Twenty-one years ago this month, the articles of incorporation were filed for Angel’s Wish, creating the non-profit organization we all know and love. We are lucky that we still have a number of volunteers from the very beginning that continue to share their time and talents with us. One of those is Angel’s Wish Board of Directors member Natalie Baldis who started her tenure at Angel’s Wish in 2003–a few years after incorporation. Natalie has taken on a number of roles and responsibilities during her time at Angel’s Wish, and her positive touch can be seen through the organization.
Animals were a passion for Natalie as she grew up the middle of three children in Orland Park, a southwest suburb of Chicago. “While other little girls were dreaming of marrying Prince Charming, I was dreaming of all the animals I was going to have the MINUTE I was allowed to have a pet,” Natalie shared. Since her parents only allowed her and her siblings to keep hamsters as pets, she said she’d spend hours designing the mansion she would live in and where all of her animals would live: “dogs, cats, rabbits, horses, you name it – expect snakes or lizards, no way.”
When Natalie realized she couldn’t stand the sight of blood and she was pretty badly allergic to cats as a child (thank goodness for allergy shots!), she decided veterinarian school wasn’t for her. Instead, she attended Loyola University and Northeastern Illinois University. While in college, she enjoyed the feline companionship of Tigress (her first “real” pet!) and Lucky. Natalie received a Bachelor of Science degree in Chemistry and got married in the same year–2001. Two years later, her husband Brian’s company was sold to Pacific Cycle in Madison, so the couple (along with Tigress and Lucky!) decided to move with the company.
In Madison, Natalie worked as a chemist, and she and Brian added two more furry members to their family: Scout, a German Shepard mix adopted from a rescue near Sparta, WI, and Sabrina, a hound mix from a different rescue near Mazomanie. In addition to working and taking care of her family of pets (and Brian!) Natalie looked for a place where she could volunteer. “Animal welfare has always been important to me, particularly the spay/neuter initiative to minimize overpopulation,” she said. “I always try to encourage people to adopt rescue animals.” A coworker told her about Angel’s Wish, so she applied, and, soon after, she started volunteering.
Natalie did a little bit of everything in the first few years at Angel’s Wish: helping with adoption events on Saturday cleaning condos, organizing things, doing some behind-the-scenes administrative work and more. She also fostered a few times–”litters of kittens, usually.” In the summer of 2004, she was asked if she wanted to be on the Board of Directors, and that fall, she became the Treasurer, a role she held until the summer of 2020. “I like having everything ‘accounted for’,” Natalie said. “I like seeing the big picture and I liked putting procedures in place to have the accounting be more and more accurate.” A self-taught treasurer, she has handled or overseen every aspect of the finances at Angel’s Wish.
Then, in 2005, her professional and volunteer career took a sharp left turn: her first child, Tyler, was born. She explained: “There wasn’t enough time with [Tyler]. I requested to work part time but was denied, so when Tyler turned one, I became a stay at home mom. Sort of.” She helped another Angel’s Wish volunteer who owned her own business. Natalie did the bookkeeping, and they sometimes did work for Angel’s Wish as well.
Blake, her second child, was born in 2007. As Blake grew older, he developed allergies to cats, so the fostering for Angel’s Wish, unfortunately, had to stop. Natalie went back to work part-time as a customer service representative, and then as the Lead AVID tutor at Sennett Middle School. She loved this job, as she explained: “It allowed me the freedom to continue to volunteer at the elementary school and to work with kids in a different capacity. I loved the team of teachers I supported as a tutor.”
There was another addition to the Baldis family in 2012: they adopted a cat from Angel’s Wish named Earl Gray. “He is now our only cat as new animals tend to aggravate the allergies,” Natalie explained. “He is very happy as an only cat.” While Earl is an only cat, he does have two canine siblings, both of whom are rescues as well: Chance, a curly coated retriever mix, adopted from JR Pups and Stuff in Milwaukee in 2014, and Luna, a Catahoula leopard dog mix, adopted from Paddy’s Paws in Fort Atkinson in 2020.
In addition to her volunteer work at Angel’s Wish, Natalie is actively involved in the schools her children attend. She was the Elvehjem PTO treasurer and currently heads the Sennett Middle School PTO. “I am kind of a volunteer junkie,” she said, but we prefer to think of her as passionate about giving back to her community. Natalie also volunteers at MadTown BMX in Deforest where she and Blake (and sometimes Brian) race BMX. The three of them have recently taken up snowboarding as well. “It sounds like I’m pretty rad,” Natalie said with a laugh, “but I’m really not very good at either activity, it’s just fun.” She now works as an Analytical Chemist at Eurofins, analyzing vitamin content in food and supplement products from all over the world.
Looking back, Natalie said that one of her biggest contributions to Angel’s Wish was bringing the retail store “online.” She told us the story: “When we were at Paoli [Street location], we had a few T-shirts and toys for sale, and everything was tracked with paper receipts. When we moved to Horizon Drive, we had more space, so I had a small team of volunteers who worked with me to find distributors, stock the store, and all sales were done with a little cash register that had ‘departments’ to record the different revenue. Sales and cost of goods were tracked on Excel spreadsheets, sales tax was backed out manually, reported and calculated yearly and then eventually monthly. In 2008, Angel’s Wish purchased QuickBooks Point of Sale, so I recruited a mom friend of mine and we went to Angel’s Wish a few nights after our kids went to bed and we took inventory, entered every item we had in the store, figured out how much we paid for it (searching files for cost of goods receipts).” From that grew an annual inventory count and a more organized and efficient way of tracking and selling goods that Natalie has been supervisor of since 2008. “I actually think it’s kinda fun,” Natalie added.
In addition, Natalie coordinates the front desk staff (cashiers and contract processors) as well as donation processors. In order to make the financial tracking and reporting of donations easier, Natalie facilitated a jump from a few Access databases, Excel spreadsheets and several volunteers to an electronic donor management database and having dedicated donation processors. “Having a better process for handling and acknowledging donors has been huge,” she said. She also coordinated data transfer and provided support for the two new software products used to track donations since the original one.
In the summer of 2020, Natalie handed off the Treasurer role to one of the newer Board members, Erika Pospichal who is a certified public accountant. She knew they needed someone who was a weekend volunteer and knew how Angel’s Wish operated to take over the role, and “Erika was that person,” Natalie explained. “[Erika] has proved to be a huge asset to Angel’s Wish. We are very lucky to have her.”
Looking to the future of Angel’s Wish, Natalie wants to focus on beefing up documentation of policies and procedures. She hopes this will help build a bigger base of “regularly scheduled” volunteers. “We need concrete guidance for people to understand what is expected of them and to grow within their roles,” she explained.
She encourages anyone who is interested to submit an application and help (virtually, for now) if they’re interested: “We appreciate all help and we will do our best to find the best fit for you. There are behind the scenes jobs, there are physical jobs, there are ‘taking care of kitty’ jobs – all are important and everybody is welcome.”
Natalie has been a hardworking and dependable presence at Angel’s Wish for many years. Her sensitivity and passion for volunteering and animal welfare are clear in all of the roles she’s held, projects she’s done, and volunteers she’s inspired. She explained: “I live to make things better – every day I try to be a better person, and similarly, I want to make Angel’s Wish better. I really think I have made it better and can continue to make it better.” You definitely have and definitely will, Natalie.