A Mitzvah for the Dogs: The Jewish Community Has Embraced the Work of Detroit Dog Rescue, Slated to Open a Recent Facility This Fall


Lil Mama, a pit mix who found her approach to an east side Detroit Fire Department house, leans into the arms of Kristina Millman-Rinaldi of Detroit Dog Rescue after being rescued.

DDR is celebrating greater than 10 years as Detroit’s first no-kill shelter and is on the brink of expand its no-kill operations.

Detroit Dog Rescue (DDR) began back through the Great Recession, when high unemployment drove foreclosures and bankruptcies, and plenty of people had a tough time feeding themselves let alone their pets. Unfortunately, 1000’s of dogs were being abandoned, in keeping with the organization’s executive director Kristina Millman-Rinaldi.

“The Big Three automobile firms were shedding employees and folks were losing their homes and, in some cases, had to depart their dogs behind,” she said. 

So, Millman-Rinaldi and a bunch of friends decided to do something in regards to the stray dog epidemic. “We made YouTube videos of our dog rescues, and we began our social media presence,” Millman-Rinaldi said.

Detroit Dog Rescue relies on outreach partners like Detroit K-9 Pet Supplies to supply families in needDetroit Dog Rescue relies on outreach partners like Detroit K-9 Pet Supplies to produce families in need

In 2011, the organization was born. Now DDR is celebrating greater than 10 years as Detroit’s first no-kill shelter and is on the brink of expand its no-kill operations. 

As DDR began to grow a reputation for itself, the 39-year-old executive director says they received a call from an angel donor who gave $1.5 million in Coca-Cola stock to their cause. While DDR wasn’t Millman-Rinaldi’s full-time gig on the time, she had reached a crossroads in her life. 

“I got here to a moment after we got that $1 million donation and I said, ‘Oh, man, I can finish nursing school, or I can really construct something.’”

With the support of her family and friends, Millman-Rinaldi decided to depart nursing school and tackle DDR as a full-time vocation. 

Turning Passion into Purpose

Millman-Rinaldi says her passion to rescue dogs and find them a endlessly home comes from personal experience.

“Unfortunately, I come from a reasonably bumpy background. My mother isn’t in my life and my father died early on,” she explained. 

Kristina Millman-RinaldiKristina Millman-Rinaldi

Millman-Rinaldi’s rough childhood included episodes of abuse and being shuttled from house to accommodate.

“I knew what it was wish to feel displaced. To not have a everlasting place or a security net. To not be certain if I used to be loved or where I belonged.”

Raised by her Jewish grandmother, Rita Millman, she found support and a spot of belonging within the Jewish community.

“Thank goodness the Jewish community has all the time stood by me. But in addition, I checked out these dogs and I knew exactly how they felt. And a few of them like me, just needed a probability,” she says. 

Before finding a house with DDR, Millman-Rinaldi found her way working within the entertainment industry within the Detroit music scene and by working within the health care industry.

 “I used to be working at Beaumont Hospital and going to nursing school when plans for DDR all began,” she said.

A Recent Place for DDR to call Home 

DDR opened its first shelter in Detroit in 2014. The next 12 months, Millman-Rinaldi met with Mayor Mike Duggan and assembled an animal welfare reform committee for the City of Detroit. The nonprofit continues to assist 80 to 120 dogs at any given time and has helped rescue and rehabilitate 1000’s of dogs of their shelter.

“Our current facility is 2,000 square feet, and we will hold about 22 to 24 dogs there. We’ve obviously grown out of that space,” she said.  

“I received a call in the future from a veterinarian who owned a constructing on Grand River and he or she said, ‘I’m retiring. I’ve seen you on the news. I’ve seen what you do. I would really like to gift you my constructing.’ She donated the complete constructing to DDR.”

The 11,000-square-foot former veterinary clinic inbuilt 1962 was donated to DDR in November 2018 by the Westcott family. 

“The constructing was formerly the primary of many Wescott Veterinary Hospitals. It had a protracted history of helping Detroiters, and the owners desired to see it utilized in a capability to proceed to assist while they downsized their very own operations,” Millman-Rinaldi explained. 

Millman-Rinaldi says while the constructing has great bones, it needed some work. She then called her friends at PCI One Source Contracting in Oak Park and Stucky-Vitale Architects in Royal Oak and commenced planning. 

Long before planning a recent facility, Millman-Rinaldi spent greater than a decade traveling to other shelters to assist with their initiatives.  

Kristina Millman-Rinaldi waits for bolt cutters to rescue a pair of skinny dogs chained in an abandoned home in Detroit.Kristina Millman-Rinaldi waits for bolt cutters to rescue a pair of thin dogs chained in an abandoned home in Detroit.

“I spent a solid 12 months studying other shelters to construct the brand new DDR. I visited 4 states and over a dozen shelters and farms to collect ideas for our space and programming, but, most significantly, I met with representatives, religious groups, block clubs and residents to listen to what they needed in the town of Detroit.”

To renovate the prevailing Westcott Veterinary Hospital and sustain operations for the primary 12 months, DDR created a $2.3 million campaign. Millman-Rinaldi says the brand new constructing will include greater than 60 kennels, spacious outdoor yards, puppy preschool and more. The brand new facility will have the opportunity to accommodate 68 dogs, which is 40 greater than its current location. The brand new shelter is slated to open in November.

Millman-Rinaldi says she has received quite a lot of support from the Jewish community through the years. She says her daughter’s preschool at Temple Shir Shalom in West Bloomfield has held fundraisers and so has Adat Shalom in Farmington Hills. Countless mitzvah projects even have been done through Temple Israel in West Bloomfield.

A group of young males from the mentoring program Building Better Men join Kristina Millman-Rinaldi at the opening of Detroit Dog Rescue’s new shelter on Detroit’s west side.A gaggle of young males from the mentoring program Constructing Higher Men join Kristina Millman-Rinaldi on the opening of Detroit Dog Rescue’s recent shelter on Detroit’s west side.

“That is something that is actually built by the community, for the community and it takes community engagement to maintain it going,” she said.

Support And Friendships

Deborah Charfoos, M.D., with Michigan Women’s Health in Farmington Hills is certainly one of the numerous donors who proceed to assist support Detroit Dog Rescue. While their relationship first began through doctor visits, now Charfoos considers Millman-Rinaldi a family friend. 

“Kristina is just an incredible one who all the time desires to take people under her wing and help, and our family just got closer to her,” Charfoos said.

Throughout the years, Charfoos became involved with DDR, and it became a family affair.

“I introduced certainly one of my sons to Kristina,” Charfoos said. “He had recently finished his undergrad and wasn’t sure what he was going to do next on the time.”

The Charfoos FamilyThe Charfoos Family

Charfoos’s son, Dustin Banooni, began working with DDR and was there for the following two years. 

“Once I first began at DDR, I used to be completely unaware of the monumental impact it will have on my life. Initially, I used to be aimless, disorganized and usually headed nowhere. I went to DDR to search out myself, however the end result was so way more, Banooni explained. 

Dustin Banooni while working at DDRDustin Banooni while working at DDR

“My time at DDR matured me as a person, shaping the person I’m today on all fields, each skilled and private. To today, I’m proud to say Kristina is my lifelong mentor and friend,” added Banooni, the proud DVM (Doctor of Veterinary Medicine) student. 

When Charfoos heard in regards to the recent constructing for DDR, she knew she needed to contribute.

“If we’re going to provide money to anything, we desired to support DDR because our whole family is connected to the organization. My niece desires to be a vet and my son who worked for Kristina is now halfway through veterinary medicine school,” she said.

The Charfoos Family Mutternity Room is a birthing room in the brand new facility where pregnant dogs can rest or give birth in a quiet room.

Eliana Weiss, 13, of Huntington Woods has also created a powerful relationship with Millman-Rinaldi from her volunteer work through her mitzvah project with DDR. Sensible has held donation drives for DDR raising $2,800 in monetary donations and about $3,300 in items.

Eliana Weiss has held garage sales and a lemonade stand to raise funds for DDREliana Weiss has held garage sales and a lemonade stand to lift funds for DDR

“The cash I raised actually helped construct a few of the stalls within the brand new constructing,” Weiss said.

She says she looks as much as Millman-Rinaldi and plans to proceed volunteering her time with the organization though she’s finished along with her mitzvah project. 

Others like Melanie Page offer support to DDR by adopting and fostering dogs. 

Melanie Page and her dog GeorgeMelanie Page and her dog George

“I’ve known Kristina for over 10 years and, while we connected through a business relationship, we still are connected today,” Page explained. 

Page adopted her first dog, RJ, through DDR and a 12 months later she was able to adopt one other and happened to get a call from Millman-Rinaldi.

“She calls me and says, ‘We’ve got a cocker spaniel that we found.’ It was through the polar vortex back in 2014.” 

Page explained how this dog named Lucy wasn’t in the perfect condition.

“She had horrible ear and skin infections. Lucy was literally skin and bones, just really, really, frail. Kristina told me that she wouldn’t have the opportunity to survive within the shelter,” Page said. 

Page then offered to select Lucy up, and while she had many health issues through the years, Page gave her the perfect life she could give her.   

Page has fostered three dogs and adopted two through DDR.

“DDR has been an enormous a part of my life and my kids’ lives,” Page said. “I feel like whenever you adopt certainly one of her dogs that you just turn into a part of her family.”

Next Chapter 

Millman-Rinaldi now lives in West Bloomfield along with her husband, David Rinaldi, and their two daughters Aubrey, 8, and Laila, 3, and their dog Robo.

“I just about have created probably the most comforting and healthful family,” Millman-Rinaldi said.

While the brand new constructing is within the works, Millman-Rinaldi says she’s all the time fascinated by what’s next for DDR. “We’re already fascinated by the following step and we’re scouting out buildings to construct our own vet clinic.” 

Dogs aren’t the only furry friends that Kristina Millman-Rinaldi has rescued. Dogs aren’t the one furry friends that Kristina Millman-Rinaldi has rescued.

Millman-Rinaldi says while they’ve great partnerships with veterinarians at Greenfield Animal Hospital and Union Lake Veterinary Hospital, they wish to have their very own vet clinic.

“We see a few of the worst of the worst,” she said. “We want triage centers, operational bays. So the following steps for DDR are a vet clinic and an outreach center.” 

To follow Kristina Millman-Rinaldi and DDR or to see the way you can assist the cause, visit https://detroitdogrescue.com or follow them on social media @DetroitDogRescue.