You have the power to make a difference in the lives of animals in need.
Danbury Animal Welfare Society's Board of Directors manage the strategic and operational aspects of the organization. Our 2013 Board of Directors are:
Left to Right Seated
Phil Segan, Director; Chris Benezra, Director; Rob Esposito, Treasurer; Tania Buchmelter, Director
Left to Right Standing
Cheryl Rykowski, Director; Christopher Rohland, President; Catherine Schirmer, Secretary; Victor Rodriguez; Vice-President
Not Pictured: Wendy Kosach, Director
You can read each Board Member's bio, below.
Each year, Board members are elected to serve a 2-year term. If you are interested in Board service, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Chris joined the DAWS Board of Directors in 2008 and served as President for three years. Chris is one of the architects of DAWS’ Vision Statement and is committed to helping DAWS reach its goal of a new home in a state-of-the-art facility dedicated to animal care, adoption and humane education. She is passionate about the organization’s Mission and achieving the established Milestones that will enable DAWS to be a Regional Leader in animal welfare.
Chris began volunteering with DAWS' Dog Program in 2006 and soon after joined the Marketing Committee, recognizing the crucial role fundraising fulfills for the Organization. Her current Marketing volunteer activities include donor acknowledgements and Direct Mail initiatives, a critical revenue source for the shelter.
Chris also led the effort reinforcing DAWS’ commitment to Trap, Neuter and Return through the creation of an official policy statement and defining operational program objectives and more recently, completed DAWS Internal Veterinary Clinic Service Statement. She has also led several streamlining and efficiency projects for the shelter and organization.
In addition, Chris has served on the DAWS Walk For Animals Committee for the last six years, leading the way as our Top Dog fundraiser in that time and raising more than $50,000 in support of the DAWS shelter and programs.
Chris holds a Bachelor of Arts in History from the City University of New York and is employed by Morgan Stanley Smith Barney as an Executive Assistant. She hails from Brooklyn, NY and is a proud resident of Danbury with her two dogs Zimmer and O’Neil, adopted from the Staten Island Pound and North Shore Animal League respectively.
Tania, a lifelong animal lover, began volunteering at DAWS in January, 2011 as a dog walker. She came to DAWS after realizing that since saying goodbye to her and her husband’s 14-year old rescue dog, Alex, in 2006, she could no longer bear to live a dogless life. She looked for volunteer opportunities where she could help dogs in need of loving homes and found DAWS. Tania faithfully reports for her dog-walking “duties” every Tuesday and Saturday, as long as she is not traveling for work. In addition, she regularly volunteers as a dog handler for many of the community outreach events in the area. Tania supported the 2011 and 2012 Annual Walk for Animals by bringing DAWS dogs to the event, as well as raising over $1,200 in donations each year. She also participated on the 2012 MAD Ball committee. During the event, she spent the evening volunteering in the WAR room while her husband, John, attended the Ball without her.
Tania graduated Magna Cum Laude with a degree in Medical Technology from Bowling Green State University in Bowling Green, OH. She spent five years working in hospital laboratories in NE Ohio before transitioning into the healthcare industry. She has worked for Siemens Healthcare Diagnostics (formerly Bayer HealthCare Diagnostics) since 1999 and is currently the Sr. Global Marketing Manager responsible for managing the Cardiac and Immunosuppressant Drug portfolio that totals over €250MM.
Tania and her husband John moved to Danbury from New Hampshire in 2005. They are currently the proud parents of Bella, a stray cat that was hanging around the neighborhood when they moved into their community, and Lilly, a member of the DAWS cat family who was rescued from “death row” at a Harlem shelter. They are also holding in their hearts the memory of their angels Cheshire, Alexandra, and Hobson…the rescued cats and dog who were the central part of the Buchmelter family since it first formed 20 years ago.
Robert is a long time supporter of DAWS, involved with the Organization since 2001. For several years, Robert coordinated the Global Day of Service at JPMorgan for DAWS. Robert is a Danbury resident with his wife Donna and four dogs Cole and Calvin, both adopted from DAWS and Rowdy and Custer, both Golden Retriever Rescues.
Robert graduated with a BBA in Accounting from Iona College and began his career at Chemical Bank which was later consolidated under JPMorgan. At JPMorgan, Rob worked as a Financial Analyst for their Commercial Banking Division in New York City. After 26 years of Service, Rob embarked on a self-determined career as a fully licensed Financial Consultant. He manages a small tax practice and bookkeeping service, servicing over 325 clients.
Robert served on the DAWS Board of at DAWS from 2008-2010 as Treasurer and has also served as Controller in 2011.
Wendy is the Vice President of Customer Finance at Cartus. Cartus is the industry leader in global mobility and workforce development support to organizations worldwide. At Cartus, Wendy is responsible for the reporting of relocation earnings to clients’ payroll departments.
Wendy graduated from Western Connecticut State University with a Bachelors degree in Accounting and began her career in public accounting at Blum, Shapiro and Co. prior to joining Cartus.
Wendy has been a volunteer at DAWS since 2009. She is a Puppy Adoption counselor, is the Vendor Coordinator for the Annual Festival and Walk for Animals, has served on the DAWS Ball Committee and has participated in several of the meet-and-greet events at various locations.
Wendy and her husband Ray are long time residents of New Fairfield, CT and share their home with their 4 dogs Holly, Molly, Trigger and Kody and their 2 cats Smokey and Bandit.
Victor holds the position of Managing General Partner at Rodriguez Rendina, PC, Attorneys at Law, in Danbury. The firm’s focus is to assist individuals and businesses in Federal and State Courts in the fields of Immigration, Disability, Contracts, Bankruptcy and Litigation.
Born in the Bronx, NY, Victor graduated Magna Cum Laude from Fordham University with a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and attained his Juris Doctor from the University Of New Hampshire School Of Law.
A resident of Danbury for over 10 years. Alongside his wife, Barbara, a former DAWS President and current volunteer, they have long been proud supporters of DAWS and their mission. They have fostered dozens of animals, caring and nurturing them while they await their forever homes, have transported animals to the DAWS shelter and to local veterinarians for scheduled visits and have participated and assisted in many DAWS fundraising events.
Victor and Barbara currently are the proud owners of 5 rescue dogs, all of them seniors, Samantha (a DAWS adoptee), Biscuit, Rudy, Boris and their most recent adoptee, Harper Lee.
Chris Rohland and his wife Eileen were active supporters of DAWS for many years when they finally decided to take the next step and joined the group as volunteers in October 2009.
Since then they have participated in DAWS annual fund-raising events, meet-and-greets, animal transports and are regular Sunday dog walkers at the shelter. Chris’ favorite activity is taking “project dogs” out of the shelter for hiking, obedience classes and just spending time with them away from the kennel. He thinks it’s a great way to get to know some wonderful animals and he hopes that the extra attention will improve their chances of adoption.
While volunteering at DAWS, Chris has taken advantage of dog-specific and general animal welfare learning opportunities, such as working with DAWS training directors and senior handlers to help with some of the more challenging dogs at the shelter. He has also completed HSUS’ Advanced First Aid for Animals in Disaster, Pet Tech First Aid for Pets, and has earned certification with the Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) and the CT State Animal Response Team (CTSART). He participates in ongoing training and continuing education with Region 5 of CTSART.
Chris and Eileen round out their animal welfare activities by occasionally fostering special needs dogs for New Fairfield/Sherman Animal Welfare Society and Pet Protectors of Fairfield, CT. The last dog they fostered for Pet Protectors came to stay with them three years ago and hasn’t left.
Chris works as the Corporate Director of Construction for Duty Free Americas, where he manages design and construction programs to build store locations in the US, Central and South Americas, and the Far East. He is a professional member of the Retail Design Institute and has Associate’s and Bachelor’s degrees from Charter Oak State College.
The Rohlands share their home with three wonderful dogs, Primo, Portia and Pixie (the Foster Failure) - all pound puppies now living large in their forever homes.
Chris looks forward to the opportunity to serve on the DAWS Board of Directors and to help the organization push toward its goals of building a new shelter and becoming the area leader in animal welfare.
Cheryl is owner of CRE Solutions, Inc., a learning and development company dedicated to getting good employees to perform with great skill. Cheryl has over 15 years experience designing and facilitating learning across a wide range of industries and cultures. Cheryl has taught classes from the “plant floor” to “executive suite” for many corporations including MasterCard International, Avon Cosmetics, Allied Waste Disposal, Grey Advertising, BDO Seidman, Sikorsky Aircraft, and Boehringer-Ingelheim.
Cheryl is a graduate of the Boston University School of Management with a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration; she earned a Masters in Education from Fairfield University and completed post-graduate certification in Organization Development Practices from Columbia University.
Cheryl began her volunteer service at DAWS in July, 2005 as a Monday night Cat Socializer. Taking on increasing responsibility in the Cat Program, Cheryl then served as Team Leader, Adoption Counselor and Medicator and culiminated her service as Chairperson from 2010-2011. From 2008-2009, Cheryl also served as DAWS Volunteer Program Chairperson.
Cheryl is married to Jonathan Etkin who, thankfully, understands her devotion to DAWS. She is mommy to Daisy, a DAWS- rescued German Shepard mix and DAWS-rescued cats Autumn, Bonnie, Lucas and Lucky.
Cathy Schirmer has worked for Competitive Shared Services a wholly owned subsidiary of ConEdison for the past 11 years. She works in the Human Resources dept. as a Sr. HR Specialist. In 2010, she won the Living Our Values (LOV) award. The LOV award was established in 1992 and is the most prestigious honor Con Edison, Inc., bestows on an employee. LOV recognizes employees who personify our corporate values of service, honesty, concern, courtesy, excellence, and teamwork. She graduated from Berkeley Business School in White Plains, NY.
Cathy has been a volunteer at DAWS since 2009. She started out as a Friday night dog socializer and then moved on to Friday night team lead, where she currently resides. Cathy is also an Adoption Counselor and serves on the Follow-Up Committee. Cathy participates in many off site events and has been a Top Dog Fundraiser for the past four years.
Cathy is married to Joe Schirmer who served on the DAWS Maintenance Committee several years ago. They live in Danbury, CT with their dog Thor (formerly Jesse) that they adopted from DAWS. Thor is a 4 year old German Shepherd/Lab mix from Mississippi.
Cathy will continue to support the vision of DAWS by finding the best homes for all their animals, working towards opening a new facility and being the shelter of choice.