Rescue dogs

Animal lover helps raise money for rescue dogs in Northern California

Joelle Hoffman struggles to socialize a dog that recently arrived at Compassion Sans Frontières’ shelter./Courtesy of Joelle Hoffman

Meet Joelle Hoffman, winner of the Daily Point of Light Award. During the third annual Global Volunteer Month, we celebrate the power of people who take on society’s greatest challenges and build stronger, more vibrant communities through volunteerism and everyday actions, like Joelle. Read her story and join the celebration of Global Volunteer Month.

Growing up, Joelle Hoffman watched her mother volunteer so much that it felt natural to her. This mentality led her to volunteer for her sons’ schools for years. After graduating, the animal lover decided to try her hand at a new kind of service work: raising money for rescue dogs.

Joelle is a community outreach volunteer for Compassion without borders, a Sonoma County-based nonprofit that helps dogs in Northern California as well as Mexico. Although Joelle wears many hats when it comes to her service, from fostering puppies to helping find lost dogs, her primary focus is coordinating fundraising events for Compassion Across Borders. Last year, she helped the charity touch the lives of more than 10,500 animals.

How does Compassion Across Borders help your community?

Compassion Without Borders is a Northern California nonprofit whose mission is to provide a brighter future for animals in need on both sides of the border. To do this, they have a variety of programs. One is a low-cost monthly veterinary care clinic, which includes neutering and neutering. They execute those in underserved communities. Typically, we go to Sonoma County, which is in our backyard, and we do that once a month. People start lining up at four, five, six in the morning and we will take up to 100 animals. They will do a general wellness check, microchip, register for sterilization and neutering. We also have another arm and it is our shelter. It’s called Muttopia and it’s also in Sonoma County. We rescue, rehabilitate and offer dogs for adoption. Then we have a shelter, a wellness clinic and a new puppy orphanage in Mexico. Dogs in Mexico receive their medical exam and then they are brought to Northern California for adoption.

Woman in a blue rain jacket kneels on the ground holding a small brown dog.
Joelle Hoffman greets a rescue dog recently arrived at Compassion Sans Frontières./Courtesy of Joelle Hoffman

Describe your role as a volunteer with Compassion Sans Frontières.

My business card says “Volunteering: Community Outreach,” and that’s where I spend most of my time. I create and coordinate fundraising events, which raise money for rescue needs. … Not only am I fundraising, but I’m also fostering puppies. It’s always better to have puppies in the house, and I have a rescue dog myself. So when there are puppies, sometimes I bring some home and play with them for as long as it takes to find their home. Most Sundays I will go to the shelter and fill KONGs. KONGs are these big plastic chew toys that have a hole in them, so we put wet food and dry food in them, fill them with peanut butter, and freeze them. We give them to the dogs as enrichment at night, because I’m sure the dogs get a little bored, so they’ll play with the KONGs. What happens, unfortunately, is that if the dog is adopted into a new home, he sometimes flips his harness or slips off his collar and rushes out the door. I am part of a group of 10 of us who get the SOS call, and we are going to help find the dog and get him back to his owner. We’re 10 for 10 on that one.

What made you want to start volunteering in this way?

I have always been a volunteer. When I was growing up, my mother used to volunteer, so volunteering was nothing new to me. I have two boys. They are now out of the house and graduated, but during their school time, I was volunteering for the Halloween festival, and I was volunteering for the boosters and the snack bar and organizing events for the school. When they moved out and went to college, I thought I had all this free time, what am I going to do? I knew my love was for dogs, and Compassion Without Borders has an amazing reputation in Sonoma County.

What about Compassion Across Borders that has inspired you to continue volunteering in so many different ways over the past four years?

I wholeheartedly believe in their mission – what they do not just for animals, but for people, by having low cost wellness clinics. It really gives owners of these animals peace of mind to make sure they are taking good care of their pets. I have never worked with or met as many people dedicated to the mission as everyone at Compassion Sans Frontières. You have people driving four or five hours one way to pick up a dog in need. You have [cofounders Dr. Christi Camblor and Moncho Camblor]. It’s their life, just saving animals. It’s really amazing to see.

Woman wearing a logo shirt featuring a colorful image of a dog's head and the words
Joelle Hoffman describes Compassion Across Borders’ work with animals at an information booth./Courtesy of Joelle Hoffman

Do you have any goals you would like to achieve with this organization?

My number one goal is to make as much money as possible so we can afford various things. We just got an x-ray machine at the shelter so Christi can take x-rays rather than having to outsource these types of vet care to other vets. We wish we could get a commercial dishwasher so the ACTs don’t necessarily need to run the dishwasher as often. There are little things like that for me that really push me to do everything I can and organize as many events as possible. Christi is a veterinarian, so we take on many difficult medical cases not only from Mexico, but we also partner with the Central Valley here in California. … Because we take so many medical cases, it costs a lot of money. My goal is to earn as much money as possible and help as many animals as possible. This is the bottom line. Unfortunately, everything costs money, whether it’s bandages, microchips, antibiotics, medicated shampoos or whatever, not to mention sterilization.

Why do you think it is important for others to give back?

My mom did a lot of volunteering, and I think I always felt that’s what you do. I think a lot of people are afraid to volunteer, because when I was in boys’ high school, people were like, “Don’t do that, you’re going to get screwed.” What kind of attitude is that? I went to a few meetings and they told me to do what you can. I think there are so many misconceptions about volunteering. I think some places require a minimum number of hours per month, but find a place that doesn’t and donate what you can. Volunteering can be one day a week or one hour to fill KONGs or fold laundry. Find your passion and go help anyone who joins your mission and shares the same ideas. I think volunteering feeds my soul. It gives me purpose, so I’m a big believer in volunteering.

What do you want people to learn from your story?

I’ve had so many people say to me, “How can you work for a rescue? Isn’t that depressing? What we see is pretty awful sometimes, but the bright side is you have this amazing team around you who are just wonderful, compassionate, driven people. It makes you look at the world as a good place. We can sometimes get sucked into some of the ugliness, but there is so much good in the world. I have to say that working with Compassion shows me every day the wonderful people out there.

Do you want to make a difference in your community like Joelle? Find local volunteer opportunities.