Volunteer Appreciation Week 2024: Honoring the Heartbeat of DPA

During Volunteer Appreciation Week, we celebrate the invaluable role volunteers play in bringing positive change to our community. It’s an opportunity for organizations to acknowledge the generosity of those who dedicate their time and talents to causes close to their hearts.

Volunteers have been instrumental to our ability to achieve milestones and save more lives than ever before. Today, we are privileged to feature four of these remarkable volunteers — chosen by DPA! staff, volunteers, and fosters — whose allegiance to animal welfare is nothing short of heroic.

Volunteer Appreciation Week VIPs

Volunteer Appreciation Week - Ashton Koenen
Ashton Koenen & Foster, Annie

Ashton Koenen

Foster Parent & GoodPup Admin

Favorite Adoptable Pet: Astro

Dallas native, Ashton Koenen, has always been a dog person. Her connection to dogs is so strong, she has volunteered and fostered in her free time for years. Ashton’s work life, overseeing operations for a national restaurant chain, keeps her busy, but it never outweighs her devotion to animals.

In 2018, after rescuing and reuniting a dog with its owners, Ashton felt a calling to get involved with local shelters. She started as a volunteer dog walker for the Denton’s animal shelter, but always planned on fostering. Ashton’s initial foray into fostering was sparked when she saw a compelling plea for a street dog on a frigid November day and couldn’t turn away — a moment that ignited a lifelong passion.

Ashton was drawn to DPA! in 2022 because of the PASS Program. She signed up to become a foster parent and before long, she was encouraging others to join the movement. Several of Ashton’s fosters required special attention due to medical treatments or behavioral issues, which only fueled her dedication.

To date, Ashton has fostered 17 dogs, including two long-term medical fosters who will move to their forever homes once they’re well. Ashton’s family has adopted three of their fosters, Sammie, Jewels and Leinenkugel, each of whom had their own unique challenges. Through DPA’s new partnership with the GoodPup Training Program, Ashton was able to transform Sammie into a well-behaved companion.

Subsequently, Ashton went through GoodPup Training with several more foster dogs and noted the phenomenal difference it made. She began advocating for the program and its resources to be available to all DPA! fosters from the start. So when the need arose for a GoodPup Administrator, Ashton was not only the resident expert, but also a natural fit to lead other fosters. In her current role, she provides insight, training scholarships, and supports DPA’s network of foster parents as they navigate the program.

Ashton finds immense satisfaction in hearing from fosters about how training has improved their experience and facilitated adoptions. One of her proudest moments involved providing a GoodPup Scholarship to one of her fosters, Dakota, who went from facing euthanasia at a shelter to becoming a support dog for her adopter!

Looking ahead, Ashton aims to inspire a sustained commitment to animal welfare, encouraging others to embark on their own advocacy journeys. She envisions an organization with the capacity to rescue and rehabilitate more animals, thereby addressing the broader challenges of stray animals and shelter overcrowding.

Volunteer Appreciation Week - Erica
Erica Henthorne & Pet, Nori

Erica Henthorne

Assistant Marketing Director

Favorite Adoptable Pet: Dumpling

Erica embarked on her volunteer journey with DPA! driven by a desire to align her professional aspirations with her ideals. Originally from Kansas City, MO and currently living in Sacramento, CA, Erica’s affinity for animals was evident early on in life. Despite not having pets as a child, her love for cats was undeterred and led her to volunteer at Friends of Parkville Animal Shelter (FOPAS) during her high school years, where she primarily cared for their senior and FIV+ cats. Her experience laid the groundwork for her future endeavors, teaching her the importance of protecting our most vulnerable.

Erica’s metamorphosis into a pet owner came unexpectedly one day when she encountered an abandoned kitten near a dumpster. The kitten was around six weeks old and in poor condition, so Erica immediately rushed it to the vet. After a few weeks of URI treatment, stability, and lots of affection, the kitten was healthy enough for adoption but Erica was already in love. Nori will celebrate her third birthday with Erica in June!

With a background in freelance marketing for nonprofits and small businesses, Erica’s experience aligned perfectly with DPA’s marketing needs. She started volunteering remotely in October 2023 as a Marketing Coordinator, focusing on content for the PASS Program and its partnership with BestyBnB. Within her first three months with DPA!, Erica’s adeptness and dedication led to a rapid promotion — from PASS Marketing Lead, to Social Media Team Lead, to Assistant Director of Content Marketing!

The new titles came with a broad range of responsibilities including content planning, managing the content calendar, supervising social media volunteers, collaboration with external partners, analyzing social engagement metrics, and so much more. Her leadership extends beyond mere management; she has become a key player in strategic discussions, marketing deliverables, and rising metrics at DPA!

Erica expressed particular pride in announcing partnerships and initiatives like Dogs Matter’s merge with DPA! and the BARK Dorm collaboration with the Texas Juvenile Justice Department. Another moment that filled her with happiness was creating a foster plea that helped Lenny, an FIV+ community cat, find his forever home.

Erica’s vision for the future is filled with optimism and ambition. She is eager to expand DPA’s reach through partnerships and community programs, such as boosting BestyBnB’s presence in Dallas to provide more temporary fosters through the PASS Program. She believes initiatives like these are necessary services to diminish challenges felt by pet owners and animals in need.

Volunteer Appreciation Week - Jenna
Jenna Fischer & Foster, Luma

Jenna Fischer

Foster Application Vetter & Dogs Matter Admin

Favorite Adoptable Pet: Dixie Rae

Born and raised in San Angelo, Texas, Jenna Fischer embodies the spirit of community service and Volunteer Appreciation Week. Volunteering and fostering have been an integral part of her life. From the age of 13, she has fostered 110+ cats and dogs, demonstrating not only generosity, but also her deeply rooted kinship with animals. When she’s not fostering or working with DPA, you can find her handing out meals to the elderly, or spending time with her dog, Robi, and her cat, Lasso — who both came into her life as strays and lucked into a forever home with her.

Jenna’s unwavering commitment to animal welfare makes a tangible difference in the lives of many. Her journey with Dallas Pets Alive! began in 2021 and was driven by a desire to find more ways to give during her free time. That is when she happened upon DPA’s remote volunteer opportunities and applied. Given her extensive experience with fosters, she was immediately seen as an asset, and she quickly made a name for herself on the internal foster team! Jenna’s duties have evolved significantly over three years, starting as a Foster Profile Admin before moving on to become a Foster Application Vetter around 2022.

Her passion and hard work led her to take on additional responsibilities as a Dogs Matter Admin by the end of 2023, and she was recently promoted to Foster Application Vetter Lead. Jenna meticulously reviews applications for potential foster parents, ensuring they meet the organization’s requirements — such as proximity to veterinary partners, the indoor housing of pets, and current pets’ vaccination and neuter status. In her position as Dogs Matter Admin, she personally examines and matches fosters with dogs whose owners are going through alcohol or substance abuse treatment.

One of Jenna’s most cherished aspects of volunteering is witnessing the success stories. Seeing the joy of first-time fosters getting adopted or the heartfelt reunions between pets and their owners after recovery makes every second she donates worth it. She is grateful to be a part of such essential, life-changing programs. Her ability to connect, even virtually, with those she helps is always a source of joy and pride.

As she prepares for the future, Jenna is excited about new remote projects at DPA! and eagerly anticipates the growth of programs like Dogs Matter. Her hope is to see even more transformations as pet and owner happily reunite for their second chance at life.

Volunteer Appreciation Week - Lindsay
Lindsay Minnich & Pet, Joe

Lindsay Minnich

Assistant Canine Foster Director

Favorite Adoptable Pet: Queen

Lindsay’s story is a powerful illustration of how versatility and compassion can drive change. Originally from a small town outside Cleveland, Ohio, Lindsay’s path took her through Atlanta before she settled in Dallas, which she has considered home for eight years. Often accompanied by her dog, Joe Thomas (who is named after her favorite football player), Lindsay is a familiar figure in Dallas’s pet-friendly spots, like Merit Coffee in Deep Ellum or the Farmers Market.

Lindsay’s professional life as a Learning Delivery Facilitator parallels her volunteer efforts, with both focusing on growth, development, and nurturing confidence — principles that she applies to humans and animals alike. Wanting to positively impact the city that had so quickly felt like home, she began searching for volunteer positions. Her goal was to be part of an organization that managed both the big picture and small details effectively, and was pleased to see DPA! understood the importance of both. She was also impressed by their events, such as the Soirée and Pup Crawl, which appeared in sync with the local culture. But the keystone was the PASS Program, which was a rarely seen, proactive approach to shelter overcrowding.

Over time, Lindsay’s positions progressed as her commitment grew stronger; from supporting the Dallas Animal Services PASS team in person on weekends, to welcoming and orienting new fosters, to taking on a broad leadership position as DPA! moved towards virtual engagement during COVID. As Assistant Canine Foster Director, she plays a crucial part in overseeing and supporting the canine foster program. Lindsay pairs foster families to animals in need and provides guidance throughout the foster process. Her devotion to the foster team’s continued growth and improvement is an inspiration to her peers.

Among Lindsay’s proudest moments are the countless urgent rescues she facilitated that stopped unnecessary euthanasia. She recalled the case of Bochy, a healthy, young German Shepherd mix, whose only issue was acting like puppy; yet, he was flagged as having behavior problems. She was racing against the clock to find a foster by the end of that day. Lindsay could only think of one who had the time, space, and the ability to manage the breed — so she was overjoyed when they said yes!

In the future, Lindsay is enthusiastic about DPA’s initiatives to modernize and streamline their volunteer and foster programs. She looks forward to these advancements making volunteering more accessible and efficient, allowing volunteers to match their availability with the organization’s needs effectively.

Inspired By Our VIPs?

Volunteer Appreciation Week offers a unique and rewarding opportunity to make a positive impact on the lives of pets in need. Whether you prefer virtual or in-person activities, there’s a volunteer opportunity suited for you. By joining DPA!, you not only help save animals but also experience personal and professional growth — and maybe you’ll be featured for Volunteer Appreciation Week next year!

Receive our updates

Join our newsletter to receive updates in your inbox.