About Us

Friends of the Shelter

Our Staff

Donna Heggie, Volunteer President

Donna Heggie, long-time companion of Dick Zwirner, will continue 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 22 years. Donna has brought together a management team of business executives and business owners to move Orphans of the Storm into the future. Orphans of the Storm has been a part of the community for 90 years, 49 of which have been under the leadership of Thelma and Dick Zwirner. Donna and the management team plan to continue Dick’s dream to expand and strengthen Orphan of the Storm’s position as a leading institution for stray and abandoned dogs and cats from throughout Lake and northern Cook Counties 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 fell into rescue work by accident, 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 whilst traveling and has spent time working with rescues in seven different countries; there are no language barriers when it comes to 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.

2020 is the year Rick plans to take Orphans to the next level:
“We have big plans for the year, a foster program, community outreach, off-site events, increased enrichment and education for our animals, our staff and the entire Orphans community.”

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 25 years of experience in animal care. Her background goes back to her first job at age16 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 the long term older Pit Bulls who need to be the only pet. Her most recent adoption of 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 Tump, Event & Volunteer Coordinator

Kristen is responsible for volunteer coordination, onsite/offsite event coordination, and community outreach. As a child, Kristen always knew she wanted to work with animals, originally going to school as a pre-vet student. As her college career progressed, she found an equal love in leading and understanding people as well. She ended up finishing her Bachelor’s degree from the University of Wisconsin-Parkside in Psychology and she used that degree to run multiple, high volume businesses. She felt though like something was missing. She then found Orphans of the Storm 8 years ago when she adopted her cat, Maddie. 

She began volunteering 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 her time continued, she became an integral part of creating fundraising ideas, event coordinating, and volunteer recruitment. While this role doesn’t always allow her direct contact with the animals, she knows she directly impacts their lives by leading teams of dedicated volunteers and educating the community on animal welfare.

Carrie Johnson, Canine Enrichment & Playgroup Manager

Carrie is responsible for the behavioral care and well-being of our dogs during their stay at the shelter. From running playgroups to behavior assessments, Carrie works hands-on with the dogs to ensure that their mental needs are met while getting to know them so that we can place them into appropriate homes. She has always loved animals and grew up with all types; from ferrets to turtles to horses. She attended the University of Iowa where she first started volunteering in animal rescue by dog walking and fostering in her college apartments.

Although she got a Bachelors’s degree in Mathematics from Iowa, she always knew her future included working with animals. She started a career as a professional dog walker and pet sitter in 2014 and started volunteering at Orphans to gain more dog experience. Fast forward 5 years and her volunteering has turned into a career. She attended a Dogs Playing For Life mentorship in 2019 and plans to do more professional development this year. You will typically find Carrie running a playgroup in our enrichment yard, training a “harder to adopt” dog, or gushing over a new “cutest dog ever” arrival. Carrie’s goals for 2020 are to reduce the stays of our resident dogs by accurately evaluating them and helping find homes that meet every dog’s individual needs.

Pam Fradin, Administrative Assistant/Special events Coordinator

Pam Fradin fills the very important role of Administrative Assistant/ Special Events Coordinator. Her 26 years of experience with Orphans of the Storm has enabled her to acquire the skill of multitasking as she coordinates the various activities in our busy shelter, while working closely with the Administrator and the Management Team.

Pam brings a special perspective to a day in the life at Orphans of the Storm having started serving as a dog adoption counselor, then helping cats find their forever homes and assisting in various duties as needed. Today, Pam coordinates all special events, organizes the volunteers for off-site adoption events, updates the website with new arrivals and adoptions of the animals and fields all emails. No wonder Pam considers Orphans of the Storm her second home.

Adoption Counselors 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, Linda Snelton, Maria Nava, Michael Onesko, Jesus Escobar and Lindsay Eschito. 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.