or whatever.
You understand, of course, that it's not that these people want to give up their pets, it's that they don't see a way out. Some people live in terror of what will happen if they have to surrender their pet to the humane society or anywhere else. Tom is working to change that. One way he does this is by working with food pantries to donate some of the extra food he receives in donations, to them. This way, when families come for their food, they can also get food for their pet and not have to find a pet food pantry somewhere else. Not all places have a pet food pantry, either. It gives these people that one place to go for all of their food needs, when are unable to provide for themselves.
An area we touch on is the wish list many humane societies and shelters have. People don't seem to know about this, although folks are better informed today than they were in the early days of BlogPaws. I took a glance at the wish list for the Hinsdale Humane Society and here are a few of the things I discovered:
- meat based baby food
- liquid bleach
- toilet paper
- paper towels
- postage stamps!
That's brushing the surface, of course. But, how many of us would think a place like a humane society would need ... postage stamps? None of us would. That's why it's important to look at the wish list at your local humane society, also. You'll find unique items that you wouldn't normally associate with donations to an animal shelter.
And don't forget - there are dozens of other needs that go into supporting your local humane society. Simple things like staffing (yes, not all the people there are volunteers), medical costs (all the animals need medical care at some point), food for the animals, cleaning supplies, Windex. Yep, Tom specifically asked for Windex. It's an organization and as such, regardless of the fact that it's non-profit, it still requires so many supplies to stay afloat. Without people donating some of those supplies, these great organizations might not survive.
Don't just watch a few minutes of today's video. Watch this all the way through and listen to Tom talk about doing his best to make sure the right pet goes to the right home. And how to be more aware of body language, the only way our pets really communicate with us. I know this will resonate with others, the same way it resonates with me. I know most of my pet parents, my friends and family who have pets and love them dearly, get it. To them, I say, watch this, learn a little bit you didn't know (like, what's on the wish list for the Hinsdale Humane Society), and then pass the video link along.
It's important to share. More than once. I leave you to enjoy this illuminating discussion about animal welfare and how collaboration is the key to success.
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