2020-2021 Board of Directors

Catherine Varidel

Member of CPaws since inception in 2007.  First dogs were Elric and Jenna, then Gryphon from 2011 through end of 2017 and Max 2011 through 2014 (Chinese Crested), now since 1/2018 is Sparrow.  All but Max are Rottweilers.  Gryphon and Sparrow have served as Read With Me dogs at Glenwood Primary School since 2011 until the pandemic this year.  In addition we have always been extremely active in public relations events (Health and Volunteer Expos, Trunk or Treat, College DeStress events, Charity walks and events such as NAMI and Autism Awareness.  Gryphon and Sparrow have each participated in the St. Peter's Children's Christmas Pageant numerous years.


I have always been a board member,or VP, Event Coordinator, Read With Me Chairman 

D'Ann Downey, Ph.D.

While working on her doctorate in Clinical Psychology, D’Ann wanted a dissertation topic with heart that would sustain her interest so her topic was Understanding the Human-Companion Animal Relationship: A Story of Middle-Aged Women and their Companion Animals.  While doing the literature review, she discovered what was then called, Delta Society and now called, Pet Partners. After completing the dissertation, she wanted to make the human/animal-bond come alive in some way so she started Compassionate Paws, July, 2007. During this time frame our organization has had many Pet Partners who have gone many places and touched many lives. We have had a number of various species of animals from dogs, cats, rats and llamas. Today we continue our mission to bring comfort and joy to persons in healthcare settings and greater literacy in academic environments and hopefully touch members of the community in our community events. Bringing animals into the lives of people in all sorts of settings adds richness, softness and blessings to many.

D’Ann is a licensed Clinical Psychologist and Licensed Clinical Social Worker. She recently retired from private practice and new doors will open. She is married to a retired licensed Clinical Psychologist, Randy Warley, Ph.D. and they have two miniature Schnauzers. She has been a Pet Partner with a cat and several of her Schnauzers. She is an active member of St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Rome, GA.

John Rivest

John Rivest has served as the Compassionate Paws treasurer since 2010. A resident of Rome since 1993, John is a librarian at Shorter University. John is dog-dad to a feisty   11-year-old chihuahua, Zuke The Wonder Dog, and dog-uncle to 3-year-old seizure-alert service dog, Charlie. In his spare time, John enjoys growing orchids and thrift store shopping. 

Carolyn Falcitelli

With more than 20 years of experience in the nonprofit sector, volunteer services field, and a holder of  a CAVS certification, Carolyn Falcitelli currently serves as the Director of Volunteer Services at Floyd Health Care System.  Carolyn has oversite of three hospital volunteer programs in addition to two giftshops.   During her time as director, her team has implemented an award winning advance directive program in partnership with Floyd's Pastoral Care Team and a booming college-based Medical Explorer's program.  Floyd's Volunteer Services Department also includes an Arts in Medicine program that is a the past winner of a GAVA award.  She currently serves as secretary for the Georgia Society of Volunteer and Retail professionals and as an advisor for the  Georgia Society of Healthcare Volunteers.  Carolyn has also served as Regional Vice President for the Southeast Division of the American Cancer Society.  During that time, she was responsible for fundraising for three states as well as national Relay for Life training.  Carolyn resides in Rome, Georgia with her husband, Dan, who is retired from a robust career in local and federal law enforcement and drug prevention.   Carolyn has two daughters.  Lauren is a senior at Model High School hoping to pursue a career in law.  Emily is a junior at Berry College with a major in Animal Science and minors in chemistry, biology, and one health and desires a career in veterinary medicine.

Nancy Hunter

Nancy graduated from UGA with a degree in Early Childhood Education.  She taught 30 years-mostly in the Pepperell Schools.  Her favorite was second grade.

After teaching, Nancy has enjoyed volunteering in the community.  She has served on the boards of Good Neighbor Ministries, Hospitality House, Claws for Paws, and Heart of the Community.  She’s active in her church – St. Peter’s Episcopal- and enjoys volunteering at the Community Soup Kitchen. Nancy has been a volunteer with Camp Sunshine for over 35 years. Camp Sunshine is a camp for children with cancer.  Besides summer camp, there are year round programs for the children and their families.  It is dear to her heart.

She and her husband David are the proud parents of Lucy- a rescue Labradoodle.  They like to say that Lucy rescued them.  The Hunters love to travel and take Lucy whenever possible.  Nancy’s hobbies are needlepoint, reading and golf.

Nancy is new to the board but is looking forward to being a part of this worthwhile organization.

Linda Jennings

Linda holds a B.S. in Chemistry from North Carolina State University. Before retiring, she managed emergency cooling water chemistry programs for TVA nuclear plants in Tennessee. Linda is currently the Board Chairperson for the NWGA American Red Cross, which encompasses 15 counties, and was named the Outstanding Board Member last year. She also serves on the Board of Directors for Harbor House and the Between the Rivers Association. Prior to moving to Rome, Linda was on the Board of the Chattooga County Library, was a founding member of the Chattooga County Habitat for Humanity chapter, served on the Trion Town Council, and graduated from Leadership Chattooga. Linda lives downtown on the river with her husband Russ. Her son Lucas, now 27 and living in Arlington, VA, designed the original Compassionate Paws Website in 2008 while in high school as a community service project and continued its upkeep throughout college. Her daughter Remy, 25, is pursuing a Ph.D. at the University of Florida.

Misty Rigas

Misty holds a B.B.A. degree in International Business from the University of Georgia.  She has worked with the following international markets:  Africa, Puerto Rico, South America, Thailand, Saudi Arabia, China, Spain, Italy, France, and Mexico.  Misty developed and implemented the Community Health Advisor Training Program focused on cancer and healthy living and was a speaker at the first Georgia Cancer Summit held in Atlanta, Georgia.  Before becoming a stay at home Mom she worked in Healthcare as Project Director of Nursing.  While in this role she became one of the first Black Belts in Lean Six Sigma at Floyd Medical Center.  Misty is a member of the Camellia Garden Club of Rome having served as First Vice President, President, and Parliamentarian.  She has volunteered with Cancer Navigators, Darlington School, Angels of Misfit Dogs, Rome-Floyd County Community Kitchen, served on the board for the March of Dimes, and is a graduate of Rome Floyd Chamber’s Leadership Rome.  Misty currently resides in Rome with her husband Sonny Rigas.  They have three children.  Ben currently resides in Rome with his wife, Jo Bethany, and their three beautiful children.  Olivia is a senior at the University of Georgia majoring in Marketing and Sophie is a junior at Darlington School.

Mary Ann Pawlowski

 Mary Ann Pawlowski holds a Specialist Degree in Education. After retiring from a career in education, she became a personal trainer. This allows her to continue her passion for teaching while assisting people to become more healthy and fit. She also works with the LiveStrong at the YMCA program, an exercise program for cancer survivors. 

Mary Ann was looking for a way to give back to the community, when she learned about Compassionate Paws and their mission. Volunteering with Compassionate Paws gives her the opportunity to brighten the lives of others while spending time with her dog. Her first Pet Partner was Jill a Chocolate Lab. Jill is now retired  and her next Pet Partner, Bailey, a Black Labrador/Hound mix is refining her skills, getting ready to test and become her next Partner. 

Mary Ann is married to George Pawlowski. They live in Silver Creek with 3 dogs and a cat. She has 3 children, Zack, who is a clinical physiologist for the Department of Veterans Affairs and his wife Kacie live in Colorarado, her daughter Savannah is a special education teacher in Canton, GA and Tyler and his fiancée Shira live in Brookhaven.