"A Voice for the Voiceless"
article by Ryan Freeman,
Marketing & Development Manager for Marion County Services
When I first met Zach, one of the outstanding individuals Marion County Services represents, on a sunny August morning at our Northport office the biggest thing which struck me about him was his enduring compassion for animals. As we talked I really began to understand the quiet and confident level of care he prides himself in whenever he walks into the North East Missouri Animal Shelter where he works. After he started working at the local shelter while a Junior in high school, Zach soon realized the reason caring for stray cats and other shelter pets was so important was because, "Animals have no voice so somebody had to be the voice for them." This passion for animals even carries into his home, where they have four cats of their own, named A.J, Tyson, Butter Ball and Crystal. According to Zach, correctly understanding animals' behavior is essential to their recovery because it not only helps integrate them with regular human interaction, but helps the pet's over-all well being, too.
When he turned 18, though, Zach's Autism Waver expired. Unable to qualify for another because he was deemed too high-functioning, he got involved with Vocational Rehab, instead. There, Zach describes his experience with future job exploration as being all about finding "the right fit". With the help of Chelsea Blixt, one of MCSDD's Support Coordinators, Vocational Rehab offered to help Zach pay for the high tuition costs of schooling at St Louis' Vet Tech Institute. There, he'll be attending weekday classes from 8am-4pm learning about everything from anesthesia to radiology. In his own words, Zach describes the education as "everything for nurses- except for animals." After he's achieved his Vet Tech degree, he wants to work for the Humane Society of St Louis.
Zach taught me that in order to help stray cats you really have to pay attention to them in order to empathize and help them. Too many people see upset stray cats and just try and write them off... oh, they just have anger issues, they often say. But Zach knows better. They're just scared and aren't really used to people or living inside. By working patiently with animals' personal boundaries, you can gradually transform frightened cats into well-adjusted, loving pets... if you're willing to identify their needs and help in tangible ways they can understand.
Thanks to his own hard work, and willingness to work through potential waiver difficulties, Zach is able to move forward with his life's ambition of helping rehabilitate homeless cats. Further enabled by MCSDD's Chelsea Blixt and Vocational Rehab generous support, Zach can continue to help give a voice to the voiceless and better the lives of countless pets in Marion County and St Louis!
Marion County Services for the Developmentally Disabled has been empowering the developmentally disabled since 1988. Their continuing mission is always to increase the choice, respect, ability and involvement for the developmentally disabled citizens of Marion County.
To hear Zach in his own words, check out his recent YouTube post!