Bill has been with Support Dogs, Inc. since April 1998. He came to Support Dogs, Inc. with a strong background in non-profit organizations, implementing workplace literacy programs for an adult education program in Springfield, IL, and working for Illinois Special Olympics at their state office in Normal, IL. Bill started as the education coordinator for Support Dogs and soon took on more responsibilities. Bill was named Executive Director in April 2010, after spending five years as the Program Director. "I feel very fortunate and honored to be part of this amazing organization. It is wonderful to meet and work with our volunteers and clients daily, seeing how their involvement with the organization improves and enriches their lives. There have been so many rewarding experiences for me thus far and I look forward to many more in the future." Bill’s canine family currently includes German Shepherds Morgan, Peyton, and Roman, who helps socialize the advanced training dogs to a breed other than another Labrador or Golden retriever.
An animal lover since childhood and a native St. Louisan, Ann joined Support Dogs in July of 2006 as Director of Development. Ann's previous experience working at not-for-profit organizations includes the Saint Louis Zoo and the American Soybean Association. Ann is married and resides in St. Louis County. She has three grown sons and one granddaughter. Ann, along with her husband Roger, became Volunteer Puppy Raisers in 2006 and began raising Labrador retriever Mitzi. While the experience was tremendously rewarding, Mitzi was released from the program due to health reasons. Without hesitation, the Weinerths adopted Mitzi into their family. Mitzi not only has a job as Ann’s presentation dog but also assists Roger in his work.
Marie grew up and resides in the City of St. Louis. She has a passion for working with nonprofit organizations and helping them fulfill their mission. The experience she brings from her past work at the YMCA of Greater St. Louis will help grow and enhance the volunteer program here at Support Dogs. Throughout her time at the YMCA she held a variety of roles including volunteer coordinator for the literacy programs and director of the city youth in government program. Marie has a successful track record of recruiting volunteers and supporting them throughout their work. In addition to her YMCA work, she spent two years working in the business department assisting faculty at Fontbonne University while obtaining a degree in corporate communications. Outside of work she enjoys spending time with friends and family. Marie is excited to be at Support Dogs and is eager to meet all of the volunteers that make this an amazing organization.
Cindi grew up with a love of animals. She spent several years working in a vet clinic and kennels. Cindi was involved in the rescue community for 9 years, most of which had been rescuing Golden retrievers. In November 2001, her first TOUCH dog graduated from the program and she entered the realm as the human half of a volunteer TOUCH team. She has since gone on to graduate a few more. Cindi and her crew are active in the TOUCH and Paws for Reading Programs. Cindi and her dogs enjoy interacting with people. "I am very happy to be here doing what I love to do.
Gayln has been a TOUCH volunteer since 1996 and has brought several of her Labrador retrievers through the TOUCH program. Gayln is a Labrador retriever hobby breeder. In the past, she has donated some of her puppies to the service dog program. Gayln is an America Kennel Club Canine Good Citizen evaluator and an obedience instructor in Jefferson County. Gayln came to work for Support Dogs in 2006 as the Office Administrator with over 25 years in banking and customer service. She teaches SDI service puppy class and does evaluations on puppies and dogs coming into SDI programs. "I have always loved working with people and now I have the added bonus of having the dogs around. I believe in what we do at SDI, helping dogs and people live better lives."
Having been licensed in physical therapy since 1992, Tracy had made a career out of helping people. After witnessing the work of Support Dogs, she was so moved that she and her family became involved with Support Dogs in 2009 as Volunteer Puppy Raisers. Her continued passion and furthered belief in Support Dogs' mission led her to accept a position as a clerical assistant in 2011. Tracy and her family continue to be active volunteer puppy raisers for the Assistance Dog program. She is the proud owner of one of SDI's released dogs, a very large and loveable black Labrador named Rigg. Tracy and Rigg volunteer with the TOUCH and the Paws For Reading programs. When she is not working or volunteering for SDI, Tracy can usually be found on the sidelines of the soccer fields cheering on her girls.
Nina Needleman worked 27 years in the financial services industry, leaving it in 2010 for more adventure as a community volunteer. She began as an episodic volunteer for Support Dogs, helping with mailings and events. When the opportunity presented itself to join the Support Dogs' staff, Nina jumped at the opportunity. Over the years, she’s become a big fan of Tacky Ball and says “Tacky Ball is by far the most well done and fun event of any of the galas I’ve attended! It’s a standing event on my calendar, I won’t miss it!” Her furr-kids are both rescue dogs. Elyse is a Corgi she got from Faery Tail Corgi Rescue (her 3rd Corgi) and Ansel, her terrible terrier was acquired from Diana’s Grove during a pet adoption day at PetSmart in Chesterfield.
Nadine joined the Support Dogs, Inc. team in 2001 as the Lead Trainer for the PAWS program at the Greenville Federal Correctional Center. In 2008, she transferred to St. Louis and joined the training department at SDI headquarters. Nadine has been training dogs for over 20 years, first German Shepherds and Blue Heelers as working farm dogs and now assistance dogs for Support Dogs, Inc. She is an evaluator for the Canine Good Citizen test and is a member of the Association of Pet Dog Trainers (APDT), National Association of Dog Obedience Instructors (NADOI), and the International Association of Assistance Dog Partners (IAADP). Nadine was certified by Assistance Dogs International in 2010.
Christina grew up on 20 acres with woods, creeks, and a multitude of animals. Through her experience with nature, she brought home and saved many stray dogs, squirrels, rabbits, and other animals in need of rescuing. These were in addition to her own personal pets, which included dogs, cats, salamanders, guinea pigs, and hamsters. One 'saved" squirrel learned to ride on Christina's shoulder during nature walks, until one day he decided to stay behind in the woods. Christina's kindness and ability to 'recognize and read' various animals makes her a wonderful, effective, and kind dog trainer. Her years of experience working with assistance dogs in training, specifically Support Dogs, and her knowledge of our training methodology made her the logical choice to join the Assistance Dog Training team.
Christina is a native of Missouri has had dogs her entire life. As a child, Christina brought home many strays and as an adult, she always had at least two pets, taking them everywhere she went. Needless to say, Christina is an avid animal lover. She was born in Missouri and attended Mineral Area College. She has an apprenticeship certification through the United States Department of Labor as a service dog trainer, which consists of 5,000 hours of hands-on and classroom training. She also has certification as a Vocational Technician Advanced Animal Trainer through Century College, logging over 500 hours in this program. Christina has been training dogs for over eight years and has personally trained many assistance dogs for Support Dogs. She has assisted with the teaching and mentoring of over 60 human participants at the Federal Correctional Institution Program in Greenville, Il. Christina has a deep admiration for our canine friends and enjoys teaching them new skills.
Janice has been a dog obedience instructor and trainer professionally since 1993. She started to work at SDI in 1999 as a service dog trainer. She has been an instructor for the PAWS Prison Program at Federal Prison Camp in Greenville, Illinois since its inception in 2001. Her other responsibilities include community and individual obedience lessons and educational presentations. With the generous help of dedicated volunteers and retriever breeders, she helps to procure and evaluate puppies for the assistance dog programs. Janice is an endorsed member of National Association of Dog Obedience Instructors (NADOI), APDT, IAADP, and an AKC CGC evaluator. “I really enjoy working with people and their dogs. It’s wonderful to see what they can do for each other.”
Amy began working for Support Dogs, Inc. in 2000. She divides her time among teaching obedience classes to the community, coordinating the kennel enrichment volunteers, and caring for the dogs in the kennel. Her four children love to come to Support Dogs, Inc. to visit their favorite dogs and to play “pass the puppy” in puppy class. Says Amy, “Dogs are great – they are always happy to see you and they don’t talk back!”
Greg joined the Support Dogs team in April 2005. His lifelong passions include art, comic books, and having a dog by his side. Greg has participated in many volunteer services over the years, including animal rescue efforts during the flood of '93. Now he performs his services in the kennels of SDI, cleaning the housing facilities and feeding, grooming, walking, playing with, and seeing to the overall physical and emotional well-being of the program dogs. When at home, you can find Greg drawing, playing guitar, reading, and relaxing with Kennedy, his Chocolate Lab. "Coming into work everyday to care for these dogs who could never fake being happy to see you, and then seeing those same dogs go to clients who could never fake being happy to have them by their sides is one of the most gratifying things I could ever imagine."