About Us

Friends of the Shelter

Our Staff

Donna Heggie, Volunteer President

Donna Heggie, the long-time companion of former president Dick Zwirner, has continued the dream and compassion that Dick Zwirner brought to Orphans of the Storm. Donna has been a constant help and friend behind the scenes for over 25 years. Donna has brought together a management team of business executives and business owners to move Orphans of the Storm into the future.  Donna and the management team plan to continue strengthening Orphan of the Storm’s position as a leading institution for stray and abandoned dogs and cats throughout Lake County and beyond.

Richard Alexander, Shelter Director

Rick is responsible for the daily operation of Orphans of the Storm. Growing up surrounded by animals and animal lovers, he accidentally fell into rescue work, as so many do. He began volunteering during his time at University in England and went on to work full-time at one of the UK’s largest animal shelters. Over the next 12 years, he excelled in multiple positions, including shelter management, animal adoption specialist, social media management, event coordination, development, and fundraising.

Fostering, owning, and caring for many dogs, he also loves to volunteer while traveling and has worked with rescues in seven countries; there are no language barriers regarding walkies and treats! Richard has a strong affection for dogs with disabilities and strives to ensure a high quality of life for all the dogs and cats in his care.

Under Rick’s leadership, Orphans has added a thriving foster program, expanded transport partnerships with local and national organizations, and increased offsite adoptions with the addition of a satellite location at Hawthorn Mall.

Lindsay Echito, Shelter Manager

Lindsay is a shelter manager but is also responsible for coordinating much of our southern transports and our new foster program. Growing up, Lindsay had two loves: words and animals. With dreams of going into the publishing industry, she got her degree in Writing, Rhetoric, and Discourse from DePaul. However, prior to working at Orphans, she always worked hands-on with dogs in a daycare and boarding setting and found that she could not trade her love of animals for her love of books. 

Luckily, moving from volunteer to adoption counselor to development and implementation to shelter manager, Lindsay found other ways to apply her love of words to help animals in need (someone has to write up all those programs!). You’ll often find her running from one area of the shelter to next making sure things are in working order, or typing away at her laptop to get the next program up and running, usually with her Border Collie mix (and very good boy) Puck in tow.

Kris Irvin, Shelter Manager

Kris is responsible for the day-to-day operation of the shelter. Having over 25 years of experience in animal care. Her background goes back to her first job at age 16, being a kennel attendant at an animal hospital, then at a boarding facility until she realized she wanted to work with animals that didn’t have a home to call their own. Kris joined Orphans of the Storm in 2000 as an adoption counselor and, after many dedicated years, became manager in 2015. 

She is known for adopting long-term older dogs who must be the only pet. Her most recent adoption was Pumpkin, AKA Diamond, who was waiting for a home for 10 years due to not liking other animals and severe separation anxiety. Kris is also known for rescuing 2 field mice (brothers Hans and Franz) from one of the kennels 6 years ago, Franz is still going strong!!!

Kristen Castro, Shelter Manager

Kristen is one of our shelter managers and our social media guru. As a child, Kristen always knew she wanted to work with animals, originally attending school as a pre-vet student. As her college career progressed, she found an equal love of working with people. She ended up finishing her Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from the University of Wisconsin-Parkside, and she used that degree to run multiple high-volume businesses. She felt like something was missing. She then found Orphans of the Storm over 10 years ago when she adopted her cat, Maddie.

She began volunteering as a dog walker on her off days and felt joy knowing she was part of a team that was there for the same purpose- to care for and better the lives of the animals. At that point, she knew she had found a home. As she became a more integral part of the shelter’s event and fundraising coordination, her volunteer role evolved into a full-time position. Kristen enjoys having a direct impact on the animals’ lives while they are here, as well as being able to engage with the community about animal welfare and the shelter’s mission.

Sandy De Lisle, Head of Development and Community Outreach

Sandy manages fundraising, including donor relations, communications, and events. She also oversees the volunteer program and coordinates community outreach events with Kristen. She started her work in animal welfare as a teenage volunteer for Orphans of the Storm and has worked at The Humane Society of the United States and the American Society of Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, doing program development, fundraising, communications, and humane education.

Adoption Counselors, Foster Coordinators, and Volunteers

When you walk through the front door or visit our cat area you will be greeted by our knowledgeable and caring adoption counselors. You may also run into any number of dedicated volunteers who may be your friends or neighbors. They are all here to help find you a friend for life.

Kennel Staff

The Kennel Staff at Orphans of the Storm have been a hard working and committed group. They are the behind-the-scenes workers responsible for the many positive comments Orphans receives about the cleanliness of the shelter, the care of the animals, and their generally happy and contented dispositions. The Kennel Staff also assist with medication, handle daytime feeding and shepherding the dogs between their individual kennels and our larger outdoor exercise pens.