Tanya Hilgendorf with a kitten

Tanya Hilgendorf

President and CEO

Tanya’s been leading HSHV for over 14 years. With a BA in Political Science and a Masters in Social Work Administration and Public Policy and having served as Executive Director of Ozone House, her passion centers on protecting the vulnerable (human and non-human animals) and transformational leadership that helps nonprofit organizations achieve mission success. With an incredible team of staff, volunteers, and supporters, HSHV has become a thriving, dynamic animal welfare organization with a multi-service organization, with 100+ employees, 2500+ volunteers, and a 95%+ save rate focused on rescuing, healing, saving and protecting. Tanya currently is the proud mom of several fabulous felines and a beautiful teenaged human.


Matt Schaecher

Chief Operations Officer

Matt has been a Detroit firefighter for 15 years. Although always an animal lover, that is where he first saw the animal suffering that he knew he wanted to help end. Matt started as cruelty investigator at HSHV in 2005 and in 2015 he became HSHV’s Chief Operating Officer — helping to put out HSHV “fires.” He is passionate about protecting animals and saving every life possible and wants HSHV to be the best it can be. He is grateful to HSHV’s community of people who give so much of themselves to animals in need. He currently has a furry dog and two rather furless human babies.


Chad Wood

Human Resources Manager

Chad’s first job was obtained specifically to support his pets, which have ranged from cats and dogs all the way to geckos and snakes. Chad has always loved animals, almost as much as helping others. This is what brought him to work in HR, non-profit HR specifically. The opportunity to serve others as well as help animals is the perfect combination for a workplace, and Chad is thrilled to be part of the HSHV team.

Alison Balow

Adoptions & Front-of-House Manager

Alison began her career in Animal Welfare when she landed a job at a shelter in Boulder, CO after graduating from Colorado State University with a degree in Equine Science. Since then, Alison has worked at a number of shelters and enjoys her role as Adoptions Manager at HSHV immensely. Her passion is developing and supporting positive relationships between pets and their people, something she feels HSHV exemplifies through its mission. In her free time, Alison enjoys equestrian sports, hiking, camping, and spending time outdoors. She shares her home with two three-legged dogs, Desdemona Marie and Imogen Elizabeth, and two black cats, Titus Andronicus and Mercutio Alexander.


Michele Baxter

Cruelty Investigations/Emergency Rescue & Back of House Manager

Michele began as a volunteer at an animal shelter in Detroit.  Since then, she’s been an adoption counselor, wildlife rescue officer, veterinary assistant, police officer, and cruelty investigator. She’s even cared for “Katie,” an African Lion cub who wound up at the Detroit Zoo! Michele is passionate about education, and has taught law enforcement personnel and prosecutors on the subjects of animal cruelty and animal fighting.  She enjoys working for HSHV “because it’s innovative, and dares to be different in trying new things for the betterment of animals.”

Ann Edwards

Foster Care Manager

Travel bug satisfied? Check. Kids all grown up? Check.  Looking for a career change? Check.   Best shelter in the state? Check.  Ann started working part-time with shelter volunteers and quickly segued to full-time, running the foster program and taking lots of photos.  She’s transitioned from a degree in Biology, working at GM – Brasil in the Economics Department, to an MBA, to working in the music biz, then running a communications company, now back to her first love: working with animals. She’s inspired by foster parents, who’ve become her second family.

Gary Evans

Clinic Director

Gary is an entrepreneurial-minded, operations-focused executive leader with a passion for creating teams and systems that make the world a better place. Having learned his trade in Ann Arbor’s thriving start-up tech environment, he moved to the non-profit world several years ago, and has dedicated his career to combining the efficiencies of modern business with the focus, passion and mission of non-profits. He wakes up energized every day by the challenge and opportunity of making our community the best place in the country to be an animal.

Dr. Courtney Heck

Director of Shelter Medicine

Dr. Courtney completed her undergraduate career at Michigan State University and went on to earn her Doctorate of Veterinary Medicine at the Michigan State University College of Veterinary Medicine.  Following graduation, she completed an internship at Michigan Veterinary Specialists and later trained at the University of Tennessee College of Veterinary Medicine where she received her certification in canine physical therapy. Outside of work, Dr. Courtney enjoys spending time with her three children, hiking, camping, fishing, going up north.  Her family has two dogs and a cat who have all been adopted from HSHV and a bearded dragon.

Marketing, photographer Anne Savage, portrait, staff, Tawn Hinze

Tawn Hinze

Volunteer Manager

Tawn’s always had a love of animals having had chickens, rabbits, cats, and two German Shepherds growing up. Pair a love of animals with a passion for volunteering that started during college through various student organizations, becoming a volunteer at HSHV seemed like the perfect fit. She began volunteering in 2009 and was hired as an assistant to the Volunteer Manager in 2014. Tawn feels lucky to be a part of such a wonderful, dynamic, and talented group of volunteers. Outside of HSHV, you can find her at local coffee shops, going on hikes, doing yoga, or spending time with family & friends.

Jessie Hitt

Humane Education Manager

Jessie was planning to pursue a Master’s degree in library science when she happened to attend an information session on the newly formed Humane Education department at HSHV. During that info session, led by Karen Patterson, she learned about the existence of the Master’s degree program in Humane Education from the Institute for Humane Education. She knew right away that was what she wanted to do! Jessie enjoys talking to people of all ages about the interconnectedness of animal welfare, humanitarianism and environmental protection. She has a special place in her heart for black cats, and shares her home with two: Pablo and Little Cat.


Joy Johnsen

Special Events Manager

Joy has been fundraised for local non-profits for over 18 years.  When she started at HSHV as a volunteer in 2010 she was immediately drawn to the HSHV mission, and was hired as the shelter’s Special Events Coordinator in 2012.  Today, she serves HSHV as the Special Events Manager and is always kept on her toes coordinating HSHV’s annual fundraisers: Walk & Wag and Run and the Compassionate Feast. She also hasn’t forgotten her original volunteer commitments, and continues to care for a local feral cat colony. Joy enjoys relaxing at home with her two HSHV alumni: a small white fluffy cat and LARGE black fluffy dog.


Allison Manz

Tiny Lions Cat Café Manager

Allison started working at Tiny Lions in 2016 and became manager in 2018.  After finishing her degree, she hadn’t found quite the right career path until she found her way to the shelter–there’s nothing quite like literally herding cats!  Between working at the Cat Cafe and sharing a home with two kitties–adopted from the Cat Café–places without cats roaming around have started to feel strange.  Being able to spend time with animals and help them find forever homes is the best job she has ever had.


Karie McMahon

Intake Manager

Karie started working at HSHV as an Intake Technician in 2009. Having never worked in an animal shelter before, it was an eye-opening experience. Prior to that, she had worked as a zookeeper, and caring for laboratory animals, but until HSHV had not found a place that was the right fit for her. She loved HSHV instantly, and the rest is history. Now she heads up the Intake Department, runs the Love Train program, and manages HSHV’s private rehoming page. She shares her home with 3 feline friends, and lots of Star Wars toys.

Cameron Greig

Community Cat Coordinator



James O’Bryan

Facilities Manager

As a kid, James saved every stray cat in the neighborhood. Today, he’ll stop on any road to save a turtle. And he’s always enjoying saving and fixing things. So when the facilities job opened up at HSHV, he jumped at the chance to come back home — marrying his love for animals with helping people. Prior to that, he’d been working as a facilities manager/director at a Traumatic Brain Rehabilitation facility and Assisted Living/Memory Care retirement community. When he’s not fixing things at HSHV, you’ll find him on the lake!

Cathryn O’Connell

Development Manager

Always an animal lover from a young age, Cathryn was never too far from her pets growing up.  Whether it was her dogs, cats, chickens, horses or a feral cat in the area, she was spending time with at least one of them, if not all of them at once.  After a career in design and project management, Cathryn feels lucky to combine her customer service skills with her life-long passion.  Connecting with animal loving donors, volunteers and furry friends is a dream come true. When she is not at HSHV, she enjoys spending time with her furry and non-furry family, enjoying the outdoors, learning new skills and working on various projects that mostly include her pets.

humane education, Karen Patterson, Marketing, Melinda Szabelski, photographer Anne Savage, portrait, staff

Karen Patterson

Vice President of Volunteers and Humane Education

Karen Patterson is a life-long animal lover who has a passion for education and animal welfare. Teaching others about showing kindness and compassion for both animals and humans is her passion in life and is the inspiration of her first published book, Harley Saves the Day. Karen has ten years of formal teaching experience in the classroom and has since worked with students and teachers throughout Washtenaw County in her role at HSHV. She holds a Master’s of Education degree (in humane education) and currently serves on the Board of Directors for the Humane Education Coalition.  Karen currently lives in Chelsea with her son and four furry kids.


Catherine Pappas

Leadership Giving Officer

Catherine was a fundraiser long before she knew it.  As a kid, she enjoyed tagging along with her mom, helping her raise money for various worthy causes.  Although she has had other jobs along the way, including waiting tables in college, being a “mystery shopper” and working as project manager for an incentive travel company, Catherine has been raising money for non-profit organizations the majority of her career.  A life-long animal lover, she is delighted to be working with HSHV’s generous donors, volunteers and staff.


Merri Priddle

Director of Data and Process Management

Data, process and technology is not the most glamorous, but animals don’t judge!  In a past life, Merri was a computer programmer and project manager.  She values details, data, results and sustainable practices, but is passionate about 4-legged friends, as “they give us 2-leggeds unconditional love, endless forgiveness and demonstrate the utmost resilience.”  Merri is proud to work for our admin cats; fearful, nervous dogs and all the other critters who find their way to HSHV, and finds great satisfaction in seeing the results.


Jaci Schaecher

Vice President of Development and Marketing

Jaci (pronounced jack-ee) developed a passion for fundraising while pursuing her Master’s in social work — realizing the importance of adequate funding for nonprofits in order to fulfill their mission and beyond. At HSHV, Jaci combines that passion with a love for both animals and animal-lovers. “I love our donors and what they allow us to achieve every day,” she says. She’s a strong believer in the human/animal bond… so much so, that she has a hard time not adopting every cat who comes through our administrative offices!


Jon Trevathan

Director of Finance

Combining a love for his college town with a life-long love of animals and his admittedly unnatural passion for all things finance and accounting related, the Director of Finance position opening up at HSHV was a dream come true for Jon. If he isn’t sharing his desk chair with a cat, you can probably find Jon feeding treats to some wiggly dogs. Outside of the shelter, Jon spends time indoors and out with his family, including three HSHV alums. Hazel and Huck, two social cats, and Juniper, a high energy blue heeler mix that took the Love Train up from Tennessee.

Wendy Welch

Director of Communications

After selling fast food to kids and convincing people to buy unnecessary insurance, Wendy yearned to put her advertising skills to good use. HSHV was just the ticket. Originally a volunteer, then a human resources manager, and now in her dream job of communications director, Wendy is continually inspired by HSHV’s generous donors, passionate volunteers and unconditionally loving animals. She loves all things beagle, and is very grateful that coming to work with cat hair on her clothes is now, more than acceptable.