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, Shelter Manager

Kristen is one of our shelter managers, as well as our coordinator for onsite/offsite events, community outreach, and fundraising. 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 of working with people. 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 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 in the shelter’s event and fundraising coordination, her volunteer role then 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.

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. 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.