The Scarlet & Black

The Independent Student News Site of Grinnell College

The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

Feven Getachew
Feven Getachew
May 6, 2024
Michael Lozada
Michael Lozada
May 6, 2024
Nathan Hoffman
Nathan Hoffman
May 6, 2024
Harvey Wilhelm `24.
Harvey Wilhelm
May 6, 2024

Pals of PALS no more

Dog cages outside the main PALS building in Grinnell.

By Chloe Wray

On Sept. 5, Pals of PALS, the student group in support of the Poweshiek Animal League Shelter (PALS), announced in an email to student volunteers that Pals of PALS would no longer work with the shelter. 

“It saddens us deeply to say this, however starting tomorrow Pals of PALS will no longer operate in conjunction with Poweshiek Animal League Shelter,” the email read, later stating that the leaders can help put students in contact with PALS and connect them with rides. Previously, the group had coordinated volunteer shifts each week, recruiting students to fill them and providing transportation. 

Gemma Nash, Katie Lou McCusker and Seth Ruiz, all ’19, were leaders of Pals of PALS. Each had three years of experience volunteering at PALS. Nash believes that, based on archived email exchanges, the group dates back to 2012. 

The dissolution of the relationship between the student group and the shelter comes with a shift in the PALS administration. In December 2017, Kacie Fattig and Jenny Fiebelkorn were hired to fill the role of part-time shelter co-managers. Fiekelborn shared that she and Fattig assumed their roles after previous management had vacated their position, leaving the new managers to learn the ways of the shelter on their own. 

“PALS has significantly professionalized since Jenny and Kacie, our two part-time managers, took over at the start of 2018,” Professor Barry Driscoll, political science and member of the PALS Board of Directors, wrote in an email to The S&B. “They’ve built relationships with animal welfare professionals outside of Iowa and have started to import some best practices for modern shelter care. … A successful program needs volunteers who understand their role in an organization and the negative impact made when volunteers are not reliable or ignore policies and procedures.”

Recent policies regarding volunteering introduced by Fiebelkorn and Fattig include new training procedures and request that volunteer shifts be requested three weeks in advance. Pals of PALS shared that it was difficult for students with shifting schedules to commit so far in advance, especially when their volunteers were used to signing up for shifts on a weekly basis. 

Additionally, PALS now requires volunteer training by employees or board members for safety and liability reasons, whereas in the past Pals of PALS had been allowed to train their own volunteers. 

The adjustment to the new management contrasted with experiences Pals of PALS had with previous management who were perceived as relaxed, if not at times unorganized. “I understand PALS’ reasons for making the changes that they did, it was just that there was a lot of difficulty in making that transition and I think that left an image issue. While the reasoning is understandable, I think their attempt to phase us out became a lot more apparent,” Ruiz wrote in an email to The S&B. 

Nash and McCusker were abroad when the PALS management shifted and the new policies took effect, a factor which both Pals of PALS and PALS expressed in contributing to misunderstandings. Previously Nash and McCusker interned at PALS, employed through the Service Learning Work Study program, however, in the time they were abroad, PALS hired new interns. 

“We have a lot of experience, we have a lot of value, and we weren’t assigned that value,” said McCusker. Ruiz wrote that Pals of PALS had essentially been “relegated into a taxi service” who no longer had input into the shelter’s organization. 

The leaders of the former Pals of PALS, which is in search of a new name, are investigating alternate animal-care volunteer options in the area, such as Jasper County Animal Rescue League, who McCusker feels are more open to changing student schedules. 

PALS, however, still welcomes Grinnell College students to volunteer independently. Fiebelkorn says that within the past month, over 40 students have expressed interest in volunteering with PALS, about

Dog cages outside the main PALS building in Grinnell. Photo by Sarina Lincoln.

half of whom have completed the two-hour training. 

Within the new volunteer model, the Service Learning Work Study students are responsible for communicating with student volunteers and arranging transportation through College drivers. With the interns each at the office an average of five hours a week they have become attune to the daily and weekly needs of the shelter, making them well suited to acting as liaisons between the College and PALS, says Fiebelkorn. 

Students interested in volunteering can contact PALS directly, or email the leaders of the group formerly known as Pals of PALS to explore other options. 

Leave a Comment
More to Discover
Donate to The Scarlet & Black
Our Goal

Comments (0)

All The Scarlet & Black Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *