AEO Building a Better World Volunteer of the Month: Charlene, Material Handler

AEO associates share our commitment to doing better, being better and building a better world. We’re proud to spotlight our people who are making a real and lasting impact in their communities.

Meet Charlene, Material Handler at the Mississauga Distribution Center. As a volunteer with nonprofit animal rescue Paws & Tails, she spends time caring for cats and kittens in need. Charlene opens up about how volunteering has helped her to create a sense of belonging and she is encouraging others to give back as well.

Tell us about your favorite nonprofit and what it’s like to volunteer with them!
Since 2022, I have volunteered with Paws & Tails – a nonprofit, no-kill shelter that is 100% run by volunteers. We take in surrendered cats and kittens and get them ready for their new FURever home. I work with the organization once a week and happily fill in for other volunteers as needed. I assist with buying and stocking cat and kitten food, snacks and toys. I also work with the kittens, socializing and getting them used to human interaction. My absolute favorite part is working with the senior cats that are so often looked over (because everyone wants a kitten). People might not realize that the older cats often have the most love to give!

I also enjoy working with the cats that have faced challenges before coming to the shelter. Not long after I started volunteering, I fostered a beautiful tabby named Millie who was surrendered to Paws & Tails. She was so incredibly frightened and didn’t understand why her family was gone. Neglected, abundantly overfed and severely overweight, she needed special care. With my time, love and attention, Millie lost weight and opened up to show a sweet, beautiful side that I completely fell head over heels in love with! She’s now in her furever home and I get weekly updates along with photos of her.

Why is giving back and volunteering important to you?
Volunteering is important because it enables me to be involved in my community. I get to be a part of the growth of the animals from the time they arrive to placement in their new FURever homes. Volunteering makes such a PAWsitive impact, and if you are able to donate your time, your community will thank you and you’ll feel wonderful!

How do you think that being an active participant in your community helps to build a better world?
Being an active participant in the community helps to create a real sense of belonging, unity and togetherness. Volunteering will always make a positive difference for ourselves and our communities, and to me building a better world means giving back to those who need it most.

What are some of the lessons you have learned through volunteering?
The transformations I have seen for so many kittens and cats is amazing, and volunteers are helping to change the lives of these animals. Some, if not most, of the animals come to Paws & Tails from bad situations. With the love and care they receive from volunteers, they believe in humanity again. My wish is that more people will find even a few hours a month to give back, because volunteering your time and seeing all it can do – like being a voice to a voiceless animal – is so incredibly rewarding!