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Sammie's Friends

Nevada County Animal Shelter

14647 McCourtney Road

Grass Valley, CA  95949

Sammie’s Friends is a 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation.  The mission of Sammie's Friends is to provide medical care for the animals at the Nevada County Animal Shelter, making them adoptable, and to support other disadvantaged animals in Nevada County that without help would continue to suffer or would be euthanized.  Sammie’s Friends also operates the Nevada County Animal Shelter at 14647 McCourtney Road.

Kennel Hours:


12:00-4:00 pm

Main: (530) 471-5041

Cat House: (530) 274-1955

Sammie's Friends Board of Directors

Ruth Rasmussen

Cat Facility Manager

Sammie's Friends Staff Members

Dina Jacopi


Website Master

Debbie Freele

Dog Operations Manager

Animal Care Giver

Adoption Specialist

Sammie's Friends Lead Volunteers

Karen Reif

Shelter Animal Photographer

Facebook Administrator

Karen Pfanenstiel

Trains New Cat Volunteers

Office Assistant

Cat Care

Beverley Mercier Ward

Dog Behaviorist/Trainer

Marilyn Blom

Cat Volunteer Coordinator

Karol Valdez

Maintains Volunteer Applications

Training Schedule Coordinator

Cheryl Wicks, President and Curt Romander, Vice President, and Treasurer

Beloved Sammie made such a powerful impact on Cheryl and Curt that they wanted to give back to the animal community by creating a non-profit dedicated to caring for and saving the lives of less fortunate animals. Starting in 2001 they made it their mission to completely change the lives of as many animals as they could. In that one year alone, they had created a volunteer program at the Nevada County Animal Shelter, and had spent over $30,000 of their own money to provide medical treatment for the animals that would otherwise be euthanized.  In 2004 they received non-profit status for Sammie's Friends so they could raise money to provide for medical care of the shelter animals.  In 2005 they expanded the program to provide medical care for animals in the community belonging to low income people who needed help to provide for their animals.

After Sammie's passing in 2007, they decided to make an even bigger impact to keep his spirit alive, and what better way to do so then run the shelter. They began the long journey and entered into negotiations with the county. In July of 2010, all of Curt and Cheryl's hard work had paid off and they signed a contract and began operating the Nevada County Animal Shelter.  Since that day in March of 2001, Cheryl and Curt and all that has become known as Sammie's Friends has saved the lives of 25,000 animals.  100's if not 1000's have joined in to help through volunteering, donating, providing goods, writing grants and planning events.   It's awesome and totally amazing.

In 2015 alone Sammie's Friends has provided medical treatment for more than 2,800 animals, and the euthanasia rate at the shelter is less than 1%! When they are not putting in countless hours saving the lives of under privileged animals, you can find these two enjoying time together, along with their new 1-year-old  Pit mix, Chula (Chu Chu for short)

Suesan Larsen, Secretary

After attending the University of Washington, Suesan obtained her Nursing degree from the Southwestern College in San Diego. Suesan was was a dedicated Registered Veterinary Technician at Mother Lode Veterinary Hospital in Grass Valley, after taking her Veterinary Technician courses at Purdue University.  Though she is now completely retired she remains passioniate about animal welfare, and says, "Helping them is like a ministry to me.  I am proud to be part of the board of Sammie's Friends".  She is an avid runner, enjoys reading, and spending time with her family, and pets consisting of four dogs, Klondike, Dozer, Lilly, and Jack, six cats, Brie, Hope, Middy, Murphy, Angel, and Helen, two horses Rocket and Khrista, and don't forget  the fish!

Joanne Castles, Board Member

Over the past 11 years, Joanne has spent countless hours here at the shelter helping us and our animals, planning projects, such as the Escrip program with SPD, bringing multiple foster animals into her home, as well as helping to fund various large projects, including our voucher program which spayed/neutered over 1500 dogs and cats, she and her husband are also responsible for funding our Cat-O-Rama which is our very large outdoor enclosure for some of our wonderful cats. On top of that, Joanne is one of the main people responsible for getting Sammie's Nifty Thrift Shop up and running. When she is not at the thrift shop making sure it is in top shape you can find her staying active or spending  time with her husband, two daughters, and pets consisting of 3 dogs, Mister, Otis, and Skiddie, and 2 cats, Cupcake, and Tommy.

Jon Peek, D.V.M, Board Member

Originally from Claremont Dr. Peek graduated from the University of California at Davis School of Veterinary Medicine. After leaving a multi animal practice as an Equine Veterinarian, Dr. Peek started working for Grass Valley Veterinary Hospital in 1967. From 1975 until 2008 Dr. Peek owned and ran the hospital.  He has been a CVMA member since 1966, CVMA president in 2001-02 and was a CVMA board member for eight years. Dr. Peek was also chair of the CVMA House of Delegates and has served on 20 CVMA committees or task forces, including the Agriculture Committee, Disaster Preparedness Committee, Finance Committee, Legislative Committee, and the Certified Veterinary Assistant Committee. He not only serves on the Board for Sammie's Friends but also on the Board for the Western Sierra Medical Clinic. In his spare time Dr. Peek loves spending time in the great outdoors on his kayak, traveling and exploring new beers, and spending time with his cat named Timmy.

Sammie’s Friends Vision

A safe and caring place for neglected, abandoned, and abused animals to be cared for and rehabilitated, when necessary, and adopted as quickly as possible into loving homes.

Sammie’s Friends Organizational Values

~ Commitment for doing the best things for the animals

~ Sound fiscal policy

~ Commitment to excellence in everything we do

~ Respect for all -animals, volunteers staff and the public

~ A high value placed on safety for the animals,

     volunteers, staff and the public

~ Open and honest communication, focused on mutual

     problem solving and follow-up

~ An open collaborative management style

~ Strong commitment to teamwork

Lisa Beard

Dog Kennels Manager

Alex Maloney

Dog Operations Manager

Adoption Specialist

Fundraising Developer

Ash Rhodes


Adoption Specialist

Phil Yonge

Assistant Trainer

Kennel Attendant

Sammie Shar-pei

March 31, 1991 - February 23, 2007

The inspiration for Sammie's Friends, a non-profit founded by Cheryl Wicks and Curt Romander to provide medical care for the animals at the Nevada County Animal Shelter.

Because of this amazing creature many animals' lives have been saved in this community. We, the animals and humans alike, are fortunate to have had him touch our lives.

Lisa Swarthout, Board Member

Lisa was elected to her first term on the Grass Valley City Council in November of 2004.  She was re-elected in November of 2008 and November of 2012.  She served two years as Mayor in her second term.  previous to her elected positiion she spent nine years on the Grass Valley Planning Commission.  Some of Lisa's duties on the City Council have included:

Liaison to the City Park and Rec Commission, liaison with the Grass Valley Downtown Association and a memer of the City's budget committee.  Lisa is also the past Chairman of the Grass Valley Downtown Association, and past Chairman of the Nevada County Economic Resource Council.  She has served on the boards of many non-profit organizations in our community including: the Grass Valley/Nevada County Chamber of Commerce, The Friendship Club, Silver Springs Foundation and Soroptimist International of Grass Valley.  Lisa received her BA in Communications from CSU Chico, and is the owner of Mill Street Clothing Company in downtown Grass Valley.  She will be celbrating the 27th Anniversary of her business this September.

As the governing body of a nonprofit, the board of directors or board of trustees fulfills a variety of roles and responsibilities. Among its many duties, the board: Oversees the financial operations of the organization. Maintains the legal and ethical standing of the organization and its staff.

Read more about Sammie and how he inspired his parents to save the lives of thousands of pets... CLICK HERE!


Cathy Pagone-Williamson

Livestock Manager

Safety Officer

Dog Walker Scheduler

Evan Walsh

Kennel Attendant

Animal Care Giver

Amanda Siciliano

Kennel Attendant

Cat Care Giver

Joshua Romo

Cat Care Giver

Kara Miller

Kennel Attendant

Animal Care Giver