About Us: The Story of Almost There Foster Care

“My name is Geri Hormel and I am the founder of Almost There Foster Care. What do we do at ATFC? We save bitches. No, we don’t go around seeking out malicious, unpleasant women and try to convince them to change their ways (although someone should!). We save dogs. Specifically, homeless, pregnant, large-breed dogs. We scoop those gals up from less than ideal situations and give them a place to birth and raise their pups. Then I get to lay in a pile of puppies all day.”
Geri was always the girl with too many pets to count – dogs, cats, goats, pigs, horses, and donkeys. She joined the animal rescue world at 16, walking the dogs, working in adoptions, and then enrolling in the Emergency Animal Medical Technician program at Arizona Humane Society, which led her to volunteer in their Second Chance Hospital where she learned the medical side with hands-on experience.
She also volunteered and fostered for Arizona Animal Welfare League, Maricopa County Animal Care & Control, Halo Animal Rescue, and more. Eventually, she asked them what their most important needs were and the answer: space, particularly for large-breed pregnant dogs. That was when Almost There Foster Care was born.
Annie heads our social media department, showcasing our adoptable pups each and every day. She is tireless when it comes to arranging that perfect shot with our active models who want to jump, play and give kisses. ATFC also calls on her creative genius when it comes time to brainstorm, plan and implement fundraising events big and small.
When Annie isn’t playing with the dogs, taking photos, or posting to Instagram, she is a full-time Pilates teacher, and owns a studio here in Phoenix. It is because of Pilates that Annie met our founder, Geri, and expressed her interest in being involved with ATFC.
Annie grew up with dogs her entire life, and currently has two absolutely adorable rescues of her own (one of which she adopted from ATFC!). Volunteering her time to projects close to her heart is not new for Annie. She is passionate about dogs in need and has volunteered at Maricopa County Animal Care and Control with ProjectPAL and OneLove Arizona, and has given her to Arizona Small Dog Rescue in the past.
Her passion is to spread the word about the importance of spay/neuter while advocating for, supporting, and loving as many homeless animals as she can.
Shirley started working for the late Geordie Hormel at the Village Recorder in the accounting department in 1986 and has worked for the Hormel family ever since, even relocating to Phoenix with her husband David after Geordie moved his family here.
Shirley has more than 40 years of accounting and business experience, and has played a vital role helping to structure ATFC from the moment Geri announced her idea to start a rescue foundation. Shirley continues to use her accounting and business talents to oversee ATFC and keep things running smooth as a newborn pup. Coming to work is more fun than ever for Shirley, with all the dogs to visit and help socialize. She says she loves to get her “daily dose of Vitamin P” with all those adorable pups and their sweet mamas.
Shirley has been married to her David for 40 years and they are proud of their of their only child, Daniel, who is 23 years old and a talented drummer. Shirley also enjoys a spiritually rich life and is well known for the guiding role she plays with all who know her. Animals have always been an important part of her life, and her family has two sweet dogs, Petey and Guiness, and a tank full of fish.
SARA MILES, CPDT-KATrainer Extraordinaire
Sara joined the ATFC team as their behavior & training expert in 2017. She has been working in the behavior and animal welfare world for almost ten years now, previously serving as Behavior Center Coordinator for the San Diego Humane Society. Along with behavior and training knowledge, Sara also brings experience running a successful volunteer program and holding community events to raise awareness about animal welfare. Her passion has always been to help pets in need, and she really feels like she’s “living the dream” now with all that she does! When she’s not helping out at ATFC, she’s running her own training company, Smiles Dog Training (www.smilesdogtraining.net).
In her spare time, Sara enjoys seeing all that Arizona has to offer with her fiance Trey, taking her pup Finnick along for the ride, and cuddling with her two cats – Lucy and Lola.
MELISSA NAVAATFC Chief Puppy Caretaker
When Melissa joined Almost There Foster Care she never imagined the opportunity would become such a big part of her life. She thought she would just take care of a couple of litters, no problem. But she realized very early on that it would become a dangerous job – she couldn’t help but fall in love with all of our doggie guests and she wanted to adopt each and every one!
Luckily, Melissa is responsible for primary care-taking and setting up most of our ATFC Meet n’ Greets, where she enjoys the opportunity to meet the great families our fur babies get to join. Melissa feels it is a privilege to work with rescued animals, the wonderful individuals who are adopting, and a great team at ATFC.
Melissa lives nearby with her husband Luis, their 4-year-old son Aaron and a newbie in the cooker, due very soon!
Katie started volunteering at ATFC in early 2017. She soon joined the team that summer, working part-time while building her real estate business.
At ATFC, Katie provides care to our fosters, including feeding, cleaning, bathing and basic grooming (and lots of puppy snuggling!). In addition, she regularly helps with vaccinations, adoption events, and volunteer coordination. Katie also enjoys working with our trainer, Sara, during the dogs’ weekly training sessions, and often assists with introductions between our fosters and their potential dog siblings.
Katie and her boyfriend, Darin, are parents to their two rescue dogs, Otis and Buster. Her love for dogs, especially rescues, grew after adopting Buster in 2014. Bringing Buster home was one of the best decisions she ever made, and she loves helping other dogs find their forever families.

RACHEL STERNAdmin & Puppy Expert
Rachel has worked for the Hormel family for over 5 years and with ATFC since it began. She developed her love for all things furry early on while hanging out on her relative’s farm in the mid-west where she fed pigs, rode horses, was a dog sledding handler, and pet sitter. Now she is loving her own two fur babies, Ramsey and Skye. Whether it’s bringing small injured birds to the wildlife rescue, saving lizards from predators, or assisting in puppy births, Rachel will never turn down a chance to help out.
She grew up in the midwest and has resided in Arizona almost 20 years. With two decades in accounting/administrative positions, she now helps administratively. But she loves to jump in daily for hands-on care of our dogs and is obsessed with snapping that ‘perfect’ pup pic that will melt the hearts of potential adopters.
Sammy started photographing our fur balls since ATFC began, but for now she is far away, pursuing an MFA at Lesley University in Boston, MA. When Sammy visits Phoenix, her hometown, she always finds time between visiting friends and family to pop in for a puppy fix and leave us with a batch of her fantastic, creative photos for social media.
Sammy has volunteered for the Arizona Animal Welfare League, Pittie Me Rescue, and The Arizona Humane Society. Her experience includes overseeing the birth of 10 puppies!
She and her family couldn’t resist the doggie cuteness around ATFC, so they adopted two adorable pit bull puppies, Cookie and Frida.
Victor Garcia is our behind the scenes, can’t-do-without right-hand man. At just 18 years old, he is a dedicated staff member who never hesitates to jump in where ever and whenever he’s needed. He’s our chief puppy mover, switching our dogs in and out of kennels as needed, he maintains our pups’ environments, which is no small task, handles some meet n’ greets and so much more.
Victor has always had a passion for animals and believes each one deserves a loving and caring home. He gets great satisfaction from his job because he knows he’s making a difference. He enjoys going into work everyday taking care of our ATFC litters in foster, knowing that we are a step closer to finding them their furever homes.
CYNTHIA NIETOPuppy Caretaker & Advocate
Cynthia has a big heart for all animals! She started working for ATFC in 2016, and loves being able to care, feed, walk and enjoy play time with our fosters. Cynthia feels privileged to be able to give her time to an organization she loves and being able to do what she loves most – spending time helping foster pups regularly.
Cynthia believes in the well-being of animals and watching them live a long, wonderful life, which each deserves. Through her experience at ATFC, she is becoming a strong advocate for animal welfare. “I may not be able to make a global change for all animals in the world, but I am determined to help spread awareness for all types of animals and help in any way I can.”

Our Mission Statement

ATFC is dedicated to providing loving care and a comfortable space to homeless dogs in need as we search to find their forever homes.
ATFC specializes in large-breed pregnant dogs and their pups who need time and space to grow and become socialized. Our dogs have significant social time with adults, children and other dogs, and we provide them with training. ATFC is determined to give you all the information we know about our dogs so we can help find the perfect match for you. All of our dogs are altered, microchipped, and up-to-date on vaccines prior to adoption.
ATFC is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation and receives no tax or government funding. We do not sell, rent, or share our supporter information with any other organizations or third parties.

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