Ellie Stefanic, 32, has always liked to be around people. And that’s a big reason why she’s taken over the reigns as the Naperville Humane Society’s new development director.
“I got into public relations and sociology because I wanted to be around people,” she said.
The Chicago-area native’s career has included stints with the American Cancer Society as well as Midwest regional development manager for CureSearch for Children’s Cancer.
Raised in Chicago’s Northwest suburbs, Stefanic attended Illinois State University where she earned a degree in public relations while minoring in sociology. She originally worked for a for-profit public relations firm that she said left her feeling unsatisfied.
“I found that for me, that kind of work didn’t make me feel good, and I started doing some volunteer work that seemed more like the kind of thing I wanted to do,” she said. “One of the lessons I learned from working with the American Cancer Society and CureSearch was that it was important to be working with people that were all working toward the same purpose. Doing something good for others was always the end goal.”
And that’s exactly what she’ll be doing for the not-for-profit organization that has helped pets and their owners since 1979.
Executive Director Angie Wood said she “is happy to have Ellie on our team.”
“Ellie was recommended to us by another person who worked with her with the American Cancer Society, and she is a very down-to-earth and really gives 110 percent,” Wood said. “Our annual budget is a little more than $500,000, and we only raise a small portion of that through ‘earned income’ — things like adoption fees and so forth. We need someone who is outgoing and can multitask, and Ellie is definitely that person.”
Wood added that, while the mission of fundraising for the society “is a mission that is not easy to fulfill,” she is confident that Stefanic is up to the task.
“In working with her for nearly the past two months, nothing seems to faze her,” Wood said.
Stefanic said she was drawn to the job because of several friends who continue to go out of their way to save dogs and cats.
“I have a friend I’ve known the last few years who has rescued a number of older dogs and puppies, and we have talked about what she is doing, and I see pictures posted on Facebook,” she said. “I just fell in love with the cause. I don’t have any personal pet stories myself, but I saw these animals being rescued and what a difference it was making in the lives of them and the people that got them.”
Stefanic sees development work as a job that involves cultivating relationships and giving the humane society more exposure.
“We are still in a challenging economic climate, but I like to treat people the same way I’d like to be treated, and when I talk with people, I try to listen to listen to their needs and what their desires are,” she said. “Maybe someone can only give $100 this year, but if they attend one of our events or tour the shelter, they get a better understanding of what we’re doing and get more connected to the mission. And maybe next year or the one after, they can support us even more.”
Stefanic lives in Carol Stream with her husband, Jason. She says they were high school sweethearts. While growing up, she said she frequently visited Naperville where she still has family and friends. She said she is happy to be back working in what she describes as “a great community.”
“Given the family and friends I have living there, it was natural to spend time over the years in the Naperville community, and I feel lucky as well as honored to be back working there,” she said. “Working for a nonprofit is something I believe in with my heart and soul, and doing that in Naperville is absolutely wonderful.”