Growing up, Michelle dreamed of becoming a hockey player or a businesswoman who carried a briefcase.
Luckily for what is now over 1 million animals – just like her slapshot, that NHL career never materialized. Instead, after spending several years on the shelter side, she started Spay and Neuter Kansas City (now PRCKC) in 2002. And as of this writing, she’s inching closer to her fourth decade in the animal welfare “business.”
“Time,” as she says, “has flown by.” But there have been a lot of ups and downs along the way to Pet Resource Center of Kansas City becoming the kind or organization that helps over 40,000 pets each year.
“There were hurdles but I think those put me right where I belong,” she says. Animal welfare, it turns out, was the kind of therapy Michelle needed upon escaping an abusive relationship. Part of her recovery was volunteering at a local shelter, which helped her realize a new mission in life – helping as many homeless pets as she could.
With that she left a corporate job and became an employee at the shelter. That’s when she met and adopted her first dog, Maggie, who helped Michelle overcome past troubles and get her back on her feet. It was at this time, too, that Michelle realized there was a big problem with pet overpopulation. Seeing thousands of animals euthanized because there wasn’t space for them inspired not just her passion and determination, but also her entrepreneurial spirit.
She was determined to fix things and, with that, she set out on her own. At that time she was not just considered a pioneer, but maybe even a little crazy. Nobody believed that a high-volume spay/neuter clinic would make a difference. Eventually, with nearly 200,000 animals “fixed” through the organization she founded, Michelle got to witness the day that the killing of healthy, adoptable animals ended in greater Kansas City.
As times changed, Michelle helped her organization adapt. That meant developing new programs to address the needs of the community. A pet food pantry, wellness clinic, outreach team, dental suite, and even an urgent care center.
Along the way, one thing was always top of mind for Michelle. That clients, regardless of their socioeconomic status, were human beings who deserved to be treated with respect and kindness. Even though the organization she founded was a nonprofit, she felt like customer service was key in making people comfortable when they came to visit and it would be the reason they would come back when they needed help.
In this way, she surmised, it would be easier to provide important education that would be central in improving the lives of pets in the community.
Ultimately, Michelle’s vision and perseverance, her business strategy and entrepreneurial spirit helped Pet Resource Center of Kansas City become a national leader in the pet retention and shelter intervention movement.
“I didn’t do this alone,” she admits. “Far from it. I had so many dedicated donors and such a strong, capable staff by my side. Our volunteers also own a big part of the accomplishments attributed to PRCKC. I’m so grateful to those who share this vision and I’m lucky to have a leadership team who has the passion to help us strengthen the human-animal bond and be a part of keeping pets and people together.”
In the end, Michelle got to carry that briefcase after all. As well as the love of a community and the realization that through PRCKC, many lives have been saved.