Melinda Hickey is retiring after eight and a half years. Melinda’s experience and insight as a volunteer helped shape the volunteer program in her “dream job” as Volunteer Coordinator for Multnomah County Animal Services (MCAS).
In 2004, after visiting McMenamins Edgefield, Melinda started to think about volunteering at the nearby Troutdale animal shelter. Soon after, Melinda adopted a kitten, and asked about volunteering. At the time, there were only about 25 active volunteers managed by a staff member as an additional responsibility. There was minimal training, and limited division of duties for volunteers. “Volunteers did everything!” Melinda says. We worked with cats, dogs, and other animals. We helped clean and worked in the hospital.”
For Melinda, helping to introduce the Open Paw program to MCAS as a volunteer was a huge milestone. With the program’s emphasis on basic manners training, enrichment, and socialization for animals in a shelter environment, it strengthened volunteers’ knowledge and purpose, and trained pets to be more comfortable with visitors to their kennel, setting them up for success in a new adoptive home. While training methods were updated over the years, treat buckets on dog kennels and toys in the cat kennels are a visible legacy of the program for visitors.
After several years volunteering, Melinda was asked to mentor and train new volunteers. She also became heavily involved in outreach activities, notably Pitties in Pink Parades and showcasing animals for adoption at special events and local businesses.
In 2011, Melinda was invited to serve as the temporary, on-call Volunteer Coordinator until the official position could be posted and filled. A month after starting in the position, Melinda’s husband, Joe, was diagnosed with stage 4 liver cancer. Thankfully, her on-call status allowed her to spend more time with him. Joe passed away eleven months later. It was devastating for Melinda.
Melinda applied and interviewed for the Volunteer Coordinator position, and was officially hired in January 2013. The animals and people of MCAS became Melinda’s support system and lifeline after Joe passed, and she poured her soul into her work to make the volunteer program the best it could be.
Melinda focused on streamlining the volunteer orientation process, instituting safe animal handling training classes and different training levels for volunteers, and helping to make the shelter environment more friendly for adoptions. She invited volunteers to come forward with ideas and initiatives to help make things easier or better, and it has allowed Melinda to try new things to see what would work.
Melinda enjoys opportunities to recognize and celebrate volunteers, including an annual spring breakfast, a December bowling party, and County volunteer awards each year. Melinda says “volunteers are here out of the goodness of their hearts, and we need to be grateful and recognize that every chance we get. Feelings of belonging and appreciation are really important, and we want every volunteer to feel more a part of a community.”
Melinda acknowledges that the shelter environment can be a hard place to be. “It’s important to be honest, especially concerning humane euthanasia,” Melinda says. “It makes things easier to understand. Not everyone will agree, but they can have a deeper understanding of why things happen. The most important thing is to be supportive of people who are doing a really tough job.”
Melinda sees that everyone is here for the same reason- to help the animals. Maybe volunteers have different views and skill levels, but everyone can learn, and they’re all helpful.
Melinda’s advice to staff and volunteers is to be a team player, show up to help, and don’t get involved in drama. “My wish is that everyone can enjoy what they’re doing,” Melinda says.
In retirement, Melinda looks forward to traveling in her motorhome, spending more time with her grandkids, taking gardening classes, and maybe working as a barista for fun.
Thank you, Melinda, for your service for the pets and people of Multnomah County.
Memories of Melinda
“Melinda has one of the biggest hearts we have ever known! Her genuine pleasure from working with the volunteers is so apparent! And the glee on her face from working on the Pitties in Pink float made our hearts happy! Thank you Melinda for being such an awesome inspiration! We know you will be missed!!” - Joy and Rick W.
“I only knew you for a few months but I liked you from the beginning. You were kind and friendly to me. It’s going to be difficult for another to fill your shoes. I wish you the best on your new adventures with Porsche.” - Robin A.
“I remember meeting Melinda when I signed up to volunteer and how much I enjoyed talking with her. ‘What a kind and engaged person,’ I thought. After working with her for several months, my first impression still stuck and she ranks in a top spot among the easiest, most helpful, and pleasant people I have worked with during my life.” - Ann K.
“I had been volunteering at MCAS for the summer, but my mom had gotten ill. I was too exhausted taking care of mom and couldn't make it anymore. When I spoke to Melinda, she was so understanding and compassionate. I really needed that right then. Melinda is truly an amazing woman!” - Debby P.
“I loved working with Melinda! The shelter will not be the same! She is organized, a fantastic multi-tasker, and wonderfully relatable! Best wishes on retirement!!” - MaryJo A.
“It has been an added pleasure getting to know you as I checked in and out each week. I wish you and Porsche a beautiful retirement.... the fun is about to begin. YOU GO GIRL!!!!” - Enid T.
“Thank you for giving me this opportunity to volunteer at this animal shelter. It means a lot.” - Angel M.
“I always felt a special connection and kinship with Melinda. She made you feel special; she truly listened. And my God, she was incredibly patient with everyone! My favorite moments with her were sitting in her shared office chatting. She always had a dog she was giving a bit of respite from the kennels. We talked about volunteering, rescuing, animals, our families. Those we important moments of connecting and I know I wasn't the only one. Melinda is one of a kind. I think of her often and I wish her the absolute best in her new ventures.” - Laurel J.
“There is no one specific memory that stands out, but the impression Melinda made on me from day one was one of warmth and gratitude (for my volunteer service), for which I will always be grateful. Because of her willingness to help integrate massage into the kennels and organize the occasional massage class for volunteers, the dogs benefited, the volunteers benefited, and so did I, meeting some wonderful animals and other volunteers along the way. I have always appreciated her willingness to help, to find alternate places for me to massage dogs (including her office), to answer questions, and to keep me updated on important information. I'm deeply grateful to her for valuing the work I do and to entrusting me with the very special dogs I've worked with these last several years. I will miss her tremendously and wish her nothing but the best in retirement!” - Quimby L.
“I trained this beautiful lady who came from the fashion world of Nordstroms, to become a volunteer. Love to you, Melinda!” - Tina T.
“I have been volunteering for about 2 years. Melinda has always made me feel that volunteers are important and has always had our backs. She is always easy to chat with. And of course I think we all can agree that we loved to come into her office and see Porsche!” - Carissa M.
“We can all vouch for Melinda's work ethic- how she worries about the animals, how much she CARES. All the while Melinda was anticipating her last vacation, she worried -- a lot! -- about the wellbeing of the animals. Was there enough coverage in the kennels, who will cover the info desk... I LOVE this about Melinda!” - Arlene W.
“I've only been a volunteer for a year. I volunteer on Mondays, which means that most of my contact with Melinda has been via email. She has always been friendly and available and I will miss her!” - Sara B.
“Melinda has always put the volunteers at the forefront and made sure we were safe and that the animals were taken care of. Her tireless time and efforts and compassion will be missed. I have learned so much as a volunteer at MCAS thanks to her. Happy trails, Melinda!” - Vanessa & Jolene F.
“I started out as a volunteer, and Melinda was the first staff member I really interacted with. She told me about the reserve officer program, and helped me get started. I will always be grateful to her, and wish her all the happiness in the world!” - Rachel D.
“It was such a pleasure working with her and I will miss her I also wish her well on her retirement.” - Anne-Marie P.
“We had a great time visiting with you at the bowling alley. Thanks for all you have done for the animals and the volunteers.” - Sheri and Tiffany W.
“Melinda, thanks for all your help over the years.” - Valorie G.
“Thank you, Melinda, for all that you do! Your dedication to the animals and your support and guidance to the volunteers is very much appreciated! I loved participating in the "Pitties in Pink" parades! Remember when we used to walk the dogs beside the float?! What fun! Those pitties were ROCK STARS and so are you!
“We had a conversation recently about us starting about the same time. You had just officially become the Volunteer Coordinator and I had just started volunteering. That was about October 2011. Time sure does fly! Take care, my friend. Enjoy your retirement! I am SO jealous. :-D” - Regina
“Thank you for making me smile the past 2 years! You and your fun nature and good laughs will truly be missed!!” - Jeanette F.
“Melinda was an advocate for the volunteers and really had their best interests at heart. I respect that she always strived to be fair and fought hard for whatever she believed was right. She was really supportive during the times I needed her most. When I was in tears, she always listened and encouraged me. I will miss seeing Porsche dressed up in adorable little outfits... She and Melinda always looked so cute. I wish them a happy and stress-free retirement together!” - Kelley S.
“I am a new volunteer in the Cattery. Not one in particular, but a general memory of Melinda: she has always been encouraging and supportive of volunteers and “doing the right thing” in taking care of the animals and people at the shelter. I will remember her heart.” - Deb H.
“I have learned so much from Melinda since I became a volunteer almost 5 years ago! She set me up for successfully volunteering and eventually training other volunteers in the dog kennels. I am proud and honored to call her my friend. I’m going to miss her immensely!” - Sue S.
“Melinda is such a peaceful, welcoming, and steady presence. I loved coming in to volunteer when she was working because I knew she had our back and that we were valued by her. It meant so much to me that she seemed to know all of us by name and was genuinely happy to see us and invested in our lives. I will miss her a ton and I am so grateful that we volunteers had her as our face of MCAS because at least speaking for myself, her kindness and appreciation has kept me committed to doing all I can to help MCAS. Thank you so much Melinda! We love you and will miss you!” - Ellie M.
“Melinda, It was a pleasure to know you and your husband. Enjoy your retirement.” - Star B.
“Melinda, we’re very fortunate to have someone with your experience, heart, and initiative leading the volunteer program. You leave big shoes to fill, but we wish you the best in your retirement. I’ve appreciated our check-ins and real talks, and will miss you dearly on the development team. All my best!” - Jay L.