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.
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.
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.
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.
About the Author
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!