Emerald Award for Inspirational Leadership
Gregory Willey graduated with a Degree in Communications from Cleveland State University in September of 2001. Unable to find a job in his specific field and after applying for dozens of jobs, he accepted a job with the Cuyahoga County Animal Shelter as the Volunteer Coordinator. His wife, Kristina, told him to apply for the position not because he was qualified for it, but because it was located on Willey Avenue. She felt that it was an auspicious sign. It was, in fact, the job for which he felt least qualified. After all, he is allergic to animals. With the help of antihistamines, he would spend the next eight years building very successful volunteer and adoption programs.
In 2009, he accepted the position of Executive Director at Friendship Animal Protective League. The shelter had been struggling financially for several years. He would refocus the organization not on fundraising and development, but rather toward the core mission of the shelter. Over the next 7 years, Friendship APL would become the fastest growing shelter in Northeast Ohio. They would grow from helping 1,100 animals a year to saving 3,200 lives in 2015. Their volunteer program would expand from 5,800 hours of service in 2009 to 17,700 hours. Their ability to find homes quickly allowed them to expand their life-saving work to eighteen counties across Ohio. They have added additional programs every year including collaboration with Genesis House to help the companion pets of victims of domestic violence, a foster program to help animals which require more hands on attention, and a Trap Neuter Return Program for community cats with the cities of North Ridgeville and Elyria. Mayor Brinda presented Gregory with the Key to the City of Elyria in 2016 for their outstanding work.
Gregory is a proud alumnus of Leadership Lorain County’s Best Class of 2013. He continues to serve on the Alumni Committee.
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