Calista and George Hospodarsky were vacationing in Europe when they heard about the Floods of 2008.
Among the places the couple learned had flooded was the Iowa City Animal Care & Adoption Center, where they were volunteers. The couple went to cafes in Rome so they could check their email and stay updated on the situation.
After a full day of travel back to Iowa, the couple didn’t head home from the airport. Instead, they went to the shelter to help with animals in need of emergency homes.
“We drove from the airport to the fairgrounds,” George said. “We helped out for one or two hours before we went home and went to sleep.”
After more than a decade of committed service at the animal shelter, the couple in June received the Governor’s Volunteer Award during a ceremony in Cedar Rapids.
“It was a great honor to be associated with all these people who are trying to make a difference in the world,” George said.
The couple not only volunteers at the shelter, but also fosters pets in their home, to prepare them for adoption.
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“They’ve been with us a long time, through thick and thin,” said Liz Ford, Animal Services Supervisor at the animal shelter.
The couple has taken more than 400 animals under their roof over the years, Ford said.
The Hospodarskys have a special room to house and care for the various foster animals. Ford said this care helps the animals become healthy, playful and nice.
“I feel like I make a difference in the animals’ lives,” Calista said — and she encourages others to give it a go. “I think people who are curious should just try out fostering. It is not a lifetime commitment, you can start with one fostering placement and see what you want to do from there.”
Calista is a special education paraprofessional at Hoover Elementary in West Branch and is able to volunteer more during the summer. She helps track donations and gets the animals ready for adoptions or foster care.
George is an associate research scientist in physics and astronomy at the University of Iowa. Both are passionate about helping the center in their spare time.
While animals might not be everyone’s passions, Calista said there are plenty of other service opportunities for people to put their time and talent toward.
“I encourage people to volunteer at whatever capacity they can,” she said.