Brattleboro – For the past 20 years, Keri Roberts, COO of The Humane Society of County WindhamShe inspired the people around her.
It’s the heart of the organization,” said Heather Harlow, director of the clinic.
“This is absolutely her calling,” said Jesalyn Pennington, animal shelter manager and cat specialist. “She’s very good with people and animals.”
Bennington started as a volunteer dog walker in 2015.
“Kerry noticed I was really invested in this place and asked me what I was looking to do,” she said. “She taught me all about this place. And then, when I opened a job, I jumped on a nursing ship and came here. If I didn’t have anyone to teach me all these things and really find out that’s what I like, I would probably still have a job that I don’t like” .
Maya Richmond, who replaced former CEO Annie Guyon in 2021 said: “One of the most positive aspects of joining the County Windham Humanitarian Association as CEO is working with Keri. She has a wealth of knowledge from years of experience. She knows just about everyone, she can tell me She has a history of each program, and has significant experience with sheltering, veterinary care, and overall operations.”
Guion said one of the reasons she felt comfortable leaving WCHS after 14 years was because she knew it was in good hands with Roberts and the people she brought aboard.
said Guion, who is preparing to ship to Colorado for a temporary assignment as CEO of Second Chance for Humanity Association.
“In the 14 years we’ve worked together, I’ve only seen her lose her temper once,” said Ghion, who declined to share those details. “People think we’re just an animal welfare organization, but we’re really a social service. We test a whole range of people and their emotions about their beloved pets. Nothing throws Keri off.”
Richmond said she couldn’t imagine WCHS without Roberts.
“When I first met Keri, she told me the name of every dog and cat in the shelter, why they were at the shelter, and what the afternoon clinic schedule was while she was stocking the shelves of the pet food pantry,” Richmond said. “I was amazed because in just that interaction, I was able to see how much she knew the place and how much she loved the work.”
Roberts had no intention of working in animal welfare when she began working in the humane community on weekends, cleaning kennels and working with dogs.
“When I was in high school, I really had no idea what I wanted to do for the rest of my life,” Roberts said. “Then my husband Christopher and I met and got married and decided to have children.”
Roberts had twin girls “on the spot”, who are now both growing up and living a life of their own and a son later, while also helping to raise a stepson.
“We were very young,” she said. “I loved being a mother but my money is tight so I got the job here.”
Roberts had no formal training in animal care, so I learned on the job over the years.
“It just came natural to me,” she said. “I have the ability to work with animals. It is very similar to taking care of children.”
Roberts, who lives in Westminster and is a graduate of Brattleboro Union High School, started out taking care of dogs and cleaning kennels, and worked her way through caring for cats until she became a shelter manager until five years ago, when she took on the job as operations manager.
“As the kids got older, my position grew,” she said. “I started spending more hours and doing more with cats and rabbits and birds and all the other animals.”
As Director of Operations, Roberts wears many hats, works directly with animals, assists with medical care, staff scheduling, and manages various shelter programs.
Not only has Roberts’ job changed over the years, but so has WCHS’ mission.
“When I started, it was basically a place for homeless animals,” she said. “We prepared really long adoption contracts for people. You had to own your home. By our standards, I wasn’t going to be an animal owner. It was an unrealistic expectation for adopters. Meanwhile, the shelter was getting full. It’s been hard taking care of all those animals, and some of them are here.” For months, sometimes years.”
Many animals at that time came to human society because their owners did not have the means to take care of them.
“They were turning over the animals because they couldn’t get them to the vet to be sterilized or vaccinated, or to be treated for fleas,” Roberts said.
Through grants and donations, the County Windham Humane Society has been able to help pet owners while reducing the number of animals in need of shelter.
“It was unfair for these animals to be kept stuck in these little cages in purgatory when they could have been living in a nice home with people who love and care for them,” Roberts said. “And if you’ve owned an animal before, you know how strong the human-animal bond is. Bringing an animal to a shelter is a last resort. It’s like giving up a child.”
Although the need for shelter has decreased over the years, the WCHS building on Route 30 is showing its age. Before the pandemic began, WCHS began a capital campaign to renovate the building.
So far, I’ve raised about half the two million dollars it needs.
Roberts credits Guion with much of the positive change that WCHS has experienced over the years.
“I attended at a time when the shelter was already suffering,” Roberts said. “It really moved the sanctuary from what we call the Dark Ages into what it is now.”
Roberts runs a team of about 10 people, as well as a “huge group of volunteers”.
“I had some volunteers who were with me from the start,” she said.
Roberts also thanked the community for its support over the years. This includes cash donations, as well as donations of pet food and other supplies.
“I stayed with her mainly because of the animals and the people I work with in the community,” said Roberts, who cherishes the relationships she has built over the years. “I’ve seen these pets grow up with these people and I’ve seen the relationships they develop. It makes you feel really good that you were able to help in a small way.”
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