10 Questions With…Ginny Jontes
Founder of Heidi’s Village
Where did you grow up, and did you always have pets?
I grew up in St. Louis, Missouri. A couple of times, we had a pet dog. But we frequently stayed at my grandfather’s farm in Letts, Iowa, in the summer. We got to feed and take care of the animals. Some of my best childhood memories are of the farm.
How did you end up in Arizona?
My sister and her family lived here. It was a dream to live where the winters are so mild — I didn’t like the dreary winters of the Midwest.
Why is animal rescue important to you?
When my husband David and I moved to Phoenix, seeing so many homeless cats and dogs on the streets broke my heart. While working as vice president of PACC911 (Phoenix Animal Care Coalition), I got to know the rescue groups and understand their struggles in raising funds to feed and medically treat the animals. I started a fund to help them with those costs. Seeing the transformation of animals from being neglected, rejected, sick and abused to being happy, healthy and adopted was a joy I had never experienced.
Who is Heidi?
Heidi was a very special dog. While working in real estate, I met Joan, who had a house for sale. Joan greeted me at the door with a white schnauzer just like mine! She said Heidi was her husband’s dog, but he had died and now Heidi was everything to her. She said I could purchase her home if I would take care of Heidi should she become sick and unable to care for her. Joan and I became friends, and a few years later, she was diagnosed with terminal cancer. Joan was comforted to know that we would take Heidi into our home.
What sets Heidi’s Village apart from other shelters in Phoenix?
Heidi’s Village exists to help the rescue groups save more animals. If they don’t have enough space in their homes, they can board their cats and dogs at Heidi’s Village at a very low cost. In addition to boarding, we have a low-cost veterinary clinic, a grooming area, as well as a behavior training team that works with dogs with behavior issues. This makes the animals more desirable for adoption.
In addition, the design of Heidi’s Village allows the pets in our care to decompress. We have six buildings with comfy kennels and play yards so the dogs can enjoy being indoors or in their own outdoor kennel patio to enjoy fresh air and play. At the center of the 5-acre campus is the ultimate play experience for dogs, a splash pad. It is the most wonderful decompression tool for our canine guests. The best way to see what sets us apart is to schedule a tour. You can see it all firsthand!
How do you work with other shelters in the area?
Heidi’s Village fosters a community where animals are treated with respect, dignity and compassion. One way we do that is by providing resources and support to current shelter and rescue organizations. We provide short-term boarding to nonprofits at a reduced rate for cats and dogs. Our daily boarding fee includes food, housing, socialization/playtime, cat litter and cleaning. Heidi’s Helping Hands is an application-based program for nonprofit groups requesting help with medical needs outside of typical wellness and sterilization. Rescue partners can apply for assistance when they lack the resources to provide medical care for treatable injuries or ailments. Heidi’s Village currently offers veterinary services to rescue organizations and will expand its services to include services to the public in the future. Heidi’s Village also provides special care for young kittens who cannot fend for themselves and need round-the-clock care in our neonatal kitten nursery.
What is the Smitten Kitten Nursery?
One of the missions of Heidi’s Village is to care for the most vulnerable animals. Phoenix’s warm climate makes “kitten season” almost never-ending. This constant supply of kittens makes our neonatal kitten nursery so important. Neonatal kittens are less than three weeks of age, which is why they are so vulnerable. Orphaned or abandoned neonatal kittens require 24-hour care to survive. This includes frequent bottle-feeding along with keeping them warm in specially designed incubators. Without dedicated staff and volunteers, this needed resource wouldn’t be possible. Your donations help to provide staffing, medical care, vaccinations, as well as food and other supplies.
What do you do on a typical day?
A typical day starts with reading emails, texts and answering the ones I can. I make calls to friends and meet them for lunch. I also take a little time to think of new ways I can help Heidi’s Village, creating new programs, refining policies and procedures or other ways to help the community.
I sometimes drop by Heidi’s Village and give a tour to see what is happening. I have a wonderful, competent staff and enjoy visiting with various employees to see what is going on in their area, just chatting about them and their families.
David and I love to play golf, so we try to play 9 or 18 holes each week. If not, we enjoy the weather and practice in order to play a better game.
No two days are alike, and each day is rich because of Heidi’s Village, friends and family!
What is the best advice you’ve ever received?
No matter where you come from, you can be who you want to be with a dream, hard work, persistence and focus on achieving your goals and showing kindness along the way. A smile and a positive attitude are everything in my world.
What would Frontdoors readers be surprised to learn about you?
I am a very creative person. I love creating useful and unique things from what is around me. This is the spirit that created Heidi’s Village. It was an idea in my head that I had to put onto paper and then make come alive with a brick-and-mortar building. I still want to create new programs to help the community. It is a joy that never ends with me!