2023 Volunteer Spotlight
We are so thankful for our wonderful volunteers and Happily Furever After Rescue would not be able to operate without their support and dedication to helping animals in need. Each month we will feature a volunteer who has helped make an impact within our organization. Read to learn more and check back monthly to see who we feature next:
JANUARY VOLUNTEER OF THE MONTH: ALYSSA TERRANO
Alyssa Terrano began fostering with Happily Furever After Rescue in October of 2022 after she held an adoption event for us at the pet store she co-owns, Thomaston Feed of Brookfield. She quickly fell in love with all the furry friends we came with and since then, has fostered six kitties. Alyssa shares, “I love that I know I’m able to do my part in saving lives and can provide the cats a safe and happy place until they find their furever home. Nothing quite beats waking up to some purring foster kittens and being in their company.”
Fostering has given Alyssa a new sense of fulfillment and she highly recommends others get involved in making a difference. When she’s not volunteering, you can find Alyssa in her mobile grooming van, where’s the owner of Paw Natural Mobile Spa. She also has some dogs and cats of her own: Hibachi, Mochi, Sushi, and Wonton. Mochi, her poodle, is involved in dog sport competitions and has even taken home some ribbons. Alyssa also enjoys the simpler things in life and is an avid reader.
FEBRUARY VOLUNTEER OF THE MONTH: HEATHER BARTLETT & LANCE SIRACO
Heather Bartlett and her fiancé, Lance Siraco, joined the Happily Furever After Rescue family in February of 2022. After purchasing their first home with a large yard, they finally had the space they were looking for to start fostering. With two large adult dogs of their own, they decided to foster puppies. To date, Heather and Lance have fostered six dogs…almost seven, but she got adopted on the spot at transport!
Being avid dog lovers, fostering pups in need is something this powerhouse couple always strived to do. Heather shares, “we have now fostered for three rescue groups and volunteering with HFAR is unparalleled! Jaclyn cares so much about the fosters experience and the wellbeing of the animals - from the moment they are rescued, through the adoption placement process, she is so passionate and we truly find ourselves lucky to be a part of such a great organization.”
The couple explains that being foster parents is a very rewarding experience – in the brief period that you have the dog, you can learn their mannerisms so quickly, and it's such an amazing feeling staying in touch and seeing them grow and thrive with their new families. “A few weeks ago, I had the chance to visit our last foster puppy, Holly, in her adoptive home,” explains Heather. “I absolutely LOVE keeping in contact with the families, but being able to actually see Holly in person again was such an incredible moment...she had gotten so big and was SO happy with her mom and dad.”
In addition to fostering, Heather has gone above and beyond by designing and sewing bandanas for our pups, driving and assisting at transports, ordering us supplies, donating money, sharing posts on social media, and promoting the rescue. “It is truly SO easy to make a positive impact! Volunteering doesn't always need to be through fostering or large efforts...rescues are in need of so many things, the smallest act can help. I think there is a misconception about volunteering that signing up means you are locked in, but it is so important to put yourself out there and as needs arise, jump in when it is comfortable for you to do so. I recently went to our local shelter and saw multiple volunteers that were there just to walk a dog around the property for a half hour - it is such a small amount of time in our crazy schedules, but for a dog in a kennel, it is so much more,” Heather says.
The greatest joy in Heather and Lance’s life is being dog parents. “We are, simply put, obsessed with our rescue dogs, Sebastian & Miles,” they share. They love spending their weekends hiking, being outdoors, and enjoy traveling everywhere they can with their pups. They bought a fixer upper in 2021 and have enjoyed renovating it slowly, but realistically, Heather and Lance admit that they just bought the house for the dogs.
MARCH VOLUNTEER OF THE MONTH: KAYLA JOLYSSA
Kayla Jolyssa knew in her heart that her life’s mission was to help animals. She has been involved in rescue for several years but joined Happily Furever After Rescue at the end of 2022. “After meeting the founder, Jaclyn, and seeing how well run the organization was, I knew I wanted to join. They make it easy to get involved in any capacity, big or small, so I’ve been able to fully immerse myself in the rescue,” Kayla shares.
To date, Kayla has fostered over 50 cats, in addition to 10 with HFAR! She fell in love with the lifestyle of caring for kittens and it became incredibly satisfying and rewarding volunteer work. After rescuing and adopting out three young kittens on her own that she saved from an online posting, she knew it was her calling to help the voiceless, the smallest members of our society: animals.
Over the years, Kayla has taken on all kinds of kitties - various ages, disabilities, sick, malnourished, and even feral. She explains, “It has been one of the most amazing experiences of my life. I’m convinced there is nothing on earth quite like watching an animal once slated for euthanasia, blossom under your care, and then go on to thrive in their new home.” One thing that Kayla especially enjoys is being able to play an integral part in helping pick the family her foster animals go to. “It’s very gratifying watching my foster kittens meet their furever families for the first time. It makes my heart feel full and at ease. I cherish all the updates I get from them after adoption and it makes everything all the more worth it.”
There have been so many incredible foster memories for Kayla but one in particular can only be described as euphoric for her. She shares, “I had seen a post from someone looking to give away three kittens. Immediately, I worried about whose hands they might fall into because unfortunately not everyone has the best intentions. I soon learned that this woman had 35 feral cats in her yard. These three in particular were born and spent the first few months of life outside. I took them in and discovered they all had various issues – worms and eye infections, among other things. Two of three were very shy. I spent countless hours each day playing with them, trying to hold each one, getting scratched up, and trying to build trust. I named them Wiley, Tank, and Mitsy.
Mitsy was by far the toughest to get through to. She would watch me like a hawk. Her brothers eventually decided I was safe. Wiley (the most independent of the group) was adopted and only Tank and Mitsy were left. I knew they should go as a bonded pair as she relied on him heavily for support. I put their information and pictures everywhere online and eventually discovered a wonderful potential adopter but after tragically losing their young cat, they were unsure about adopting again.
After persuading her and her husband to meet the duo, I threw myself into preparing Mitsy for the big day. Tank was ready. Tank quickly purred and the wife was instantly taken by him. As I placed Mitsy in her husband’s arms, I thought my heart might pop out of my chest due to nerves of her trying to run away and hide. To my surprise, she curled up to him and began to purr. In that moment, everything else melted away, I knew I’d done my job correctly. I was so proud of Mitsy, and even myself. All the blood, sweat, and tears were worth it because I succeeded in getting her to trust people. I could feel my heart swell with pride. His wife began to cry and my eyes welled up too.
These kittens, who were once destined for a rough life outdoors, were now transformed…fully vetted, altered, fed, well-loved, and ready to head home with their furever family. It was one of the most incredible moments in all my years of rescue and fostering. My heart swelled with pride over how far they’d come. The pair has since grown into the most gorgeous cats and they truly got their happily ever after.”
Kayla is often encouraging and networking to get others involved with fostering. She says, “Don’t overthink it and just go for it! There’s plenty of support along the way. Fostering is essential and you’re saving their life by taking them into your home and providing love, care, and nourishment. For that lucky animal you foster, you’ve made all the difference in the world.”
Kayla, a Ridgefield native, currently resides in Danbury. She is actively involved in animal welfare where she does adoption counseling, assists rescues all over the state, and helps people with kitten/cat issues as often as she can. Kayla has four rescue kitties who are her world: Triggy (almost 14 and from NC), Pippa (almost 3 and from Kentucky), Paisley (2.5 years old that she helped rescue near Danbury Hospital) and Macklemore (will be 2 whom is from the parking lot at Danbury Honda dealership).
APRIL VOLUNTEER OF THE MONTH: ANGELA PARDO & BEN HUGHES
Angela Pardo and Ben Hughes joined the Happily Furever After Rescue family at the start of 2023 after a friend and co-worker of theirs adopted two kittens from us. To date, they’ve fostered four dogs, all of which captured their hearts. Angela says, “Since I was a kid, I always told my parents that I want 100 puppies and well, fostering is allowing me to achieve this childhood dream. This experience has been amazing and beyond rewarding!”
After their son left home and joined the Navy, Angela and Ben decided to fill their time by fostering dogs in need. This opportunity has kept them busy and allowed them to truly feel like they are making a difference in aiding animal homelessness. “I love the communication and relationship Jaclyn provides throughout the process,” Angela said. “You feel the love she has for these animals before they even arrive at the rescue.”
The best part of fostering for Angela and Ben was watching a bond form with their foster and own dogs. “We fostered a dog that came to us very timid. On the third day, he pushed his way into the bed with our dog and curled up next to him. After this, they became best friends and foster brothers. Seeing this scared and tired dog begin to adjust to home life and become the biggest cuddler over the span of just a few days was such a relieving and eye-opening experience. We truly believe all dogs are good - they just need a kind hand and a nurturing environment to learn to trust, love, and gain their courage again.”
Angela is always encouraging her friends and family to get involved. She explains, “I think everyone should foster if they have the time. The rescue provides everything that you’ll need! Not only do you get to have a loving companion when you foster, but you also get to experience being able to grow with your dog or cat. They teach you so much in the time they are with you. Their leaving is hard, but since you have a vital part in their adoption and are able to meet their new family, it puts your heart at ease.”
Angela and Ben are an active couple with two dogs of our own, a young Golden Retriever named Teddy and a senior Bassett hound named Sadie. Ben was in the Navy and when he was discharged, the couple decided to settle down and move to Connecticut to be near family. Their son followed in his father’s footsteps and joined the Navy in December 2021. Angela and Ben purposely bought a house with a large property to be able to continue their active lifestyle outdoors, and of course, for their animals. They like to go backpacking, travel, and do woodworking. Now that they are settled into one location, they look forward to furthering their roots within the community by volunteering and fostering more.
MAY VOLUNTEER OF THE MONTH: THE NORDMANN FAMILY
The Nordmann family, consisting of Mary, Dave, and their three older children, Caroline, Connor, and Cassidy, joined Happily Furever After Rescue as fosters in May 2022 after their family friend was heavily involved in the organization. To date, they have fostered two dogs, Matty and Flash/Flynn.
Matty was a quick adoption, however, Flash/Flynn became one of our longest residents at HFAR and waited 11 months to find a home! The family stayed by his side throughout the process of rescue to adoption and we are very grateful for their commitment to him. Mary says, “Fostering dogs and giving them comfort and safety when they didn't have that in the past gave us such a feeling of satisfaction. It is so easy to get involved - Jaclyn provides everything you’ll need and you can truly see just how much she cares about all the animals that come into her rescue. While bittersweet, it is also so rewarding when your foster finds their furever home.”
From a dog on the streets, to a happy-go-lucky companion, the Nordmann family have witnessed Flash/Flynn flourish over the near year they’ve had him! Being a whippet mix, he is very active and they’ve loved watching him fly off the porch to fetch his favorite toy, chase his toys, fetch balls, or run in the yard. It brings the family so much joy watching Flash/Flynn play and enjoy life outside the shelter.
The Nordmann family, who reside in Bethel, have two dogs, Matilda and Ladybug, and two cats, Smokey and Kringle. In their free time, they enjoy the great outdoors and spending time with one another. They say to those looking to volunteer, “please consider fostering. These homeless pets depend on us to give them love, safety, and shelter when they need it most. If you're looking to adopt, fostering is also a great way to find your furever friend. We can't say enough good things about Jaclyn and HFAR. She puts so much time and effort into every animal she saves and you can tell she loves what she does. Please help save a life!”
JUNE VOLUNTEER OF THE MONTH: MIRANDA & JOHN DEPOI
Since their rescue journey began in 2014, Miranda and John DePoi have fostered a total of 33 cats/kittens, including three of their very own “foster fails.” The couple got into fostering by accident…or was it by fate? Miranda shares, “I was off for the summer during grad school and three orphaned kittens kind of fell into my lap. A horrible person, living at an apartment complex with a feral cat problem, thought a good solution was kidnapping a nursing mother, driving her miles away down the highway, and dumping her, away from her kittens. My sister, discovering this, rescued the kittens but realized that her schedule wouldn't allow her to meet the varying demands to care for them. Being on summer break, I volunteered - I bottle-fed, helped them learn how to use a litter box, and nurtured them as they grew.”
Fast forward a few years later, Miranda and John moved into an apartment that was in an area with a large feral cat population. When they spotted kittens one day, they got a trap, managed to catch several of the babies, and worked hard to socialize them. The couple reached out to a local rescue for help and once again, they found themselves as an accidental foster. When the DePoi’s finally moved into a home of their own, they decided to make a spare bedroom into a dedicated foster space and became volunteers at Happily Furever After Rescue. To date, they have fostered 14 cats with HFAR.
For Miranda and John, the most amazing aspect of volunteering with HFAR has been being able to watch the miraculous birth of the mama cats they’ve taken in. Last year, they fostered April, who had three adorable fluffballs, and this year, Star, who gave birth to nine kittens (who are all presently looking for their furever homes)! Miranda was fortunate enough to be present for both births and has provided comfort and support when needed. “Being able to be there and watch those little lives emerge into this world is one of the most amazing, thrilling, terrifying, and rewarding things a cat lover can experience,” explains Miranda.
Since then, Miranda and John find themselves becoming more and more of an expert in neonatal kitten care. Through lots of research and connections, the DePoi’s have had the opportunity to learn valuable skills that are, quite literally, lifesaving for these fuzzy little babies. “We are so grateful for this rescue journey,” Miranda says. “Jaclyn is always eager to help, gets whatever supplies we need, and doesn't mind when I text her about the kittens late at night. She’s also great at the social media and adoption process, which are elements of rescue that I would struggle with!”
Miranda adds, “My family and friends say, ‘Oh, I couldn't do it. I‘d definitely be a foster fail,’ however, you CAN do it. Once you feel the joy of fostering and experience that reward of seeing a little life safely go to their furever home, and know that you helped get them there, you won't be able to stop. It makes it all worth it. Instead of having a couple of cats, I can now have multiple. The other day my husband remarked, while under a pile of fluffs, ‘It almost feels selfish, having kittens every year,’ - and WE'RE the volunteers!
Miranda is currently a teacher for Stamford Public Schools and enjoys spending her free time reading, writing, and all things creative. She plays the violin and partakes in painting and playing Dungeons and Dragons. John and Miranda like learning about the art and craft of filmmaking, going to shows and comedy clubs, and being history buffs…and, of course, they love cats!