Our Staff

Richard Zwirner, Volunteer President

As volunteer president of Orphans of the Storm, Richard has built on Orphans' founding mission by helping to shape Orphans of the Storm for the future. After 25 years on the Board of Directors, he stepped into the leadership role in 1994.

With the large numbers of area households having two working adults, Richard has emphasized cat adoptions and saw to expansion of the facilities to include our separate building dedicated to cats. In this building is our well-respected adult cat room where approximately two hundred cats live together freely awaiting adoptive homes. Today, Orphans has more than three hundred cats to choose from for adoption. Richard's experience with Orphans coupled with his business background has enabled him to expand and strengthen Orphans' position as a leading institution for stray and abandoned animals from throughout Lake and northern Cook Counties and beyond.

Gail Donahue, Shelter Administrator

Gail Donahue is responsible for the overall operation of Orphans of the Storm. Gail has been a tireless force in meeting the rigors of running the day-to-day operations of the shelter since early 1990. Her boundless love of animals has lead to her steadfast focus on the outstanding care and attention the animals receive at Orphans of the Storm. Gail has worked as Orphans’ Shelter Administrator since 1989, when she was hired by Richard Zwirner. In 1996 she was invited to join the Board of Directors.

One illustration of Gail’s love of animals is the unofficial old age home at Orphans which provides for the old and infirm, arthritic, disabled and other animals unable to stand for adoption. She maintains this unofficial home in spare rooms, corners and crevices throughout the shelter. Gail’s hard work, dedication and professionalism have helped to lead Orphans of the Storm to the standard of care the animals enjoy today.

Kris Irvin, Manager on Duty

Kris Irvin is responsible for the day-to-day operation of Orphans of the Storm when on duty. Kris joined our team in 2000 and right away has had a positive impact at Orphans of the Storm. Kris’s animal background started with pets at home and continued with her work at a boarding kennel. Kris’s fondest moment at Orphans of the Storm so far is when the dog named Larry got adopted in January 2001. Larry had been at the shelter since he was 4 months old, and after over four years at Orphans, he was adopted. "We almost cried," said Kris about the day Larry was taken to a new home. Kris’s good humor and dedication to the animals helps Orphans of the Storm greatly.

Gerry Bahena, Manager on Duty

Gerry Bahena is responsible for the day-to-day operation of Orphans of the Storm when on duty. Gerry fills an important role as Gail’s right-hand man with daily medicating of the animals and receiving. He supports the shelter office with adoptions and assists the public with his knowledge of the dogs as well as the cats. Since 1990, Gerry has grown to be a trusted and calming face to the animals and a familiar one to the visiting public.

Adoption Counselors and Volunteers

When you walk through the front door, you will be greeted by our knowledgeable and caring adoption counselors, Maria Nava, Michael Onesko, Jeff Rindskopf and Jesus Escobar. You may also run into any number of wonderful volunteers who may be your friends or neighbors. They are all here to help show you the wonderful animals we have at Orphans. If you venture into our new cat wing, look for Linda Snelten who would love to help you pick out just the right cat.

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.