WARREN - Volunteering at the animal shelter, Caryn Covelli sheds her locally recognized last name and simply works from her heart.
"I've always been an animal person my entire life," Covelli said.
Giving a tour recently of the small Trumbull County Animal Welfare League shelter, she pointed out areas where water has been leaking through the ceiling and where tiles are missing from the floor. The humble shelter has been running out of its current location for many years.
Covelli talked passionately about how necessary it is to fund the new shelter that will be converted out of the old Thunderplex building on Youngstown Kingsville Road in Vienna. She is determined to see it completed.
"It's all about the animals," she repeated throughout the tour.
This phrase has become her mantra and the truth in it is evident. The building may be dilapidated, but her spirit is strong and her love feels in the cracks.
Trumbull County Animal Welfare League, Beatitude House, John F. Kennedy High School and Blessed Sacrament Parish
In the kennel, the dogs barked excitedly at her presence and wagged their tails at the sight of her familiar face.
For nearly nine years, Covelli has been volunteering at the shelter at least once a week. Her love for the animals began after she had been fundraising for the organization and decided to come take a look at the facility.
"It just pulls at my heartstrings," she said.
Her favorite memories of volunteering at the shelter are phone calls from other volunteers when they inform each other that their dogs have been adopted to their "forever homes." Covelli's love filled the shelter and overflows not just to the animals she is caring for but to the women who work for her.
Cathy Wolfe and Sue Koltak both work for Covelli and, unknown to each other, both submitted letters nominating Covelli to be a 2013 Community Star.
"She's frighteningly amazing," Koltak said of Covelli.
Now in its 12th year, the Community Star program is sponsored by the Tribune Chronicle and Trumbull 100 and celebrates the volunteers who have had a significant influence on Trumbull County.
Koltak was exercising dogs in the fenced in yard behind the shelter, as Covelli gave the tour. Koltak looked around the shelter and pointed out the numerous improvements that Covelli has made around the shelter. From a new roof with gutters that drain away from the shelter to chainlink fencing, there are many improvements that Covelli has donated.
"She put so much of her heart, soul and own money into it," Koltak said.
Koltak has been working for Covelli for 13 years and first began working at the shelter at the direction of Covelli. Koltak explained that Covelli never forced her to work at the shelter, but rather made it an option as opposed to working directly for Covelli or at her home.
"Now I'm hooked," Koltak said.
When the two women have worked together at the shelter, Koltak said that Covelli loves to help socialize the puppies. This includes spending time with an entire litter in a small fenced in area where the puppies become comfortable with each other and with human interaction.
"She'll come back with bruises, scratches, little bites on her lips," Koltak said, "and doesn't even think about it."
Wolfe, who sent in the second letter nominating Covelli, had similar accolades.
"I know what she does for people all the time," Wolfe said. "She truly does make the lives of everybody better."
Wolfe found it hard to put into words the selfless nature of Covelli, describing her as, "down to earth, caring, kind and sweet to everybody."
Wolfe would know - she has been working for Covelli for 30 years, beginning as a nanny and now as working as Covelli's personal assistant.
"She'd never ask anybody to do something she wouldn't do," Wolfe said.
Wolfe rattled off a long list of areas where Covelli has invested her heart and time, from the Beatitude House, where Wolfe said Covelli will buy children tickets to the circus, to her eight years at the Trumbull County Animal Welfare League.
"She cleans cages," Wolfe said, "Believe it or not."
Wolfe said the AWL is Covelli's true passion. Wolfe laughingly explained that Covelli will don bright orange hunting apparel in the winter and scrubs in the summer when she goes to help at the shelter. Covelli spends much of her time campaigning for the new shelter that the league is in the process of building.
"She never tells anybody who she is," Wolfe said, "She does it all without expecting a thing back."