FB pixel
Volunteers Dave Tomala, Renee Manzella and X with distraction dogs downtown Rochester

Volunteer On Campus

You could play a vital part in Leader Dogs for the Blind by becoming a volunteer. It would not be possible to fulfill our mission without the 400+ volunteers that currently serve our organization. And we are always looking for more help so we can continue to expand our services.

Did you know there are over 70 volunteer positions on our campus?

If you are looking to be in the canine center there are opportunities to volunteer with our Leader Dogs; you could help in puppy or canine care, as a transport driver or a variety of other positions.

You may choose to work with our clients on and off campus where you can empower clients firsthand.

Or apply your retired professional skills to help grow Leader Dog by supporting our philanthropy, client services, residential services, volunteer engagement, marketing and training staffs so we can continue to offer all our services to clients free of charge.

Because volunteers are integral to our success, most positions require a minimum commitment of six months. Positions may require some level of training.

Frequently Asked Questions

Our on-campus volunteers are adults 18 or older. Some positions ask you to commit to a weekly shift for six months to a year. You must also have an email address and regular internet access. All our volunteers must successfully pass a criminal background check. We do not accept court ordered community service volunteers.

Volunteers work in almost every area of our campus in a wide variety of positions. Volunteers may conduct tours, assist clients with tasks such as transportation and shopping, perform clerical work, provide enrichment time for our dogs in training, assist staff in the puppy area, help with events, produce media in Braille and audio among other things.

Volunteer opportunities are available weekdays, evenings and weekends, depending on the position. Our canine development center runs 365 days a year from 6 a.m. – 8 p.m. Business offices are open 8:30 a.m.–5 p.m., Monday through Friday.

You can apply online by viewing our current volunteer openings. Because our volunteer positions are usually occupied long term, we do not keep applications on file and only accept applications for open positions. When there are open positions, there is a link at the end of each position description through which to apply. Don't see a current opening you like? Fill out this contact form and we'll email you when a volunteer position opens up.

Volunteers will start as soon as possible after their application is approved. There are several steps before receiving a volunteer assignment, including pre-screening, interviews and background checks. We will notify you once these steps are successfully completed.

After all your paperwork is done, you will receive a welcome packet that includes a virtual volunteer orientation.

Family opportunities to serve Leader Dog include puppy raising and hosting a breeding dog in your home. All on-campus volunteers must be 18 or older.

Meet the Team

Melissa Pletcher, Manager of Volunteer Engagement

Melissa PletcherMelissa joined Leader Dog in 2022. Her position provides strategic leadership and direction in all aspects of volunteer engagement within the organization. She feels very fortunate to have landed at Leader Dog and is excited to be working with the many talented team members. Melissa says, “I have a passion for science, animals and service. I think volunteering our time is one of the greatest gifts we can give ourselves and others."

She received her Master of Science degree from Eastern Michigan University and her Bachelor of Science in natural resources from the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor. She has over 20 years of experience in volunteer management and is certified in volunteer administration. Prior to coming to Leader Dog, she worked for the Detroit Zoological Society for 10 years as the assistant manager of volunteer services. She has also worked at the former Detroit Science Center, Jewish Family Service of Metro Detroit, Ann Arbor Hands-On Museum and Cranbrook Educational Community as the manager of volunteers. Over the years she has volunteered with various organizations including FrogWatch USA, The Henry Ford and Fair Lane, Home Clara and Henry Ford.

In her free time, she enjoys visiting museums, zoos, Frank Lloyd Wright buildings, being outdoors and spending time with her pets.

Jim Leach, Canine Development Center Administrator

Jim is in a black long sleeve shirt and light colored pants kneeling and smiling next to a yellow lab in guide dog harness

Before coming to Leader Dog, Jim worked at General Motors for 20 years, most recently as a warranty engineer. He has been married to his wife, Kim, since October 1996 and they have two children. Both Jim and Kim have been involved with Lions for years. In June 2020, their son became the fourth generation from their family to join the Lions. They adopted Reagan in 2016 and Beaux in 2022, both career changed Leader Dogs.

Outside of work, Jim is busy serving as a Lions club secretary in Lake Orion. He is also the secretary for the Board of Directors for the Lions Visually Impaired Youth Camp in Lapeer and a member of the Board for Penrickton Center for Blind Children in Taylor. Jim also enjoys spending time with his family, working around the house, camping and golfing.

Anne Preston, Volunteer Engagement Coordinator

Anne, a woman with long wavy brown hair half tied up and half loose over her shoulders, smiles at the camera. She's wearing a black top and silver necklace.Anne received her master's degree in social work with a concentration in management of human services from University of Michigan ("Go Blue!"), and her bachelors in social work with a dual major in sociology from Central Michigan University ("Fire Up, Chips!"). Her career has been spent working within nonprofit administration, with her most recent work experience being with the LACASA Center in Howell, Michigan as their volunteer coordinator. Prior to that, Anne worked at Detroit Zoological Society as their volunteer coordinator.

Anne says about her job at Leader Dog, "I enjoy working with people and for people – having animals around is a bonus! I’m very fortunate to be a part of the Leader Dog team and work alongside so many amazing individuals."