Ceko's love of animals leads to second career
Carrie Steinweg | Feb 13, 2012, 6 a.m.
For some people, one fulfilling career isn’t enough. Cheryl Ceko of Calumet City would be one of those people. A retired teacher, she’s now working in a second career as the volunteer director and human educator at the Humane Society Calumet Area in Munster.
Ceko’s second career came following about a decade of volunteer work at the society, doing whatever needed to be done — working the front desk, doing data entry, caring for animals. “I just love the animals here. It’s such a wonderful organization,” said Ceko. “They do so many awesome things.”
In her role, Ceko is responsible for over 400 volunteers (last year they had a total of 439) and she coordinates their schedules. Volunteers take on a variety of tasks at the facility, from clerical work to bathing to dog walking to working at special events.
She’s proud of their recent involvement in the PetSmart Charities Rescue Waggin, which is a truck that rescues animals in the southern states who are set to be euthanized and brings them to the no-kill shelter to be adopted. She said there are usually about 350 to 450 animals at the facility, mostly dogs and cats, but also guinea pigs and rabbits. “We’ve had everything from chinchillas to sugar gliders,” she said.
The education part of the job involves hosting field trips and visiting schools. “We do everything from prevention to the importance of spaying and neutering,” she said. She’s done an in-service at South Suburban College and she and a fellow retired teacher, Elaine Howery, work together on a program called Red Rover Readers, which Ceko said, “We use reading children’s literature to make children more responsible and more caring.” Stories that are read to kids are all animal related. She also coordinates birthday parties for kids and other special events.
She loves to hear the stories of how some of the special animals they’ve had there have found homes. “We had a little dog who was born with a deformed leg who went home with two little children. They’d gotten the dog for the little girl to get her through chemotherapy,” she said. “We’re a shelter that really goes the extra mile for our animals. We had a special needs dog that had a broken spine and he had three months of therapy and got fitted for his own little wheelchair.”
Being such an animal lover, Ceko and her husband have six pets themselves, including three dogs: Buea, who is a lab mix; Belle, who is a German Shepherd; and Daisy, who is a special needs dog that was born with a badly deformed lower jaw that can only be opened about a quarter inch and who is unable to pant and has a hard time eating. They also have three cats who were rescued: Nemo, who her husband fished out from a hole full of water under a trailer; Chance, who she said was infested with bugs and maggots when they found her; and 17-year-old Simba, who she found hanging off one of the screens outside a classroom at the school where she taught.
Ceko taught first grade for 32 years at Franklin School in Dolton, Ill. She and her husband enjoy time with their pets, even taking Beau on a Lake Michigan cruise last year. She also enjoys baking and reading.
Part of Ceko’s job is to help with fundraising efforts, including a Feb. 8 Girl’s Night Out Event held at the humane society from 5:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. with appetizers, desserts and shopping. Admission is $10. She’s also working on the society’s biggest yearly fundraiser, a dinner-dance and silent auction called “Where Best Friends Meet.” It will take place on March 10 at the Halls of St. George. Tickets are $40. For more information, call (219) 922-3811.
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