“Annie! It is so nice to finally meet you! Before you go… Could I give you a hug?”
There are moments in our lives that we never forget. As I write this blog, I have goosebumps remembering that big, bear hug I got from one very special lady: Ann Saltzberg. The main reason why that hug is now so important is that just two weeks after I met Annie in person for the first time, she passed away.
Annie, as we called her in the shelter, loved animals. And she loved the Winnipeg Humane Society. Every month, without fail, I receive in the mail a thank you card, two scratch-and-win lottery tickets (we won a grand total of $2), and a little office supply present (sticky notes, pencils) from Annie. She was grateful for the work the team here does. And while money was always tight, Annie donated whatever she could, several times during the year. It is not the amount what mattered, it was her commitment and the trust she had in our work that was so tremendously humbling.
We of course appreciate and we are deeply grateful to all donors. But those individuals who are not wealthy and still choose to give because it means a lot to them… well they are extra special to us. It shows how important animal welfare is, how impactful pets are in our lives, and the tremendous responsibility we have at the WHS to be careful stewards of all monies we receive.
Annie also called us regularly. She would ask how we were doing, and always ended her conversations very cheerfully and telling me “Javier, if you ever need to talk to someone, call me”. Her compassion, her care and her trust will stay with us forever.
Thank you, Annie, for making the world a better place, thank you for your courage as you battled illness. And thank you for the heartfelt hug I got from you when we finally met.
There is also the story of Ethel Miller. Legendary would not even begin to describe her. She was a volunteer since 1971, donating thousands of hours to the WHS. Ethel was always our top fundraiser of our ‘tag day’, an event where volunteers asked for donations in front of grocery and retail stores. Ethel had secured a spot underground at Portage & Main and wouldn’t take no for an answer when asked for donations.
She was a longstanding donor, one that gave a sizable gift for our capital campaign when our current shelter was being built, and for 11 years gave a generous donation to our Spay and Neuter Fund. Not only was Ethel a committed and leadership-level donor, she was also an amazing volunteer and adopter.
Over her lifetime Ethel adopted, mostly from the WHS including Sandy, Kelly, Skeezix, Cricket, Lady Jane, Pharah, Mr. Moto, Ladybird, Sneakers, Noelle, Otis, Yoshie, Pugsley, Lucy and Kato. Ethel picked up donations cans in retail locations who support our “Cans for Critters” program, even when she never drove a car in her life!
In her obituary, her family asked for people to direct donations to the WHS, which was very touching. What we did not expect is to be the recipients of a most generous bequest. As it turns out, volunteering here and helping the animals made her decide that her legacy would be trusted to the WHS. Bequests are the ultimate gift to the animals, and a way to be remembered, as the gift becomes part of the 125 year old WHS institutional memory.
Both Annie and Ethel left an indelible mark at your Winnipeg Humane Society. Both gave everything they could and always thought about the importance of animal welfare and rehabilitating sick, injured and mistreated animals.
We will not forget you, Ethel and Annie. And we will continue to work as hard as we can to honour your memory making sure every animal gets a fair shake, and that we speak on behalf of all animals to end abuse and cruelty towards them.
Thank you for reading this blog. And thank you for your support and constant encouragement. Each of you is truly special and we are lucky to count on you to save thousands of animals every year, and to give a voice to all animals in Manitoba.