Volunteers are critical to the success of nonprofit organizations, and particularly to organizations like ours that rely on volunteers to fulfill our mission. Fidelco is fortunate to have hundreds of volunteers who support nearly every aspect of our work. Whether providing administrative or event support, or raising and socializing future guide dogs, Fidelco simply could not operate without volunteers who give their time, energy, and resources every day of the year.
Linda Gilley is a lifelong dog lover who has devoted her time to Fidelco for over 20 years.
Linda’s introduction to Fidelco in 1983 was entirely coincidental. Through the window of her Springfield, MA apartment, Linda saw a neighbor walking a guide dog down the street each morning. She was curious about the dog, and her husband, Neil, was able to catch up to the woman one morning and got her phone number. Linda contacted her, and they met several times at a local dog park. During one of their meetings, the neighbor told Linda that Fidelco wasn’t too far away, and Linda quickly contacted Fidelco to inquire about becoming a volunteer.
In Fidelco’s early years, there was no administrative office, and all calls were routed through the Kaman Corporation. When Linda called, she was told that Charlie Kaman wanted to meet with her. She fondly recalls sitting in Charlie’s beautiful office where he told her they would be building a kennel the next year, and to call back after its completion. Linda considered it a “great honor” to have spent time with Charlie that day and was struck by his pride in Fidelco and hope for its future.
In 1984, Linda began volunteering at the newly completed kennel once a week after work, doing whatever was needed, which often included walking dogs and cleaning kennels. She recalls that Robbie Kaman was a constant, welcoming presence in the puppy area. She also remembers that in those early days, Fidelco’s Annual Walks around the Fidelco and Kaman campuses were a huge success with plenty of participants and vendors.
Over the years she has ably assisted with a variety of activities: serving as volunteer coordinator for the Annual Walks, performing administrative tasks, coordinating children’s birthday parties, and making presentations for nearly eight years at schools and senior centers throughout Connecticut with her career-change German Shepherd, “Prairie.”
Linda beams when she recalls the presentations, stating that they were her favorite of all volunteer activities because she believes they made a lasting impact on students, teachers, and seniors by educating them about people who are blind and the positive effect that a guide dog has on the quality of their lives.
Linda’s enthusiasm for Fidelco hasn’t wavered—she is currently conducting Fidelco’s “Insights” orientation program for prospective volunteers and has recently received another career-change German Shepherd dog.
“I love being here,” says Linda. “This is my comfortable place. I love all dogs and Fidelco’s mission of helping people.”