Brenda Burke, Manager of Community Outreach & Strategic Partnerships
Like many others, Brenda Burke moved tothe Napa Valley to pursue a career in the wine industry. The universe had a slightly different plan and steered her to open Simplebliss Professional Body and Skincare Spa in 1991. Brenda has a knack of connecting with people and in 2007, she and Monica Stevens met and became fast friends, sharing an unparalleled passion for animals. When JARR was founded in 2014, it was no surprise when Monica invited Brenda to spearhead the JARR community outreach work that is so necessary in this community. We credit Brenda with saving the life of Annie, Jameson Animal Rescue Ranch’s first rescue dog, and she hasn't stopped sharing the importance of animal rescue ever since.
Brenda excels at finding new ways to engage the community and creating and refining programs to help keep animals healthy, safe, and with their human families as well as keep the Mission of JARR front and center. Brenda's first foray into community outreach work was her creation of JARR's monthly Pet Food Drive: Paws On Wheels. A partnership with Meals On Wheels Napa County, this program provides pet food every month, to Low-Income Families, Seniors Citizens, and the Homeless of Napa County.
If you are looking for a community project to help the animals, Brenda will surely create something special with you.
If she is not working within the community with JARR, you’ll find Brenda working her magic in her spa, or running or cycling the beautiful roads of the Napa Valley.
Deassa Binstock, Manager of Adoptions & Foster Care
While living in Washington state, Deassa rescued her first dog in 1999 — a sweet young Husky that had been tied up outdoors for most of its life. After finding him a great forever home, she decided to move back to her hometown of Napa. While attending vet tech school she rescued Kahi, a young Pitbull that had her ears cropped with a pair of scissors when she was 8 months old. Kahi taught her so much and put her on her current path. She’s been a Registered Veterinary Technician since 2004 — working six years at Frontier Pet Clinic, six years at Silverado Vet Clinic, and finally spending two years at the Napa County Shelter.
While volunteering with a local Animal Assisted Therapy group called LAPS, she met Albert Einstein, her first therapy dog (pictured). Currently, she has two dogs — a 5-year-old Pitbull/Boxer mix named Chassis, also a therapy dog, that she rescued off the streets of Oakland when he was just 4 weeks old, and Harper a fluffy 10-pound mixed breed that her grandma adopted. Deassa has been active with BadRap, a Pitbull advocacy group in Oakland, for the last 13 years. She has a passion for behavioral training, and a total soft spot for senior and Fospice animals. Her role at JARR is to oversee all the foster parents, foster animals, and adoptions.
Amanda Vollstedt, Community Animal Assistance Fund Manager
Having lived in Sonoma since the age of three, Amanda continues to reside in Sonoma with her daughter and two pets. She has worked in the Veterinary field for the past 10+ years at two top-rated hospitals in Sonoma. She adopted her first Pitbull within a month of working in the field. The sweet-natured dog was brought in as a stray with a multitude of medical issues, and due to be euthanized. After months of recovery, she became a healthy and friendly Pitbull ambassador who continues to spark change in the minds of people with a misguided view of the breed. Amanda also grew up loving horses and began riding at the age of eight. She has a strong passion for thoroughbreds, whom she would later rescue off the racetrack to retrain and find new loving homes. She’s excited to continue helping people and their pets thrive, working with JARR as the Emergency Fund Manager.
Julia Orr, Director of Communications
After being handed a flier on factory farming at a subway station in London, Julia became an animal advocate and committed to eating a plant-based diet. She has since worked as a communications specialist on many animal protection issues for clients such as Mercy For Animals, Showing Animals Respect and Kindness, Stop Animal Exploitation NOW! Beagle Freedom Project, Animal Justice Project, and the Farmed Animal Rights Movement.
Previous to following her passion for raising awareness for animals, Julia spent ten years at Walt Disney Studios working in the theatrical and animation divisions of the publicity department. During her tenure at Disney, Julia worked on some of the most successful box office releases such as three of the Pirates of the Caribbean movies, Pixar films such as Finding Nemo, Ratatouille, Up and Cars, Hidalgo, Tangled, National Treasure, The Chronicles of Narnia and many more. At DDA Public Relations, a well-known international PR company, Julia oversaw publicity campaigns for clients and film releases worldwide.
Julia was one of the 2016 recipients of the "Lisa Shapiro Award for Unsung Vegan Hero" for her animal advocacy efforts, which included Trap/Neuter/Return of local feral cats and organizing campaigns against animal cruelty. As a life-long animal lover, Julia is currently caretaker to three mischievous cats, Sherpa (aka Mr. Grumpy), Assata, and Prince Harry. When not working to make a better world for all, Julia loves to travel, write, and find a great beach to read a good book.
Heather Leake, Volunteer Coordinator
“All creatures great ands small…” have been, well, since forever, a passion for Heather in her professional and personal life. She brings to her position as Jameson’s Volunteer Coordinator a rich and varied range of experience, combining strong interpersonal skills honed in the hospitality industry with a deep understanding of the value of the human-animal bond and its therapeutic promise.
Heather knows animals and how to create the best partnerships between animals and their humans, having trained hunter/jumpers, coached clients for national and international competitions, managed riding programs for international resorts, and provided equine therapy for disabled and at risk youth, veterans suffering PTSD, not to mention victims of abuse and trauma. And she knows people, having managed a variety of customer service functions in the hospitality industry around the globe, in addition to her therapeutic work.
Added to her varied and relevant career experiences, Heather studied history as an undergraduate, and completed graduate work in counseling and psychology. Not to mention having a certificate as a Level I Equine Specialist with the Equine Assisted Growth and Learning Association. Coupled with her on-the-job experiences, a perfect fit for building and sustaining a strong volunteer cadre at Jameson.
When not guiding the therapeutic connection between horses and humans in need, Heather has found time to foster dogs for California rescue groups, and became a “furever” family for her own rescue, a lively and engaging terrier by the name of Lila. Heather’s connection with Jameson started in 2015, as a volunteer ambassador and equine specialist. But her skills and expertise made her a perfect fit for coordinating our myriad volunteer people and opportunities, so we persuaded her to make the move to being our Volunteer Coordinator.
Bergen Verdu, Community Animal Assistance Fund Project Coordinator
A native of Sonoma, Bergen has never NOT been passionate about animal welfare. Phase one involved testing her parents’ patience with a variety of stray cats and dogs who clearly needed to be rescued. Phase two: time well spent in high school volunteering at an animal shelter, then on to full time work with a veterinary hospital, all the while helping to pull and re-home dogs from high-kill shelters in southern California. Then, Phase Three: solid experience with a pet shop, learning about nutrition, reconnecting with a veterinary hospital (this time in in Napa), and starting school to become a Registered Veterinary Technician. All of which give her just the right breadth and depth for her assignment as the Emergency Fund Project Coordinator for Jameson. And if that weren’t enough, Bergen is well versed in public outreach to promote community and individual actions that lead to healthy and happy companion animals in loving homes. And she has help! Her posse (and editorial board) includes: boyfriend Jake, dog LouSeal and cats Piper and Guapo.
Rachael Poer, Director of Development
A longtime resident of Napa Valley, Rachael first arrived in wine country in 1998 to pursue a culinary career. After working for several years as a chef, she transitioned to the related fields of event planning and management and led hospitality teams at several well-known wineries. With a desire to “do more” and give back in her own way, Rachael parlayed her big-picture organizational skills into directing high-profile fundraising galas in Napa Valley. As both an associate director and consultant, she has helped to raise millions of dollars for cutting-edge technologies for local hospitals.
Today, Rachael drives fundraising strategy and management for JARR. She has a passion for getting to know donors and understanding what they value. She places a particular emphasis on helping people execute their philanthropic goals by learning how to elevate their donor experience. Rachael manages all gift-giving for JARR, including annual giving, major gifts, and planned giving, the combination of which transcends the organization to increase JARR’s rescue services. In her personal life, Rachael spends her time devoted to her daughter and husband—and to their rescue terrier, Sydney, who has brought “so much more to our family than we have given her.”
Willow Duggan, Call Center Coordinator and Administrative Support
“Why’d it have to be snakes?” asked Indiana Jones. Well, because snakes need love too, as Willow Duggan can tell you in great detail. And ferrets, chinchillas, sugar gliders (think really cute little marsupials who need lots of care) – all of whom Willow got to know well when she ran an exotic pet rescue in Arizona.
But, fast forward, this travelin’ girl (all over the U.S.) came to Napa and fell in love with the JARR mission on Ella’s opening day. She’s been a stalwart member of the team ever since, first as a volunteer and now as Jameson’s call center manager/ operations coordinator. Not to mention exercising her special skills with rescued cats needing special love and medical attention.
Willow has what it takes to get the endlessly tough but also endlessly rewarding Jameson job done: brains, passion, grace under pressure, humor, optimism, persistence and team spirit. Not to mention management skills, honed in some of the toughest kinds of retail work environments. Her good spirits are contagious, and her touch with critters, customers and colleagues is always spot on.
And, no surprise, she’s a happily failed foster mom to four felines – Racer, Puck, Luna and Nova.