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People in Your Neighborhood: Linda Falconer connects to people through volunteering with animals

La Jolla resident Linda Falconer has had several volunteer roles with the San Diego Humane Society.
La Jolla resident Linda Falconer has had several volunteer roles with the San Diego Humane Society, putting in more than 1,400 hours in eight years.
(Courtesy of San Diego Humane Society)

Combining compassion with community and customer service, Linda Falconer has clocked more than 1,400 hours as a volunteer with the San Diego Humane Society. And she’s nowhere near finished.

Falconer, a La Jolla resident since 1981, retired from the banking industry eight years ago and looked to donate her time to an organization whose mission resonated with her.

“It’s really important to me how people are treated,” she said. “Not only the staff or the employees, but the customers.”

She said she went to see the Humane Society after viewing its website. “I was convinced after my visit that truly they were … living up to their mission statement to ‘create a more humane world [by inspiring compassion, providing hope and advancing the welfare of animals and people].’”

“That’s what I like,” Falconer said. “I want to know that it’s all about the people and the animals.”

Falconer, who has two cats and a puppy at home, has had several roles with the Humane Society, starting as a greeter helping people navigate the organization’s large San Diego campus on Gaines Street.

“It gave me the opportunity to learn a lot about what they do,” she said of being a greeter. “It really opened up my eyes to everything and then I started signing up for other things as well.”

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, Falconer spent several hours a week volunteering for the Humane Society at pet vaccination events, as a dog walker and however else she was needed.

She said one activity she loves is called “community engagement, where we go to different organizations [or] to a business and then they’ll let their employees during lunch hour come out and look at the adoptable dogs.”

She said she enjoyed “this wonderful ability to take these animals out and expose them” to potential adoptive families, often giving older or difficult-to-adopt dogs a better chance of finding a home.

“It gave you faith in the community,” Falconer said. “I was there because I love the people, I love what we did.”

Though her volunteerism has been limited because of the pandemic, Falconer has managed to get in four hours weekly with the Humane Society’s Community Pet Pantry, which provides pet meals, supplies and access to veterinary care to needy families.

“I kept going back because I really felt like I was helping,” she said.

“It’s not all easy, it’s not all happiness,” Falconer added. “Sometimes it’s a little sadness,” such as when a family has to relinquish a pet to the Humane Society due to a move or financial difficulty.

“You just remember that’s why you’re there,” Falconer said. “That’s what the Humane Society is all about: helping the people and the animals.”

She advises those less experienced in volunteering at the Humane Society to “be a good listener. … Let them see that you’re speaking from your heart, and just be as kind and compassionate as you can.”

Gary Weitzman, president and chief executive of the San Diego Humane Society, said “superstar volunteers like Linda not only help our nonprofit thrive but also inspire our other volunteers, staff and anyone who comes through our doors.”

“Whether it’s a family coming in to find their new furry friend or a community member in need of a helping hand, Linda always goes above and beyond to support them,” he said. “We’re so happy to have her in our San Diego Humane Society family, helping taking care of our animals and community of pet lovers.”

Adoptions are among the highlights of Falconer’s Humane Society time. “People every day are saving animals,” she said.

She also loves that the staff “makes you feel like you are just part of their team, and it makes you feel valued.”

“They devote their entire energy to improving the whole welfare for the animal and the people who love them,” she said. “I don’t think I went in realizing I was going to learn as much as I could about how much we can help.

“I keep learning and I keep seeing how much they’re doing … to broaden what they can do for the animals and for the people. I want to be a part of it.”

People in Your Neighborhood shines a spotlight on notable locals we all wish we knew more about. If you know someone you’d like us to profile, send an email to robert.vardon@lajollalight.com. ◆