It started with a single, stray black cat. Then another. And another. One by one, Katrin Hecker took the abandoned felines into her home. At eight cats, she realized her town of Hudson, N.Y., had a problem – one she was determined to help solve. In 2000, that vision became reality when the registered nurse-turned-animal-advocate founded AnimalKind.

Fast-forward to today, and the nonprofit animal welfare organization rescues more than 1,200 animals each year, places more than 1,000 canines and felines in loving, forever homes, and works to end overpopulation of unwanted animals through its spay/neuter programs. (Last year alone, AnimalKind assisted low-income pet owners by providing more than 2,000 such surgeries.)

Those numbers alone are impressive, but there’s more to the AnimalKind story. The program prides itself on going the extra mile to help pet owners in need, from its well-stocked pet food bank and emergency boarding services to its free- and reduced- cost veterinary care. Once, the shelter even provided temporary housing to a homeless, but devoted, cat owner.

“Every year we serve more than 5,000 animals in need through our various programs, reducing suffering and saving countless animals from euthanasia,” Katrin emphasizes. “Together, we are making significant progress protecting the animals in our community.”