When it finally came to a career choice, Rachel Delaney just couldn’t ignore her dual passion for animals and for making a difference. At age 21, Delaney moved from Calumet City to Oak Park and sought a career in corporate America, working in a marketing position to promote the Chicago Marathon. That exposure to health-related issues took her into the health care field, first as an Emergency Medical Technician and then as a paramedic.
Nursing school came next at Purdue University Calumet in Hammond, but Delaney found herself missing the contact with animals she had in her childhood home. “We took in stray dogs, and we had a chicken and a duck. They followed us wherever we went,” Delaney says with a chuckle.
Five years ago, while still attending nursing school, Delaney decided to move to Indiana specifically to volunteer at the Humane Society Calumet Area in Munster. The first day she volunteered at the shelter, a 14-year old black lab named Dora was brought in. Delaney decided immediately to foster the dog, taking her home and caring for the aged canine.
“She was with me six months. Unfortunately, she was eventually in so much pain, we had to put her down. I was so devastated,” Delaney recalls. Since then, Delaney has fostered many animals until they could find forever homes.
Her volunteer hours increased to the point that she was at the shelter every moment she wasn’t in class. “I was there so much that I decided to see if there were any part-time positions open. The volunteer coordinator asked if I could work full-time as the customer service coordinator,” Delaney says.
“It was a hard decision—coming from health care to a not-for-profit. I had to decide if I should make money or make a difference.”
The “make a difference” attitude was a lesson instilled by her parents, Delaney says. “I was taught by my parents to have a positive attitude. My dad has had a profound effect on me. He’s been very supportive of my career choices, even when he didn’t always agree with them,” she says.
Humane Society Calumet Area
421 45th Ave, Munster
Delaney’s journey to become executive director at the Humane Society Calumet Area continued as she accepting more responsibilities. When the executive director left the position, the board of directors hired Delaney as interim chief. In 2006, she was appointed as executive director.
Her duties include grant-writing, overseeing the activities of the adoption center and supervising the staff of 25, making certain the daily care is “up to par,” she says. “I also maintain relationships with animal control offices and rescue groups.”
During her tenure as executive director, the Humane Society Calumet Area has expanded to include the HSCA Intake Center at 9406 Calumet Ave. in Munster. This center is the first stop for animals collected by animal control departments, sick animals and pets surrendered by their owners, Delaney says. It also recently became the shelter’s adoption center.
PAWS Resale Shoppe is another HSCA program Delaney oversees. Located in downtown Highland, PAWS Resale Shoppe offers everything from furniture and toys to jewelry and collectibles. All proceeds are used to help feed and house the animals of the Humane Society Calumet Area.
Recently the Humane Society Calumet Area broke ground for a new veterinary clinic that will be attached to its main facility at 421 45th Avenur. in Munster. The on-site clinic will feature four examination rooms and will provide full-service veterinary services and surgeries at a low cost.
Eventually, it will also include a state-of-the-art Spay/Neuter Center that will offer low-cost procedures to prevent breeding. “When we’re finished building, the Intake Center will move over here,” Delaney says.
The new HSCA facility will take about two years to complete, she says, but it will “have the latest and the greatest. Everything will be new.”
In the meantime, Delaney also finds her plate full at her own Highland home, where she lives with her husband, Kyle, a regular Humane Society volunteer, and their 8-month old daughter, Hannah Grace. Delaney’s passion for animals includes adopting four dogs—three Chihuahuas and one German Shepherd. “It’s a high energy household,” she laughs.
In addition, Delaney is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in humane leadership through the Humane Society University. For the future, Delaney says she sees herself continuing to make a difference. “I’m proud to say every day that I make a difference,” she says. “By being nominated for this 20 Under 40 honor, I can have even more impact on the lives of other animals—that includes people. We’re all part of the animal kingdom. If I can do that, I’ll be a happy person.”