03/20/2013 at 06:00 PM EDT
You know Jenna Morasca from her days on Survivor and her lengthy relationship with fellow contestant Ethan Zohn. But what you don't know is that the reality star recently joined forces with the Humane Society of the United States and their Animal Rescue Team. Here, the 32-year-old tells
PEOPLE about her recent adventures with the organization.
These days we have a million things to do and usually one day to do them in. So when out shopping for supplies for our pets it's hard to pay complete attention to what's happening at the cash register when we check out. But important things can happen in those cash register moments – things that may end up saving a life or two down the line. How does this happen? Let me explain.
When you check out at PetSmart, the cashier usually asks you if you want to donate money to PetSmart charities to help save the animals. Usually we're so busy we don't even pay attention. But what we don't realize is that this minor request turns into a major operation; donations given to the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) through PetSmart are going to save animals in many ways by providing much-needed food and supplies for temporary shelters.
In case you're starting to wonder, this isn't one giant ad for PetSmart … but they do play a part in my recent adventure:
I'm the national spokesperson of the HSUS Animal Rescue Team
, an honor I'm extremely proud of. When I was asked if I wanted to have this title, I not only wanted to do press to promote the Animal Rescue Team, but I wanted to actually be able to take part in the duties the Animal Rescue Team has, too. I was passionate about it and HSUS agreed to let me take part when the right time came.
Recently that right time did come, and I was beyond excited. I got a call that there was an animal hoarding operation not far from me that they were going to take down, and I was in.
The next day I packed a bag and drove up to the site where HSUS was keeping the animals they'd rescued from the hoarder. I had no idea what I was getting myself into, or what I was about to see. Driving to the location, I was filled with all types of emotions. Will I be able to stomach it? Will I break down and cry if the animals are in horrible condition? Will I turn around and run out? All of these thoughts were running through my brain and my stomach was filled with butterflies. When I arrived I was so worked up I felt like I'd ridden a crazy roller coaster over and over about 50 times. I swallowed my fear and anxiety, opened the car door and stepped into a world I was not familiar with but asked to be a part of.
The HSUS Animal Rescue Team saved more than 100 animals when they busted that operation – almost 60 dogs, 30 cats, 14 horses, several goats and a number of birds. But when I walked into the property the Animal Rescue Team had acquired to take care of these animals, all my worries dissolved. What I saw were not poor, sad animals and people running around chaotically, but rows and rows of cages, well-organized and clean, people moving with purpose, care and love, and animals that were, well, okay.
With the hoarder, these animals were kept in horrid conditions, barely fed, had no shelter from the elements and received no love and attention – I expected them to look like the animals in those sad Sarah McLaughlin commercials. But after just one day – one day! – of love and attention from the incredible HSUS Animal Rescue Team staff, they were already bouncing back. It was outstanding and so moving to see. I saw staff members gingerly going into each cage to retrieve the dogs for their medical check-ups, talking to these animals with more love and care in one sentence than they'd received in their lifetimes.
I have never seen animals respond so quickly to something so simple: love. I spent the day taking notes, petting dogs, scratching horses' noses, telling jokes to goats (whether they were laughing at
me or with
me I still can't tell) and admiring the work the Animal Rescue Team was doing. It's a well-oiled machine, one that takes a lot of cooperation and resources to work.
So that takes me back to you shopping for pet supplies. You're checking out with your pet food or treats and the cashier asks, 'Would you like to donate to the Humane Society of the United States?'. I hope after reading this you say, 'Yes, I do!' to that question. Why not skip a coffee for a few days this week, or eat in one night instead of going out? Those small sacrifices you make to give that donation help make rescuing animals like the ones I met possible. The Animal Rescue Team needs a lot of food and supplies to make these rescues operations happen and though it takes a lot of money, every little bit counts.
Many times we are so far removed from the places we donate to that we don't know exactly where our money goes, so I wanted to bring to life an operation that uses the money you donate. All the animals in the world that are waiting to be rescued thank you.
For more information about the Animal Rescue Team and to learn how you can help, visit hsus.org.