After a first (but she says certainly not last) “abysmal” grade on a midterm, Laura Renfroe ’14 decided to flee the stress of school and go to the local animal shelter. Playing fetch with a dog named Meatball and holding Kermit the kitten changed her perspective. “It reminded me what was important in life,” she says. “I found myself going back every week or so, and more and more friends tagged along each time.”
With support of the College’s Center for Civic Engagement and its director Amy Bibbens, Renfroe branched out last spring and organized the 5C Animal Shelter Volunteer Program. In its infancy, it was originally a CMC group, but Renfroe wanted students from all of The Claremont Colleges the opportunity to “escape the pressure of academia and revive their sense of purpose. I also wanted to create a fulfilling opportunity for students to give back to the surrounding community,” she says. “I’ve been blessed with continual support and generosity from the Center for Civic Engagement, as well as Zipcar’s ‘Student’s With Drive’ preliminary grant.”
That initial $5,500 grant from Zipcar ("Wheels when you want them” is the motto of the world’s largest car-sharing service) happened last November, after Renfroe and friends won the company’s Students With Drive contest because of their animal shelter start-up. And while some may take having their own car for granted, having a Zipcar––for those who don’t––makes the difference between thought and action/desire and impact.
“Zipcars are essential to transport us to and from the West End Shelter for Animals in Ontario,” says Renfroe, speaking of the no-kill shelter where she and her peers volunteer about 40 hours a week (and 900 collective hours, to date). “Since winning the monthly Student’s With Drive contest last year, our program has transformed from a few students borrowing a friends’ car, to a team of dedicated volunteers making a difference in the community.”
“Laura has done an amazing job of coordinating students to visit the West End Shelter every week,” Bibbens says.
It’s Zipcar's Students With Drive contest time again––which rewards student organizations that use their cars for their service efforts. And this time the stakes are bigger: Zipcar is giving $10,000 to the organization, and $10,000 to the College’s scholarship fund––for a total award of $20,000. The 5C Animal Shelter Volunteer Program just found out it’s a finalist, but the competition is stiff: groups at Yale, the University of Michigan, Berkeley, and the University of Illinois are finalists as well. Renfroe says the money would be used for small construction projects at the shelter: renovation of an outdoor cat jungle, and the design of a small bathing area for dogs, to cool them during California’s heat waves.
Voting is done through Facebook. Facebook users may visit the following link to vote for The 5C Animal Shelter Volunteer Program: https://www.facebook.com/events/469239183144289/. (The link will take you to an “event” page for the Animal Shelter group. From that page, follow the directions to vote.)
Voting is open through 9 p.m. (PST) Monday April 8.