Hospital COO starts no-kill shelter, saves 250+ cats

Hospital COO starts no-kill shelter, saves 250+ cats

Barb Weber, the chief operating officer for Advocate Lutheran General Hospital, has a passion for helping people. That’s what attracted her to health care, first as an acute care/emergency nurse. Weber believes it is a “privilege” to be a health care leader, impacting the quality of care for those in her community. It’s her day – and often 24-hour-per-day – job.

But, Weber has a second passion. As a child, she attracted, befriended and cared for the stray animals in the neighborhood. Today, protecting animals from harm has become a life-long mission. As the founder and owner of Barb’s Precious Rescue and Adoption Center, she can be found every evening providing similar excellent care to over 100 cats and kittens at the rescue. It’s a no-kill shelter, and once the furry creatures arrive, they are treated like family. The goal is to find them a loving, forever home.

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Weber has always taken in stray cats. Over time, she was seeing more and more cats, many of them sick and abandoned.

“The response from each of the cats I took in was heartbreaking,” says Weber. “After I would provide them with a warm bed, food and the medical care they needed, they would relax their battered bodies, purr and sleep contently. I knew I had to make a change if I was going to have an impact on the lives of these desperate cats and kittens who could not survive outside in the elements.”

She saw a need and convinced her very supportive husband, Jerry, to invest their savings in a beautiful farm house that now serves as the rescue. Success is measured in the more than 250 cats that have already been adopted into the community after opening in September 2014.  Jerry oversees the rescue by day.

This is no ordinary animal rescue. Given Weber’s influence at the helm, there are many similarities to a high-functioning hospital. Take for example, the hospital-grade flooring, infection-prevention measures and isolation rooms and kennels.

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Volunteers are taught the necessity for hand hygiene and know exactly when to access the always-available gloves and gowns. Each and every cat is rounded on daily. There is also a required minimum of three interactions a day, either play or petting. And, from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. each afternoon, the cats are allowed undisturbed sleep.  (That’s something all hospital patients might also cherish.) 

 The over 200 volunteers at the rescue are also well-trained and consistent.  The routine is all intended to reduce stress for the four-legged guests.

Keeping everyone healthy is also a high priority. When a cat is feeling under the weather, the rescue’s on-site veterinarian and “chief nurse” are quick to intervene.

Weber knows each and every cat by name. “This is Homer, Gatsby, Apollo, Molly and Tyson,” she points out as she walks down the hallway. “There is a pre-school, kindergarten, toddler teenager and adult room – which are conducive to their age and developmental needs. The cats roam freely in their space, which is decorated with furniture, multiple trees, scratch surfaces and a window to provide fresh air.”

Much like her role at the hospital, while running the rescue, Weber is putting her three Master’s degrees to work – one in nursing, another in human resources and a third in business. She completed a Fellowship with the American College of Healthcare Executives and is also an avid artist, who paints incredible pictures of her animals, as well.

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So how does she manage her hectic professional life with her personal mission to save cats and kittens? (By the way, an expansion is planned to add space for the cats/kittens and will include dogs in the future.)

“I look forward to coming here at night after a busy day at the hospital, because being here is so rewarding,” Weber says. “It’s just like coming home. Some people raise children – my daughter Brenda is a successful independent adult. Now I care for this family.”

To learn more about her non-profit mission or to adopt one of her cats or kittens, visit barbspreciousrescue.org.

 

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Comments

24 Comments

  1. God bless you for providing care to these animals! Truly remarkable.

  2. Margaret M. Forker April 28, 2016 at 10:46 am · Reply

    What an uplifting story and mission! I paid my way through nursing school with my own pet sitting business so I understand the affinity with pets and people. Another article in the same issue is titled “Loneliness may trigger heart disease, stroke”. Nothing cures loneliness like a warm cuddly mammal, volunteering or contributing to a great cause like this.

  3. This is such a wonderful heartwarming story. I foster dogs or puppies and I know how rewarding it is. I cry each time one gets adopted, or dies. they become part of the family, even for the few weeks the pups are with us. Lovely story. Thanks for sharing.

  4. Hi,
    I work for AMG in Mundelein. I have been feeding a cat who lives under our building for 4 years now. We will be moving from this location June 20 of this year. A coworker sent me your website. It was a huge relief when I read about your place, I’ve been so worried about what will happen to her. I’ve been feeding her and even coming here on weekends to take care of her. I am severely allergic to cats so it would not be possible for me to take her. She has come a long way, she now lets me pet her and even rolls over to I can rub her belly! She waits for me in the morning and when I leave for the day for her belly rubs. I will miss her, but would be greatly relieved if you would consider taking her in. Like in your article, if I’m stressed during the day I go outside and sit on the stoop to pet her. I would greatly appreciate if you could take in the cat. Please contact me through my personal email or Deborah.carroll@advocatehealth.com. Thank you!

  5. Way to go Barb!

  6. Beautiful

  7. Carolyn Salaman April 28, 2016 at 12:49 pm · Reply

    What a great story and what an amazing person. Thank you for providing for those little creatures that might otherwise not be able to provide for themselves. If you need any more volunteers, I like to volunteer. Thank you for your compassion.

  8. Awesome, Thank You Barb for all that you do for the cats. You are truly a caring person. I too am involved with helping feral cats through (TNR) Trap, Neuter, and Release.

  9. A very needed activity, but I just spent 2 days in the hospital from a cat bite received from a usually friendly cat. I had my own cats for 18 years and never had a serious injury. Playing with a kitten now would make me skittish.

  10. Siggy Hallmeyer MD April 28, 2016 at 2:08 pm · Reply

    This is another amazing example of the quality, depth and compassion that the people have at Advocate. I am deeply touched and its simply awesome to see how much more there is to being an outstanding team player, leader – and human being. Way to go, Barb!!

  11. BRAVO!! I can only imagine how busy your day at work at LGH must be; and to do this on ‘the side’ is truly inspirational! I love it that you consider the cat care standards as important as the human care! Awesome!!

  12. I love, love, love this!!! This just warms my heart. God bless you, and thank you so much for taking care of these precious kitties!!!

  13. I love, love, love this story!!! This just warms my heart. God bless you, and thank you so much for taking care of these precious kitties!!!

  14. Cynthia Eldridge April 28, 2016 at 3:29 pm · Reply

    Thank you so much for your compassion for all of these babies, also to your volunteers for all that they do. Great story!

  15. GOD BLESS YOU BARB.
    I brought in a stray kitten last year that I thought was about 6 months old. The Vet stated with the tarter on her teeth she was about 2 or 3 years old. She is just a small little thing I know she is not that old. She is the best baby she just loves my husband and me. She likes to take turns sitting with us at night and who’s pillow she is going to sleep on. She is just the sweetest little thing.

  16. What a wonderful story and I’m so glad you shared it. I have 2 cats I adopted from a shelter near my home and had 2 rescues before them. They are just wonderful and I love to hear when cats & dogs are adopted as rescues. Barb, you’re an angel here on earth.

  17. Thank you for your vision and kindness to the stray cats. I would like to make a donation some day.

  18. THIS IS AWESOME… I AM ALSO A ANIMAL LOVER. MOM TO A CAT AND DOG. AN AUNT TO 6 DOGS, 4 CATS AND 2 GUINEA PIGS.

  19. I love that she is a nurse that not only cares for people but cares for animals as well. I have been an animal shelter volunteer for 18 or so years and am a nurse as well. She is an amazing example of true compassion. Thanks for all you do!

  20. Betsy Skibinski April 29, 2016 at 5:23 pm · Reply

    Barb runs a loving cat rescue shelter and is such an amazing person. The volunteers are soooo dedicated and caring. Cat food, litter, paper towels, cat toys are always welcome. If you would like to adopt a kitty, this is the place!!!

  21. We’ve adopted 4 cats from Barb.. her love of animals speaks volumes. God bless you.

  22. Thanks Barb for all your hard work and for my fur babies!!

  23. That’s awesome Barb! You’ve always been kind, so I’m not surprised to see how far your kindness has gone.

  24. You are an Earth Angel to these cats…
    My daugter, Carly takes in stray cats here and there. She is very connected to cats . Even as a small child. Every time one of her cats passes away from old age,
    a stray shows up on her porch!
    We love cats and have had many over the past 30 years.
    I we would like to stop by and sign up to volunteer.
    Thank you so much for helping these beautiful little souls!

About the Author

Evonne Woloshyn
Evonne Woloshyn

Evonne Woloshyn, health enews contributor, is director of public affairs at Advocate Children's Hospital. Evonne began her career as an anchor and reporter in broadcast news. Over the past 20 years, she has worked in health care marketing in both Ohio and Illinois. Evonne loves to travel, spend time with family and is an avid Pittsburgh Steelers fan!