In spite of her dark sense of humor, or maybe because of it, Jillian Alexander-Hollis has found herself able to weather the down side of human nature in both her career and her volunteer work in animal rescue.
Alexander-Hollis grew up in Chattanooga and moved to Fort Oglethorpe two years ago with her husband, Chris.
After high school, Alexander-Hollis attended the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, majoring in legal assistant studies and minoring in women’s studies. It was both her major and her minor that led her to seek a position while she was still in college with Southeast Tennessee Legal Services where she worked as a court advocate in domestic abuse and sexual assault cases. “I saw the worst of the worst in people, and I saw people when they were most vulnerable.”
“There were times you talked with women,” says Alexander-Hollis, “and knew they weren’t ready to leave their abusive situations, but they knew you were there for them when they could make that decision.”
One attorney Alexander-Hollis worked for handled a case that was especially close to home for her. “It was before I started working for him,” she says, “but he handled the case of a woman who was attacked by her husband with a hammer in the classroom where she taught. She was my Girl Scout leader when I was growing up.”
At one point, Alexander-Hollis thought she might pursue a law degree and work in the area of Tribal Law because, she says, there is a lot of abuse on reservations. But life took her in other directions. She moved on to a new job as a legal assistant and found she enjoyed personal injury and employment law.
Alexander-Hollis currently works for the firm of Summers, Rufolo and Rodgers in Chattanooga where the cases she helps with revolve around personal injury, workers compensation and wrongful death.
“Wrongful death cases can be hard emotionally,” she says, “especially when it’s a child. But it’s very fulfilling to be a voice for someone who is suffering or to help an injured worker get the benefits they deserve.”
“I’ve been blessed,” says Alexander-Hollis, “to have worked for great lawyers. Every attorney I’ve worked for, I’ve proudly referred family and friends to.”
A year ago, Alexander-Hollis found an additional mission in life, one that also placed her in the position of helping vulnerable, neglected and sometimes abused victims. “I was on Facebook and I saw a post from Catoosa Citizens for Animal Care – North Georgia Animal Alliance now. They needed a foster home for a cat and some kittens, and it hit – that’s what I needed to do.”
On a Friday, Alexander-Hollis found herself with a mother cat and two kittens. On the following Monday, five feral kittens came into her home. She turned a room into a “nursery” and equipped it with litter boxes and “cat condos.”
In the year she’s been fostering, Alexander-Hollis has been mom to 69 cats and kittens. “I feel it’s a calling. I feel at peace with it. This is what I know I should be doing.”
Alexander-Hollis says she already had one personal cat, Eleanor, who was a rescue, when she started fostering. “I ended up also keeping one from my second group of fosters — the batch of feral kittens. Lavender was grumpy and hated everyone, so of course I adored her. It took her ages to learn to trust me, but now she’s great with the fosters. She watches out for them and loves to play with them.”
In February, Alexander-Hollis’s calling got even more serious — she became president of NGAA. “Fostering still comes first for me,” she says. “That’s my first love. If I were to ever change careers, I would love to work full-time in animal rescue, even though it’s a 24/7, 365 thing, which is exactly why I decided not to pursue a law degree — because it’s around the clock. I love my work, but fostering cats and kittens, saving their lives and finding good homes for them where people will love them, especially after they’ve been abandoned and don’t think people can be trusted — that’s something really special to me.”
Alexander-Hollis says she and her husband love living in Fort Oglethorpe. “I didn’t expect it to be so different from where I grew up. It has a down-home feel. People are so friendly. I think we do need to work on our attitudes here about dogs and cats, make sure we’re getting them spayed and neutered and taking care of them, but I think we’re making progress. I really like living here.”