New leader takes helm at local humane society

Having a pet improves one’s ‘quality of life’, Jena Barber says

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New Pets & People Executive Director Jena Barber and her husband Jinx with their cat Pekoe and dogs Stella (a bulldog) and Penelope (a St. Bernard-Pyrenees mix). Other members of the Barber family are their cat Bagheera, daughters Cadence (16) and Kali (22), and “all the birds in Piedmont.” (Photo by Cadence Barber)

By Conrad Dudderar
Staff Writer

When Jena Barber started looking for a new leadership position at a local non-profit, the Piedmont woman was drawn to Pets & People.

The non-profit humane society, which operates a no-kill animal shelter and rescue in eastern Canadian County, was searching for a new executive director.

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“What’s so great about Pets & People is that they literally snatch animals from the ‘jaws’ of death,” Barber said. “They take animals that are scheduled to be euthanized and save them.

“It’s like a commutation of a death sentence.”

Since the early 1990s, Pets & People has rescued more than 58,000 dogs and cats in Yukon and surrounding communities.

Pets & People’s new leader is a self-professed animal lover.

Jena Barber

“We have two cats, two dogs and all of the birds in Piedmont as our pets,” Barber said. “We have a bunch of giant bird feeders and baths. … We watch the birds and try to identify them.

“It’s true what they say – having a cat or a dog lowers your blood pressure and improves your quality of life. More than pets, they’re members of the family.”

A little over a year ago, Jena and husband Jinx Barber moved to eastern Canadian County where Jinx is senior pastor of the Piedmont United Methodist Church. They previously lived in Muskogee and Bartlesville after moving to Oklahoma from Arkansas.

Jena Barber comes to Pets & People after working for another non-profit in Oklahoma City.

“If you’re going to raise money or awareness for something, animals and children are the easiest things to get people’s attention,” she said, matter-of-factly.

The Canadian County humane society’s newly appointed executive director brings to the position a wide-ranging skill set. She lists her strengths as creativity, flexibility and adaptability.

Barber has vast professional experience in graphic design, fund-raising, communications, event planning, and marketing. She’s worked for churches, private schools, country clubs, and other organizations.

Her background includes serving as editor of The Dog Dish, a lifestyle magazine for Oklahoma City dog lovers.

Meanwhile, the Barbers previously volunteered for the humane society in Rogers, Ark. by exercising shelter dogs at a local dog park.

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‘BLOWN AWAY’

When Pets & People’s volunteer board members interviewed Barber for the executive director opening, she admitted being “blown away” by the extent of their dedication to this life-saving cause.

“They all have the same passion for helping the animals,” Barber shared. “It’s really inspiring to see how this board is so involved, and that’s unique. In a lot of organizations, there are people who just want to be on the board so they can put it on their resume.

“That’s not the case with the Pets & People board. They are a true ‘working’ board. It’s very impressive.”

Pet & People’s new director described as “amazing” Pets & People’s staff, led by operations manager/shelter director Morgan Brand.

“Morgan knows her stuff; she’s very knowledgeable, compassionate and organized,” she said. “Morgan is brilliant. And then all of her staff that she has in place, you can just tell their heart is ‘in it’.

“They’re not just there for a paycheck; they do it for the love of the animals.”

Each pet is a unique being with a different personality.

“They’re helpless, like infants almost,” Barber added. “They can’t fend for themselves and don’t get to advocate for themselves.

“They can’t speak our language and tell us what’s going on, so we have to do all that for them. I just want to make sure they’re taken care of and not treated like objects.”

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