Barbara Goebel has been a fixture at the Kelowna branch of the B.C. SPCA for 25 years.
“Since 1996,” she told Global News.
What’s perhaps even more remarkable is that Goebel is at the animal shelter every single day of the week.
“Seven days a week,” she said. “Three, four, maybe even sometimes five hours a day.”
But what is extraordinary is she doesn’t get paid for any of it. She volunteers.
“It just gives me a huge sense of pride, it gives me fulfillment. It gives me purpose in the day,” Goebel said. “I go to bed at night sometimes exhausted but I wouldn’t have it any other way. I get up the next morning and I look forward to doing exactly the same thing all over again.”
Goebel said her long stint as an SPCA volunteer began when a neighbour suggested taking a shelter dog for a walk.
“She gave me a call and asked me if … I would like to go down to the SPCA and walk a dog for exercise — for us, not for the dog,” she said, laughing.
The longtime volunteer helps out in various capacities.
“Anything that needs to be done, I do it,” she said.
That includes working at the front desk, supporting staff and helping the animals.
“The best part of my day is coming in in the morning and letting the dogs out for the very first morning ‘constitution,'” she said. “They’re so happy to see you.”
SPCA staff have affectionately nicknamed Goebel “shelter mom.”
“We go through some of the worst things sometimes with these animals,” said Sean Hogan, manager of the Kelowna SPCA branch. “Barb is there is there for us on our toughest days.”
It’s a nickname Goebel is proud to have been given by the staff.
“I can be ‘shelter mom’ because, let me see, I’m old enough to be their mother, old enough to be their grandmother, but I think it’s just because I show them how much they mean to me,” she said. “I see them in action. They are the most, compassionate, dedicated … oh, I just feel like a proud mother.”
Goebel said she offers staff comfort on what can be tough days when dealing with heartbreaking animal situations.
“If they are having a difficult day, by all means, I’ll reach out to them and say, ‘Listen, do you need a hug?’ Because you need something to help you get through that day,” she said.
Goebel and other volunteers right across Canada are being celebrated this week on what is the start of National Volunteer Week.
“This is incredible dedication. It means that we are able to provide more service,” Hogan said. “We simply can’t do this work with just the staff that we have, so having volunteers like Barb, having any volunteers in the organization at all, is heart-swelling to think of their contributions.”
As volunteerism is celebrated, Goebel is encouraging everyone and anyone who can to give it a try.
“All you have to do is look into the eyes of an animal, look into the eyes of a child, look into the eyes of a senior,” an emotional Goebel said. “Those eyes will tell you that you have a lot to offer.”