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The Holdovers Review
February 20, 2024

Brighter Future for Shelter Animals: St. Hubert’s Youth Task Force

I learned about St. Hubert’s Youth Task Force when I was around 13 years old.  I was too young at that time to join but once I turned 15, I knew I wanted more than anything to volunteer at St. Hubert’s. I started volunteering on Saturday afternoons in early September 2023. So far, I have socialized with over ten different dogs and around twenty different cats. It is rewarding to return each week and see the animals I have begun forming a relationship with. Personally, I enjoy spending the majority of my time with the cats due to their laid back nature. I look forward to returning every week to spend my time with the animals. I especially like it when I find an animal is no longer at St. Hubert’s because it has been adopted.

The Youth Task Force is a program available for high school students, ages 15 to 17. These students volunteer at St. Hubert’s Animal Shelter in Madison NJ. The Youth Task Force operates on a weekly basis, with each volunteer shift lasting two hours. Volunteers split their time between socializing with dogs and cats. During each shift, volunteers devote an hour to different animals, spreading love throughout the shelter. On weekdays, the shifts run from 4:00 pm to 6:00 pm, while on weekends, volunteers gather from 12:00 pm to 2:00 pm.

The Youth Task Force was established in 2018. The idea behind the program was to get the shelter animals much needed attention. They wanted to establish a group that was dedicated to spending consistent time socializing with the animals, giving them the attention they crave. According to the program’s founder, Karen Potocek “the goal is similar to the reason we started the program- simply to give the animals the attention they deserve. A shelter environment can be an extremely stressful place for homeless animals, so we hope that the YTF is helping to make their stay at our shelter just a little more comforting.” 

One of the purposes for the YTF each shift is to socialize the animals. The goal with socializing the animals is to make them feel comfortable with human interaction in preparation for them being adopted. When socializing the dogs, we engage in playful activities, such as throwing balls and teaching the dogs their name. Additionally, of course, we offer pets, cuddles and treats. For cats, socializing involves interacting with them in their living spaces. There are several different themed rooms such as the Sunshine Room and Tower Room that offer a unique living environment for the cats. Many of the cats enjoy interacting with the volunteers and seek out their attention. A favorite among many cats are wand toys in addition to treats. 

The spots for Fall 2023 volunteer shifts are filled. St. Hubert’s will be accepting applications for the Spring 2024 session early next year.

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