BENNINGTON TWP. — Holly Guild, the new executive director of the Shiawassee Humane Society, brings a lot of experience in the animal welfare field to her new position.
Starting Aug. 23, Guild most recently served as the executive director of the Humane Society of West Michigan in Grand Rapids. Before that, she was the director of operations for the Capital Area Humane Society in Lansing. She also put in eight years as a veterinary technician at the Michigan State University Hospital.
Guild, 49, who lives in Grand Ledge with her four rescue pets, said the executive director job at the Shiawassee Humane Society — opened by the retirement of Patrice Martin — was ideally suited for her.
“I was really interested in a community-based, small-town organization,” Guild said Wednesday. “It’s because of the community feel: You know the people who come in and you can see the impact you’re having on the community.”
Guild said she was already impressed with the SHS staff, having worked with them occasionally through her previous employment.
“They have a tight-knit staff who is dedicated to their jobs and to the pets in the community. That’s really important to me,” she said.
As the SHS executive director, Guild will oversee its administration, programs and strategic plan. Other duties include fundraising, marketing and community outreach. She will report directly to the SHS Board of Directors.
“We cast a wide net when advertising for this position, and believe we have found the absolute right person at the right time to continue growing the organization,” board president Carrie Barretta said. “Guided by Holly’s background and experience, the Shiawassee Humane Society is certain to achieve its ambitious goals for the future.”
Guild said one of her goals is for SHS to become more of a community resource for animal-related services — not only for sheltered animals but pets with homes.
“We need to support not only our shelter pets but all of our furry family members,” she said.
She would also like to establish a network of animal foster homes aimed at helping people who only need temporary help with boarding their pets, such as after a house fire or domestic violence situation.
Short-term fostering is an option that eventually returns pets to their owners — the best resolution in many cases, Guild said.
“Our pets bring us a lot of comfort and support and peace of mind,” she said. “To take that away makes it especially hard.”
Finally, Guild would like eventually to launch a capital campaign that would enable SHS to be housed in larger quarters that provide higher-quality housing for dogs and cats and expedite the adoption process.
Eight people applied for the position of SHS executive director, and four were interviewed by board members. Guild was one of two finalists called back for a second interview. Three major factors turned the tide in Guild’s favor, said Chris Newell, board secretary/treasurer.
“The first — and this is essential — was a passion for our mission. That’s easy to find but Holly has a very directed passion for the mission,” Newell said. “Second, she has extensive experience in nonprofit management, and third, that experience was in animal welfare — the animals themselves and shelter operations.
“She checked all three boxes, and significantly. I’m very excited to have her on board,” he continued. “Quite clearly, Holly is the best fit for the position we’ve had in the 20 years we’ve had an executive director.”
Guild’s background in animal welfare perhaps began with her getting a pony for Christmas at age 4. Later, she graduated from the veterinary technology program at MSU. She holds national certifications as an animal control officer and humane investigator of animal cruelty and neglect.
Along the way, she received awards for professionalism and teaching from MSU, and won an innovation award from a Dale Carnegie management training class.
Today, Guild lives with her two rescue horses, Bowie and Romeo, and two shelter dogs, Goose and Pixie, all of whom were adopted as older animals. Her grown sons, identical twins Caleb and Connor Smith, also live in Grand Ledge. Guild describes herself as a “doting” grandmother to 18-month-old Margaux.
“When you’re talking about any kind of animal, they have so many needs, including homes,” she said. “I’m a big fan of adopting senior animals. I’ts hardest on them when they end up in a shelter situation and they have extra appreciation when they get adopted.”
In her spare time, Guild said she loves to do anything outdoors, including going to the beach, gardening, and playing sports and walking outdoors.
She has only been on board for three weeks but said she already feels like a seasoned member of the SHS team.
“Everybody here has been fabulous,” Guild said. “I already feel like I’ve been here much longer than I have. I plan to stay a long time.”