The Feline Refuge Board of Directors
Mary Lou Cronin – Chairperson and Treasurer
Mary Lou received her BA in Spanish from King’s College in Wilkes-Barre, PA, spending her junior year at the University of Madrid. She then spent three years as a Peace Corps volunteer teaching English in Niger, Africa. After returning home, she earned an MIA from Columbia University with a specialization in International Finance. She then began her banking career on Wall Street, attaining the position of Vice President, and working at several banks in their international, middle market, and private banking divisions. She has worked at Citibank, Chase and HSBC USA, responsible for portfolios of over $100 million.
Mary Lou’s real passion has always been animals. While living and working in NYC, she was the Treasurer of a non-profit organization that rescued cats and kittens from the streets. Mary Lou fostered many of the rescued cats and was responsible for adoptions; the group averaged 300 rescues per year.
Deciding to focus on her love of animals, Mary Lou retired from the corporate life in 2006 and moved to Kanab, UT to work as a Cat Caregiver at Best Friends Animal Sanctuary. She retired in 2009, and is very active in the local volunteer community. She is also a co-founder of Community Cat Food Assistance Program (CCFAP), an organization that provides cat food for feral colonies in Southern Utah.
Mary Lou has served as Treasurer on the Boards of several non-profit animal rescue organizations. She also served as the Treasurer of her NYC co-op, overseeing a budget of $2 million. She is currently the Treasurer of The Friends of the Kanab Library, and is responsible for the finances of CCFAP.
Mary Lou shares her home with several rescued cats, and a rescued puppy mill dog.
Michelle Warfle – CEO/President and Secretary
Michelle earned a B.S. Aerospace Engineering from St. Louis University. Ms. Warfle spent over 20 years working as a contractor for the United States Department of Defense. She began as an engineer and worked her way up to Technical Director. During this time, she provided technical, personnel, and management oversight of contracts in excess of $20M, to include budget development and implementation.
Prior to her current work for The Feline Refuge, Michelle worked for Best Friends Animal Society (BFAS) from December 2007 until October 2016. For approximately the last seven years, she was the manager of the cat department. In this capacity, she was responsible for a staff of 39 caregivers and team leaders, 500+ cats, and an operating budget of $1M+. The cats under her care included cats infected with the feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) or the feline leukemia virus (FeLV).
She shares her home with her feline hiking partner, Earl, a rescued cat from Texas.
Wendy Stanford – Director
A former high school English teacher, Wendy has been involved with animal rescue for over 30 years. As executive director of a no-kill cat shelter, she wore many hats including cat care, fundraising and grant writing, overseeing a shelter population of over 200 cats and more during kitten season. She trained volunteers and staff, managed the financial aspects of the shelter, created training programs, maintained a foster care program and interfaced with the public and veterinarians in the area the shelter served. She also worked to interface with other rescue groups and individuals doing rescue in her area by supporting an active trap, neuter, and return (TNR) program and spay/neuter voucher program.
Recognizing that each kitten season the intake numbers kept climbing, Wendy changed focus and became the executive director of a mobile spay/neuter shuttle that would travel the county offering low-cost surgeries to pet owners and shelters in the area. Passionate about the importance of supporting spay/neuter programs, she spearheaded a voucher program with a grass roots cat rescue organization still in effect today. At the same time, she and her husband, Ron, continued their own private rescue efforts by locating and supporting feral cat colonies in their area. They rescued and placed over 60 kittens in the local shelters while continuing to educate the public about the importance of spaying and neutering pets.
Relocating to Kanab to work for Best Friends Animal Society, they brought many of their feral cat colony residents with them and created a sanctuary at their home. Concerned about the feral cat colonies in the area and the lack of food available to support caregivers, Wendy and Mary Lou banded together to form the Community Cat Food Assistance Program which they continue to promote. The program offers gift cards for cat food to those caregivers managing colonies in the Southern Utah area.
Susan Richardson – Director
After graduating from UCLA, she began working at an ad agency in Los Angeles and was later transferred to San Francisco to help open a new office. Deciding to take time off, she chose to study French and travel around Europe. While there, she was hired by the European headquarters of an American company. She worked as a pan-European Advertising and Promotion Supervisor responsible for promoting a variety of products into 6 divergent industries. She was responsible for planning and producing literature, advertisements, exhibitions and even sponsoring a car at Le Mans. She also wrote the first European corporate brochure.
After many years she was obliged to return to the US on family business. It was then that cats became a large part of her life. The first cat she rescued was FIV+ which is when she learned about the misinformation that was often being given to the public about FIV. This cat made friends with her other cats and lived with no FIV-related illnesses until he passed away at 21. Suze studied for certification and became a Reiki practitioner, both hands on and distant. She used this with numerous cats she cared for during her years as a volunteer at a sanctuary. Naturally she uses this with her own family of cats which have ranged from healthy, disabled and hospice. One of her current cats is severely brain damaged and mostly blind. But he lives in a welcoming home and has already lived much longer than expected.
Deborah Swanson – Director
Deborah has lived in Kanab since 2010 when she retired as a Professor of English from San Francisco State University. She earned her Ph.D. in English Education from Stanford University in the Language, Learning and Literacy Program. Aside from doing numerous research projects on literacy and learning, her specialty at the university was preparing other department faculty and graduate students techniques of academic writing, as well as how to effectively teach and evaluate the writing of college students.
Deborah has been involved in animal rescue since 1970. In 2007 she earned her FEMA credentials, enabling her to deploy to disasters through the Incident Command System. During that same year, she completed the Best Friends Animal Sanctuary Rapid Response Training. In 2009, the completed the Noah’s Wish Disaster Response Training.
Deborah has also been a Board member for the past eight years on the Tax Payers’ Association of Kanab. Aside from the Board responsibilities, she was involved for three-and-a-half years in the lawsuit against the proposed coal gasification plant in Kanab, working weekly with the lawyer who helped the town win the case.
Deborah currently lives with three rescued cats.
Deborah Whorley – Director
Deb grew up in southern Indiana and discovered her love of animals at an early age. She attended Purdue University majoring in Biology, Animal Science, and graduating with an AAS degree in Veterinary Technology. Later, Deb returned to school at Adrian College to finish her BS in Biology and interned at Henry Ford Hospital School of Medical Technology.
She worked in hospital and private labs in Michigan and Indiana for 13.5 years. Then she realized a high school dream of working for Eli Lilly and Company, supporting labs, ECGs, imaging, genomics, and data management for phase 1-4 human clinical trials in Neuroscience, Diabetes, and Oncology, as well as building and maintaining two websites as the primary web developer for her department.
During this time, Deb volunteered for two years as a transporter for multiple regional animal transport coordinators, moving dogs and cats in and around the Midwest. She went on to volunteer at Indianapolis Animal Care and Control, taking photos of dogs and creating profiles to post on PetFinder and later assisting with evaluation of dogs to determine adoptability.
In 2013, Deb moved to Kanab as a teleworker for Eli Lilly and began volunteering at Best Friends Animal Sanctuary at Dogtown and later Cat World. While volunteering, the FeLV+ cats of CalMar house captured her heart and she eventually adopted three FeLV+ and one FeLV discordant cat from Best Friends.
Deb retired in May of 2017 and continues to volunteer at Cat World and foster FeLV+ kittens. Deb joined The Feline Refuge Board of Directors in April of 2018.
Deb currently shares her home with two rescued dogs and six rescued cats (2 FeLV+ and 1 FeLV discordant).