Community Hero: Making A Difference and Helping Save Wildlife

By Recker McDowell —

Diane Vaszily has been volunteering at the Southwest Wildlife Conservation Center in Scottsdale for the past 9 years.

Southwest Wildlife is home to orphaned, injured and rescued wild animals including wolves, bears, coyotes, foxes, deer, bobcats, skunks, and mountain lions. SWCC celebrated its 25th anniversary last year.

Vaszily is a retired environmental educator so the wild animal rescue and rehabilitation center is a natural fit. She said she likes SWCC’s mission of educating the public about wild animals in the Southwest and finding a sustainable balance between wildlife and residents.

Vaszily also likes the variety of work she does at Southwest Wildlife. That ranges from serving as docent tour guide and serving on an emergency call team to coordinate the rescues of orphaned and injured animals to helping write tour and training guides and teaching classes on medicinal and edible desert plants.

“SWCC allows volunteers to share their talents in many, many ways and are open to new idea and methods in reaching their education goals,” she said.

Robin Wilson, volunteer coordinator at Southwest Wildlife, said volunteers are essential to the Scottsdale nonprofit’s operations.

“Right now, we have about 95 active volunteers at Southwest Wildlife. We have many different areas people volunteer with some of those assignments are weekly while others are on an as-needed basis.  On any given day you might find 10 to 20 volunteers performing many different tasks,” Wilson said.

Wilson said volunteers’ duties include animal care, helping rescue injured and orphaned animals, working in SWCC’s clinic and helping with tours, special events, and education programs.

Wilson said the summer months in Arizona present a challenge for SWCC when it comes to volunteers. “In the summer months that is when we have the most need for animal care volunteers and it is also when we end up with the fewest volunteers. We have a lot of volunteers who leave from April until October,” Wilson said.

Wilson said from April through the summer is also when Southwest Wildlife sees an influx of orphaned, injured, and displaced animals. She said SWCC has taken in 140 animals since April. “We are still getting new rescues and expect those to continue to come into August,” she said.

Vaszily also volunteers with the Desert Awareness Committee in Cave Creek. “I have been volunteering with them since 1992 when I first moved to Arizona.  Our mission is to educate others about the Sonoran Desert, its flora and fauna.”

She also volunteers during the summer at the Highlands Center of Natural History in Prescott.

Vaszily said SWCC offers many ways to volunteers for who want to make a difference for wildlife. “You can volunteer for one day a week, one day a month or many other combinations. This organization is truly a village of caring people who want to make a difference to wildlife. It is a fun, dedicated group who enjoy and support each other,” she said.

For more information on volunteering at SWCC: