Top Volunteers of 2016 Honored for Helping Pets at OHS

We’re Wild About Our Volunteers

The theme of this year’s celebration: We’re Wild About Our Volunteers!

An Oregon City woman who volunteered more than 400 hours of her time in 2016 to help animals rescued from neglect has been named the OHS Volunteer of the Year. René Pizzo received the honor on March 12 at a special awards ceremony that recognized outstanding OHS volunteers.

OHS volunteers walk dogs, find homes for cats, assist shelter veterinarians, rescue stranded dogs, and more. Last year, more than 4,000 people contributed their time and talents to helping animals at OHS.

“We would need 118 additional full-time employees to equal the amount of time contributed by our volunteers last year,” said Sharon Harmon, OHS Executive Director. “The compassion and the commitment of OHS volunteers is truly something to bark about.”

During an awards ceremony held at the Red Lion on the River in Portland, OHS awarded special recognition to volunteers and one staff member (chosen by the volunteers) in 23 categories.

Harmon presented the Volunteer of the Year Award to René Pizzo of Oregon City;  the Lifetime Achievement Award to Teresa Leap of SE Portland; the Volunteer’s Choice Award to Denise Kinstetter of Gresham; and the End Petlessness Award to Carol Christensen of Milwaukie.

Top Honors

Rene Pizzo, OHS Volunteer of the Year

Volunteer of the Year Award

René Pizzo (Oregon City), winner of the Volunteer of the Year Award, began volunteering for OHS more than 25 years ago. Over those years, she has amassed an impressive record of accomplishments.

Most recently, she played a key role in the rescue of 245 exotic birds housed in unsanitary and overcrowded conditions. She assisted with transporting the birds during the rescue, constructing an emergency shelter for the birds and working one-on-one with potential adopters to make sure the birds went to the best homes. In total, René volunteered 410 hours to help with the rescue and the subsequent care and adoption of the animals.

René has previously won the OHS Volunteer Lifetime Achievement Award and the OHS Technical Animal Rescue Team (OHSTAR) Volunteer Award. As part of her past OHSTAR work, Pizzo participated in several large-scale deployments, including animal rescue and recovery in in New Orleans after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. She is now the volunteer leader of OHSTAR.


Teresa Leap, Lifetime Achievement Award Winner

Lifetime Achievement Award

Teresa Leap (SE Portland), winner of the Lifetime Achievement Award, began volunteering for OHS in May of 2000. She is a quiet force in the volunteer program who has come in almost every single Saturday morning for 17 years to take shelter dogs for walks.

She seems happiest when she is befriending the smaller dogs she takes for walks. She loves all the dogs, but has a special place in her heart for seniors and petite pooches.


Denise Kinstetter, Volunteer’s Choice Award Winner

Volunteer’s Choice Award

Denise Kinstetter (Gresham), winner of the Volunteer’s Choice Award, was selected by a vote of her volunteer peers. Kinstetter created a mentoring program to train volunteers interested in showing cats to potential adopters. She also created a process to pair new volunteers with a mentor. Kinstetter herself became the first Showing a Cat mentor.

She has also been a tremendous help to the Spay and Save program, where she has worked countless hours staffing the phones, put in long shifts during each of the major spay/neuter events at OHS, and canvassed neighborhoods to distribute flyers and discuss the program with neighborhood residents.



Carol Christensen, End Petlessness Award Winner

End Petlessness Award

Carol Christensen (Milwaukie), winner of the End Petlessness Award, was honored for contributing the most overall volunteer hours to OHS in 2016. Christensen donated 805 in-shelter hours last year and more than 2,500 hours as a volunteer foster parent.

Last year, Carol worked long hours at the OHS emergency bird shelter, going above and beyond by deep-cleaning and scrubbing cages, pre-cutting liners to save time and staying well beyond her shift hours to ensure everything was done properly. She has also been active transporting pets for the OHS Outreach program and helping with Spay & Save program.


More Award Winners

Administrative Ace: Lynn Esser (Happy Valley). This award is for the volunteers who do behind-the-scenes work to keep the shelter running smoothly.

Behavior and Training: Margaret Spear (NE Portland). This award honors a volunteer’s contribution to the reward-based Pet Pals and Kennel Buddies training programs for shelter dogs.

Best in the West: Helen Goodwin (SW Portland). This award honors a volunteer who has contributed to the success of the OHS Westside Adoption Center.

Cat’s Meow: Sharon Slayton (SE Portland). This award is for the volunteer who does outstanding work helping cats at the shelter.

Client Companion: Barbra Bader (SW Portland). This award recognizes the volunteer who has helped the most in the Customer Care Department.

Faithful Companion: Debbie Chin (SE Portland). This award recognizes a volunteer who has consistently helped the animals of OHS over an extended period of time.

Education Extraordinaire: Bobbi Waggoner (NE Portland). This award honors the volunteer who has helped the humane educators of OHS in their presentations to and events for youth, helping to inspire the next generation to be kind to animals.

New Best Friend: Paul DuCommun (SE Portland). This award honors a volunteer who is new to OHS but who has helped the animals in a significant way.

OHS Technical Animal Rescue Team (OHSTAR): Jeff Nastoff (SW Portland). This award honors OHSTAR volunteers, who help rescue animals who are stranded and in need of human assistance to survive. These volunteers climb trees, rappel down cliffs and search the wilderness when called to help pets in need.

Outta this World: Elaine Schimek (N Portland). This award recognizes adoption outreach volunteers who showcase OHS animals at locations outside the shelter almost every week of the year. Outreach venues include everything from shopping malls to Blazers games to OHS red carpet events.

Party Animal: Kallie Thomas (SW Portland). This award honors the volunteer who helps get the word out to the public by helping with OHS special events and outreach campaigns.

Pick of the Litter: Mitchell Rogers (N Portland) Voted on by the volunteers themselves, this award honors the OHS employee who they think goes the extra mile when it comes to working with volunteers.

Second Chance: Eveline Fontenelle (SE Portland). This award honors a volunteer who has been a major help with the OHS Second Chance program. This program transfers pets to OHS from other shelters that are faced with too many pets and too few resources.

Small and Mighty: Caitlin McCall (NE Portland). This award recognizes the volunteer who works with small animals, such as rabbits, mice, guinea pigs, chinchillas, birds and the occasional degu.

Spay & Save Client Whisperer: Tracy Cozine (NE Portland). The Spay and Save program reaches out to low-income residents to alter their cats and some dogs for little to no cost. This award honors volunteers who help with the program through data entry, phone calls, outreach and promotion.

Surgical Sweet: Sandra Hudspeth (NE Portland). This award honors a volunteer who has made a big difference by helping the OHS veterinary medicine team. The OHS Holman Medical Center is a major asset to shelter pets, and volunteers contribute significantly to its success.

Tony Platt Foster Care Award: Mary Doak (Canby). This award honors volunteers who work from home, taking care of animals who aren’t yet ready for the shelter. The award is named in honor of dedicated foster volunteer Tony Platt, who passed away in 2012.

Top Dog: Patty Doyle (NE Portland). This award recognizes a dog walking volunteer who has made a major impact on the dog walking program.

Trainer of the Year: Lynn Flory (N Portland). Some of the most valuable volunteers are those who mentor new volunteers. This award honors those who train others.

VIDEO: Watch Volunteers in Action + Thank Yous from Staff