In her 12 years with Delta County Citizens for Animal Welfare and Shelter (CAWS), JoAnn Kalenak has seen the fallout from the neglect, abuse and abandonment of cats and dogs in Delta County. She recalls four dogs abandoned in Hotchkiss when the family that once cared for them walked away from their house. On their way out they tossed a bag of food onto a concrete floor and turned a garden hose on.
Kalenak recently announced she would be stepping down as volunteer and board member for CAWS. On Sunday, CAWS board members, volunteers and supporters honored Kalenak for her commitment, sacrifice and dedication.
"We are where we are today because of her," said board member John Martindale, who, along with wife Mary, have also volunteered for CAWS for 12 years. "I think the only thing she didn't do for CAWS is found CAWS."
As one of CAWS' many volunteers, Kalenak took on a heavy workload, said Martindale. She sought and wrote grants, negotiated for the opening of the Delta shelter, and worked adoption events while working full time as marketing manager at High Country News. Martindale said she would take calls at all hours of the day or night, from the police, an organization or a concerned citizen, asking CAWS to "pick up an abused dog, an injured dog or a starving dog that somebody doesn't want anymore. A dog just left behind, tied up to a tree because they either didn't want it, were moving, or couldn't afford it. And she never said no."
She also took injured and abused animals to the vet, said an emotional Martindale, many so badly injured or beaten that they had to be put down.
Kalenak is also director of the CAWS Adoption Center in Delta. During her 10 years on the board she served as president, treasurer and secretary.
"It's been a pleasure and an honor to do what I have done for CAWS," said Kalenak. She will shift her energy to Western Colorado Animal Resources, or WeCARe, a resource-sharing network that assists multiple western Colorado agencies in providing services for the welfare of animals.
Kalenak said that in March the important work CAWS performs was validated when it was named 2015 Nonprofit of the Year by the Delta Area Chamber of Commerce. The other organizations nominated do important work, too, she said, making the award all the more meaningful.
Martindale said Kalenak will be difficult to replace. In the meantime, everyone in the organization will have to take on additional duties, he said.
The board of directors also recognized all of the CAWS volunteers, including foster care, shelter and adoption event workers, and the people who run Barkin' Bargains Thrift Store in Paonia, which helps fund the organization and allows it to focus on the animals. "Without all our volunteers, there's just no way that we'd have CAWS," said board member Karen Goodwin, who also volunteers as Barkin' Bargains' board liaison.
The Volunteer of the Year award went to Mary Martindale for her outstanding commitment to Barkin' Bargains. "You would never know how much she does until you start trying to pitch in when she's gone for a week," said Goodwin. "She works tirelessly and does so many things. Without her we wouldn't have a Barkin' Bargains."
CAWS began as the Animal Shelter of Delta County in 1998 and in 2000 was renamed CAWS. The organization offers pet adoption services and spay and neuter and foster programs. Its adoption center in Delta provides a safe place for dogs and cats until they can find a home. A network of volunteers also provides foster care. More information can be found at www.cawsonline.org.