Story by Bella Wexler – Photos by Georgia Puttock
It was during the 1980s that Margaret Roesch noticed a need in the community of Green Valley for an animal rescue. She worked with hospice patients whose primary concern was not their own futures, but the futures of the pets they would leave behind. Inspired by the selfless love extended by these people to their beloved animals, Roesch founded The Animal League of Green Valley and incorporated it in 1984. She is the first of many animal advocates to pass through the organization’s doors, including fiercely committed Jean Davis who recently retired as board president.
Jean Davis had retired from her thirty years as a schoolteacher when she stumbled upon The Animal League of Green Valley. That was seventeen years ago. Needless to say, she fell in love. By 2005, Jean was appointed president of the Animal League board, a position that would bring her fifteen years of oversight into the expansion of this comprehensive rescue organization. During her presidency, Jean prided herself on foremost being a “listener and enabler”. Now, she is ready to be part of the next great chapter of The Animal League’s mission as a volunteer again, passing the presidency to Kim Eisele. The Animal League of Green Valley is so grateful for Jean’s nearly two decades of leadership and looks forward to many more years with her on the team!
Since the beginning, Jean has always demonstrated active engagement in her community. She spent thirty years as a dedicated and well-beloved teacher before joining The Animal League mission. “They say find a job that you love and you’ll never work another day in your life,” Jean says, “Well I found 2”! After The Animal League finally got their official building in 2001, Jean lobbied on behalf of the shelter for the right to include a picture of their building on their website. Making it known to the public that The Animal League of Green Valley was an official non-profit organization with a physical location was critical to putting it on the map. As more people became familiar with the Animal League, its resources became accessible to more pets in need. Soon, Jean was also volunteering at The Animal League’s thrift store to generate funds. Seeing that the blossoming shelter was already rich in volunteers and driven board members, she decided to step up as a member of the board to help with organization. In the years since, Jean came to help with so much more.
Jean is widely known for her contributions to youth engagement programs at The Animal League. More specifically, she applied her love of teaching young people to bring many teenagers in as youth interns at the shelter. At one point in time, the majority of volunteers were of retirement age. Now, The Animal League of Green Valley boasts a volunteer base stemming from a variety of age groups. She does intend to give someone else the chance to take the reins on the Youth Interns Program in the future. However, Jean can be thanked for initially spearheading this community outreach program.
In the time that Jean has been involved with The Animal League, the shelter has broadened its influence immensely. The facilities themselves have expanded to include individual dog and cat wings as well as multipurpose and IT rooms. Beyond this, they built “Shakespeare’s Room” in 2018 which is a space (named after a cat previously under the Animal League’s care) where prospective adopters and animals can meet to socialize. As Jean says, the purpose of The Animal League of Green Valley is a proactive one with the intent of giving pets a fitting home that will last. Messages like these from The Animal League of Green Valley have certainly spread. Jean wisely attributes this to cooperation between the shelter and the people surrounding it: “We listened to our community and the community listened to us”. Jean’s optimistic, cooperative attitude exemplifies the notion that maintaining a nonprofit for animal welfare takes a village. With the help of inspirational volunteers and board members like her, the Animal League of Green Valley has not just been maintained, but also expanded.
The bottom line is, Jean hopes that her time as president of the board and volunteer for The Animal League of Green Valley will leave a legacy of kindness. She has learned many things in her seventeen years of involvement and fifteen years as president. Besides requiring her to learn how to spell “Chihuahua”, her experiences with The Animal League thus far also exposed Jean to a multitude of other animal welfare advocates with diverse backgrounds. It is a volunteer community of all ages, interests and identities who share the common passion for helping homeless pets find their forever families. Since its inception, The Animal League of Green Valley has been bringing people together through the love of animals. In the end, Jean may have retired from her position as president of the board, but, she will never completely leave The Animal League, nor will it ever leave her.