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#WHM2024, Part I: Plenty of Light to Go Around

March 16, 2024, Meredith Jones

Welcome to our Women’s History Month series, featuring the experiences of women leaders in animal welfare. Meredith Jones of Operation Kindness kicks us off with a focus on the importance of mentoring

Animal welfare was not my original career plan.  I moved from Texas to North Carolina in 2005 for graduate school, and since I was so far away from family, this was the first time in my life that I had found myself without a dog. I immediately remedied that, and promptly adopted the world’s most perfect dog Really. All of my dogs since then have him to thank for tricking me into thinking all dogs would be as perfect as him.

I wanted to give back to the rescue group, but on a graduate student’s salary I found myself with more available time than money. So, I started volunteering with the group that eventually became Beyond Fences, transporting dogs to their spay/neuter appointments prior to their fence builds. One thing led to another, and on the same day as my master’s degree defense, the program manager position opened up at the same mobile spay/neuter clinic. Without hesitation, I jumped into the world of animal welfare and have not looked back since.

I really credit my incredible role models and mentors during my time in North Carolina with my career trajectory. Dr. Wendy Royce and Amanda Arrington showed me first-hand the importance of compassionate and nonjudgmental outreach, paired with affordable access to care. Those were the lenses through which I have viewed animal welfare throughout my entire career.  Since my time in North Carolina, I moved to Ohio, Arizona, and back to Texas, and have led teams across veterinary clinics, funding organizations, animal shelters, and now the Community Initiatives Team at Operation Kindness.  While my roles and the regions in which I have worked have changed, my founding principles from my North Carolina days have not: Income and resources have no bearing on the amount of love someone is able to provide a pet, and compassionate, nonjudgmental care should be extended to all people who care for pets, whether that be an owner, community cat caregiver, or shelter employee. 

If I can pass on any advice to up-and-coming women leaders, it’s Find your ‘Why?’—and then find 20 more. The work that we do in the animal welfare space is hard, and we can find ourselves very easily being drained emotionally, physically, and spiritually. Treat yourself as your own company—What are your founding principles? What is your vision? What is your mission statement?  Having one big “This is why I do this work” is great, and that may get you through the first hard day.  But what about the tough days, or weeks, or seasons, after that? You have to be able to dig deep and have an unwavering sense of confidence and self, so that long after the first hard day, you remember why you started this work and why you love doing it.

It’s also crucial that we mentor our up-and-coming women leaders—which requires that we drop our egos. This can be difficult to do, especially in a society that often pits women against women.  We have been fed the narrative that another woman’s light cannot shine brightly without our light being dimmed.  Great news: This is not the case! There is plenty of light to go around. Comparison makes us feel either superior or inferior, neither of which makes for a good mentor. We should want other women especially, to not have to carry the same burdens that we have, if possible. 

Also, we need to get past that notion—“If you love the work that you do, you won’t have to work a day in your life!”  The work is going to feel like work – and that is okay! That does not mean that you chose the wrong field, or that you are not “cut out” for this, or that you are not good at what you do. It means that you care, and that is exactly what our industry needs.

About Meredith Jones
As the Chief Community Initiatives Officer for Operation Kindness, Meredith Jones strives to ensure that all community programs provide accessible, compassionate, and nonjudgmental assistance. She has an extensive background in grassroots advocacy and activism, as well as leadership experience with renowned animal welfare organizations. She has fought passionately for equal access for underserved pets and their people throughout her career.
  1. Thank you Meredith for these encouraging words about Women and Animal Welfare. Your passion for underserved people and their pets shows in your daily work. It is an honor to work with such a strong and compassionate woman.

  2. Meredith, the “atta-girls” continue to stack up wherever you place your energies. I could not be more proud than to have you involved at Operation Kindness and advancing animal welfare in the state of Texas and a few other states as well.

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