Person stands clapping at a Gala event

Volunteer of the Month: Kate

The 2021 Nine Lives Gala was an incredible success for cats thanks to our wonderful community including donors, staff, supporters, fosters, adopters, and all of the volunteers who made it possible. This month, we are shining the spotlight on one of the volunteers who helped shape the Gala! 

From picking up donations and driving them to the Rescue, to working behind the scenes to plan the Nine Lives Gala, Kate is always busy helping the kitties! Kate Johnson has been with SAFe Rescue since 2018, and has volunteered more than 100 hours. Kate chooses to volunteer with SAFe because, as she puts it, “I love volunteering for a no-kill rescue that truly values the lives of cats and also finds ways to support our community of pet owners. (Like offering supplies during hard times for pet owners who may have dogs or care for other animals, too.) When I volunteer, I feel like I’m giving a hug to all the cats who are in need and saying ‘hang in there!’ (Which is really lovely because it can be hard to find cats who actually enjoy a hug… Although I don’t hold that against them!)”

Seeing homeless felines find a family to care for them is one of the most heartwarming aspects of Kate’s volunteer work: “My little heart overflows when I hear about a SAFe cat who has found a forever home, especially when it is a cat with special needs. It’s particularly exciting when the cat is one that I’ve personally met in the rescue!” 

Kate first got involved with SAFe after her beloved cat, Greeny, passed away due to congenital heart failure. While Kate and her family still had Greeny’s sibling, Swamper, the loss of a family member always requires a period of healing. “I wasn’t ready to adopt another cat, yet, so I thought volunteering might be a good way to heal. I’d read an article about Courage, a former SAFe rescue cat who is by now certainly famous! Shelley Lawson (Courage’s foster mom) was my first point of contact and introduced me to everyone, and I’ve participated as a volunteer in some shape or form since then. I had no idea how much it would help me to volunteer and I’m happy to say that it feels like it’s mutually beneficial! 

My first impression was that SAFe is a rare sanctuary for cats, run by people with big hearts and an oversized capacity for compassion and understanding. The warmth with which I was received as a volunteer still stands out in my mind as one of the most welcoming experiences I’ve had in a room full of strangers.” 

When Kate isn’t busy helping homeless cats, she is a professional artist. In fact, one of her favorite memories as a volunteer  was when she delivered the finished custom pet portraits she painted to the winning bidders from the Nine Lives Gala! (You can see Kate’s art at

In addition to putting her artistic talent and event-planning skills to use for the kitties, Kate also volunteers as a driver. She has brought many donations to SAFe including holiday food drives,  cat trees, and even 1,000 pounds of donated litter! As Kate puts it, “No amount of donated goods, donated time, or donated money is too small to make a difference…even though we may feel it is negligible or not enough to ‘count’, it matters! I wish that other people knew that when I began volunteering, I underestimated the value I could bring to SAFe. If they’re uncertain about what they have to offer as a volunteer, and they’re letting that hold them back, then they are likely doing the same! You have something to offer even if you don’t know what that is, yet.”

All volunteering comes with lessons learned and that is no exception for Kate. “I’ve learned how to be brave from SAFe leadership, how to speak up for those who aren’t heard, and to try to help even if—or especially when—something feels impossible to fix.” Kate thanks staff members at SAFe for  inspiring her to continue on with her work; Kate says: “Nichole Abbey manages the Gala volunteer team so well that it is a continued joy in my life; she’s the main influence.”

When it comes to making the jump and becoming a SAFe volunteer, Kate advises, “There may be lots of unknowns in the beginning (Will you have enough time? Will you be able to fill a specific role? Will you know what you’re doing?) but the truth of the matter is you won’t know the size and shape of the impact you can make until you begin—and what you can achieve, with what you already have to give, will amaze you.” 

Thank you for everything you do Kate, and here’s to another 100 hours together! 

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