Each year, Gateway Pet Guardians chooses honorees to spotlight at the annual Soiree for Strays Gala.  We look deeply at our volunteers and supporters and choose the person/family/organization that has extraordinarily helped us over the year (or more) make the biggest impact we could.  We have four categories of honorees that we feel best summarize those people that support us so passionately: Volunteer(s) of the Year, Foster(s) of the Year, Humanitarian of the Year and Philanthropist of the Year.

These amazing contributors will be honored through a video at the annual Soiree for Strays Gala taking place on Friday, November 11 2016 at the Luminary on Cherokee.   They will also be invited to participate throughout 2017 in a variety of other Gateway Pet Guardians’ events. Tickets are $40 in advance (www.gatewaypets.com/gala) or $45 at the door.  Tickets include hor d’oeuvres, beer, wine, live entertainment and silent art auction inspired by our rescue work.

Without further ado, please help us in congratulating this year’s honorees:

Volunteers of the Year: GPG Program & Committee Leads

Fosters of the Year: Sarah and Brian Meyer

Humanitarian of the Year: Julia Mittelstadt

Philanthropist of the Year: Syberg Family

This post will spotlight our Volunteers of the Year!

Volunteers of the Year

Every year, we choose volunteers that go over and above our expectations.  They are shelter volunteers, coordinators, general event volunteers, etc.  As the Executive Director, I reach out to our Program Leads for their thoughts on who has really gone above and should be recognized.  Well, this year I got to recognize those that help me make that decision and daily crucial decisions….  THE GATEWAY PET GUARDIANS’ PROGRAM & COMMITTEE LEADS.  Our Program and Committee Leads are the front line of our organization and ensure that rescue efforts run smoothly on a daily basis.  They are also the people who keep GPG moving forward, growing and changing as the industry and our service area grows and changes.  They dedicate every spare second of free time to our rescued pets.  They take calls in the middle of night from frantic fosters worried about their pets, use their breaks during work hours to ensure an animal on the euthanasia list makes it to safety,  spend weekends planning fundraisers to make sure we have the funding available for medical expenses and many, many more things to allow us to save the number of lives we do.  I am so excited and proud to recognize this group of ladies on everything they have helped us accomplish!

Natalie Creamer – Outreach Program Lead

Natalie has led the Community Outreach Program for almost three years.  While leading this impactful program, the Metro East St. Louis community has seen a drastic change regarding stray animals.  Natalie has built relationships with city halls, police departments, fire departments, residents and partnering organizations to virtually eliminate the stray dog problem plaguing the area.  Through community programs such as targeted spay/neuter, emergency medical services, resource provisions, vaccination clinics and much more, community owned pets are staying in their homes with their loving owners instead of roaming the streets and ending up in high-kill shelters.  We cannot thank Natalie enough for her strategic, forward thinking and implementation to make our mission a reality!

Allison Busby – Rescue Program Lead

This is actually Allison’s second time being recognized as an honoree (and for good reason).  Last year, her and her husband Kyle were our Volunteers of the Year!  Allison became the Rescue Program Lead in early 2016 after serving as part of the rescue team for years prior.    As part of this life-saving team, she has bridged vital relationships with our local Animal Control and increased efforts to save animals from the daunting euthanasia list.  As the Program Lead, Allison brings organization and positivity to an area of our rescue work that can often be sad and overwhelming.  Compassion and passion are two parts of Allison that inspires people daily.  Leading this team presents different challenges daily but as a dynamic leader, she troubleshoots and problem solves to ensure that animals are saved and Gateway Pet Guardians is making the biggest impact we can in the community.  Allison also serves as part of our Community Outreach Program and works closely with community members to ensure they have the resources needed for their animals to thrive.    Allison’s time and passion are appreciated beyond words!



Kimmy Nasti – Shelter Program Lead

Kimmy Nasti is our Shelter Manager and Shelter Program Lead.  She has fearlessly led the shelter program for three years!  Kimmy began volunteering and found her true passion in life (I know, because I can see it daily).  Since becoming the Shelter Manager, she has implemented some of the most life-saving and enriching programs we have in our organization.  She has transformed our once dark, all concrete shelter into an inviting home for our rescued residents! In those three years, new shelter kennels have been installed (including adding four additional kennels), the play yard has been extended and turfed (thanks to our friends at Nestle Purina), streamlined policies and procedures have been put into place to ensure our volunteers, staff and resident dogs are kept safe, playgroups happen daily to further socialize our residents and an enrichment program was created to keep our residents’ minds busy and their hearts full.  Kimmy is a vital part of our life-saving mission and we couldn’t thrive without her compassion and leadership.


Janet Roberts – Foster Program Lead

Janet Roberts has held a couple Lead positions since volunteering with us. Her strategic thinking and stellar implementation has made her a vital part of our leadership team.  Prior to leading the Foster Program for the past eight months, she was the Adoption Program lead for almost two years.  With Janet’s leadership, the Adoption Program was created two years ago.  She built it from the ground up and developed one of the most well-functioning teams we have.  Earlier this year, she stepped in as the Foster Program Lead and continued to utilize her organizational skills to grow the Foster team.   Janet is constantly bringing new ideas, creative thoughts and drive to the ENTIRE leadership team. She is a go-to team member when a problem needs to be solved.  She not only has a solution but also helps put the pieces into place that are needed to make it successful.  Janet is also a foster mom with a fantastic blog that will have you laughing and crying at the same time.  She also serves on our outreach team and is a vital part of our community impact.  Janet’s leadership and passion are among the best of the best I’ve seen and we cannot thank her enough for being a part of our team and sharing her talents with us!



Sandy Gambill – Adoption Program Lead

Sandy has been a member of our Leadership team as the Adoption Program Lead for eight months.  She brings a breath of fresh and open air to not only GPG but also each person she encounters.  With years of rescue experience, Sandy came into Gateway Pet Guardians with a plethora of ideas, experience and knowledge.  She has shown each of us how to put judgement aside to save more lives.  She has opened up our adoption policies and procedures beyond our wildest dreams.  With open adoption policies, we can find more homes and save more lives.  Because isn’t that why we are here?  Thousands of animals each year in our local community are not given the chance to be adopted because we as rescuers have made it hard to find perfect homes for our rescued pets.  Sandy has shown us how to open our minds and hearts which has been instrumental in our growth.  Sandy also leads our expedited adoption events which we hope to add more of to increase our life-saving impact.  In addition to her contributions to the foster team, her gentle nature and calming presence is vital to the success of GPG as a whole.  Every person who encounters Sandy is better because of it! We can’t thank her enough for her dedication to GPG and rescue work in our community!

Kim Westerman Option 1

Kim Westerman – Volunteer Program Lead

Kim Westerman has been leading the Volunteer Program for one year.  She came to us with an extensive background in volunteer management.  This has been one of the most important pieces of our leadership as we continue to grow and change.  As an organization that is primarily volunteer based, a strong Volunteer Program Lead has been vitally important.  She has built the program from the ground up and put programming and activities in place that we have never had!  Starting social events like our Second Tuesday Happy Hours is one small way our volunteers can feel involved.  In addition, she has been a critical piece in building our leadership team.  This year, we had our first leadership retreat where we focused on building soft skills and planning for the organization.  Kim is also organizing our first compassion fatigue workshop for our volunteers. Last year, we had our first Leadership Holiday Party which is something so important for our leadership team. With compassion fatigue being something that our volunteers and staff deal with (more than we’d like), it’s important for the leadership team to be given the tools to combat it so we can be at the top of our game to save more lives.  Kim is fantastic at recognizing these things and ensuring our volunteers and staff stay grounded and focused (while having fun and enjoying the work we do!)


Kara Dalton – Education Program Lead

Kara Dalton is one of our dedicated volunteers that has been a part of our leadership team since the inception of our Program Lead model.  As a pre-vet high school teacher, she brings a lot to the table as our Education Program Lead.  When the Education team was created over four years ago, Kara was on board to lead!   When Education became a formal program, Kara was eager to take over.  As part of this team, she has been a part of some amazing educational efforts both in our service area and out.  One of the biggest accomplishments was the Junior Pet Guardian program that took youth from our service area and made them ambassadors for GPG.  Kara led this groups efforts and was able to take them on a trip to the Best Friends’ Animal Sanctuary and give them the leadership tools to become important advocates in their community.  Currently, Kara takes GPG’s messaging on the road and visits schools all over the St. Louis area preaching about rescue work and the importance of responsible animal ownership.  We can’t thank Kara enough for her YEARS of dedication to GPG!



Brittany Heinen – Fundraising Committee Lead

Brittany is being recognized for her contributions as our Fundraising Committee Lead.  She served as our lead for almost two years helping us raise much needed funding to support our growing rescue numbers.  Prior to Brittany’s leadership, there wasn’t a formal team for our fundraising efforts.  She increased our exposure and monetary gain through building small events, Valentine’s Puppy Grams and grants.    Today, that committee is led by our new Development Director, Jen Knepper but Brittany still serves on the committee.  Because of Brittany’s passion for rescue work, she helps out in any aspect she can.  Brittany also leads our Training and Shelter Guardian Teams and fills in at the shelter when needed.  She has truly found her calling within GPG working with the shelter dogs!  In addition, she serves on our Community Outreach team helping community members and their pets!



I cannot be more proud and thankful of the Gateway Pet Guardians’ Program Lead team.  Because of the dedication of these talented women, we are making a HUGE impact on animals and owners lives in the community we serve.  It’s inspiring each and every day to see their passion.