Volunteer Spotlight: Patty Salajka

Volunteers for Wildlife is staffed by several full-time licensed wildlife rehabilitators and rely heavily on the hard work of volunteers. We have some of the most committed and hard working volunteers any facility could ask for. I wanted everyone to be able to get to know some of our volunteers and learn what they do and how they feel about the animals they care for. I chose to interview one of our longest active volunteers who can shed some light on what it means to be a volunteer here at Volunteers for Wildlife.

Patty started volunteering for us about 5 years ago (though she says she wishes she had started sooner) at our old facility at Caumsett State Park. She had been taking pictures there and saw the sign for Volunteers for Wildlife. According to her, “Pictures are nice, but I wanted to understand more about the wildlife that existed around me…” At first glance, working with wildlife would appear to have no relationship with her career in healthcare services. However Patty says she does see some similarities, from the dedication of the staff to the way members of the organization will go above and beyond for a patient, the resemblance is there. But for her what makes volunteering here at VFW is that although there is a lot of diversity among the volunteers, each shares a common goal “We want to protect the natural world around us”.

Since I haven’t been working at Volunteers for Wildlife very long I wanted to hear from a seasoned veteran what she thinks the most rewarding the most frustrating aspects are. Although every shift is rewarding for Patty, she says the best times are when she can return wildlife to their natural habitat. Seeing a patient return to the wild after going through traumatic injuries and long rehabilitation process is an incredible experience for her. When it comes to the frustrations of the position, Patty says it is never the animals that frustrate her; it is the people that hurt them. She recounted an experience that was particularly trying for her personally. “I remember one situation when I spent two days trying to rescue a Great Blue Heron from a dump next to a landscape business. A bystander told me one of the laborers hit the Heron with a sling-shot. I was able to finally rescue the Heron and bring it to a veterinarian, but, sadly, it succumbed to its injuries. Absolutely senseless…”

Since Patty has been working with us for quite some time, she has had a lot of time with our resident animals so to round out our interview I asked her if she had a favorite. Though she loves them all she said that her favorite one had to be our quirky little Kestrel, Buster. Even though I am only here for the summer and that may not seem like enough time to truly appreciate what happens here at VFW, I have definitely come to appreciate Patty and all the other volunteers for what they do for our center.


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