STAFF

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Shelter Director

ALEX SHOUP
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Senior Shelter Manager

Intake Coordinator

Foster Coordinator

Social Media Coordinator

CASSIE O'CONNELL
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Shelter Manager

Medical Coordinator

EMILY PETERSON
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Shelter Assistant

KARL GERDS
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Shelter Assistant

PATRICK TOBIN
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Shelter Assistant

SHERRY BLANCHETTE
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Shelter Assistant

MARIE ZACCAGNINI
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Shelter Assistant

LAURA BERESTECKI
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Administrative Assistant

DANNA BAIDA

MEET THE TEAM

As the first free-roam, no-kill shelter in the country, Gifford has cared for homeless cats for more than 130 years.

BOARD of directors

Board President

LISA SACCHETTI

Lisa has always had a passion for all animals, especially cats. After learning about Gifford Cat Shelter back in 1999, she immediately fell in love with their work and began volunteering on Saturday mornings. Lisa’s first few years at Gifford were spent taking care of the shelter’s most basic needs – scooping, cleaning, and socializing cats. However, it wasn’t long before her business expertise and entrepreneurial spirit were recognized; In 2005, Lisa was invited to join to the Board of Directors and later elected Board President.

Lisa, who grew up on Cape Cod with five cats, lives in the Boston area with her two “children” – Travis and Mariah, both Gifford alums. She is also the founder and CEO of The Renaissance Network, an award-winning, strategic search firm specializing in Education and Education Technology. Based in Newton, MA, TRN is celebrating its 25th year in business – all under Lisa’s continuous guidance.

Lisa earned her M.S. in Human Resource Management from Northeastern University and her B.A. in Psychology from The Catholic University of America. She’s also taken significant coursework in Entrepreneurship at the F.W. Olin School of Business at Babson College.

Board Vice President

ANN GURKA

Ann Gurka brings 20 years of shelter volunteer experience to the role of Shelter Operations Specialist. She worked as a volunteer animal caregiver at both MSPCA and the Alliance for Animals Cat Adoption Center prior to joining the Gifford community in 2004. Ann’s major interests have always been animal welfare and shelter standards. In her years at Gifford, Ann has familiarized herself with national standards for animal sheltering, as well as state regulations for shelters. She has successfully obtained a number of grants to help pay for both the replacement of the old brick shelter building and veterinary care for the cats. She has participated in many fundraising events and coordinated the annual Silent Auction for a number of years. Her work at Gifford has always been fueled by the cats – seeing them transition from the hardships of being a stray to the safety and love of the shelter to happy permanent homes is her biggest reward. Ann’s has a master’s degree in nursing and has both practiced and taught in the areas of critical care and cardiology. She currently does administrative work for her husband’s allergy practice. 

Board Member

JULIE BATAL

Julie serves as the Secretary of the Board. As Secretary, Julie is responsible for minute taking at the board meetings and the completion and filing of documents that are required from time to time. Outside of her role at Gifford, Julie has extensive experience in regulatory affairs related to healthcare and environmental issues and serves as an executive at a local biopharmaceutical company. Julie and her husband have been ‘parents’ to a number of rescue cats. They currently share their home with Neo and Tommy who were adopted from the Lowell Humane Society.

Board Member

BEN TODD

Board Member

TOM CHANCE

Tom is a recovering attorney, Brighton resident, and housemate of a Gifford cat (Roger, formerly known as Spike, Class of 2012). His background includes institutional design, construction, and maintenance; affordable housing; and community development. His other four legged housemates include Murphy, a rescue dog, and another recent rescue cat whose name is still a work in progress.

Board Member

ELIZABETH SEDLAK

Elizabeth has always had a love for cats and dogs since she adopted her first cat in upstate NY. Now living in Medford, she has another rescue cat named Walter who is loved by all friends and family. Elizabeth joined the board in 2019 and is accountable for the oversight of fundraising and donation efforts for the shelter. Outside of her role at Gifford, Elizabeth has experience in operations management, acquisitions, and business development. She serves as an executive of a company that teaches sick children in hospitals.

Elizabeth earned her ALM in Management from the Harvard Extension School and a Bachelor’s Degree with Individual Concentration in Organizational Behavior from the University of Massachusetts Amherst. In her free time she travels, facilitates a ladies’ activity group, and enjoys exercising and crafting.