Animal Advocates: Our first year as a nonprofit!
Posted in: Activism
2017 was an intense year for us at the Animal Advocates of South Central PA. We started the year off learning that our Lush Charity Pot grant had been approved. We worked on the grant during the last few months of 2016 and submitted it in the middle of December. The news was amazing, and it meant that we would be receiving money for 2 projects: to acquire an event setup for outreach and to produce a South Central PA Vegan Guide. In order to get these projects going, we had to reorganize ourselves as a non-profit organization. Thanks to our amazing newly formed Board of Directors, we were a 501(c)3 within a few weeks. We went to work designing, researching and ordering our event equipment and booth setup. It took a few months to get all the moving parts in order but we were ready to go for our first event in mid-April – Go Green in the City, which took place in downtown York.
Thanks to the help of our spring intern, Katie, we had a volunteer seminar on how to interact with the public about the plight of animals. Katie put together a special brochure about the impact of diet on the environment for Go Green. Even though it was raining and chilly during the event we still had many positive interactions. We even met a few fellow vegans there who were excited to see our booth at the event and wanted to get involved.
The spring and summer were very busy. We wrote our By-Laws, had monthly book club meetings, TNR’d cats and fostered kittens from Jackson Street, organized a screening of What The Health, and had a presence at many events doing animal advocacy and vegan outreach throughout the SCPA area. Events we participated in were: Go Green in the City, May Day Fairie Festival, Olde York Street Fair, Petapalooza, Lancaster VegFest, Queensgate PetValu Adoption Weekend, Jubilee Day, Equality Fest, Dogs’ Day in the Park, New Freedom Fest, Harrisburg Veggie Fest, Woofstock, Blessing of the Animals at Union Lutheran, and lastly, Pittie Party. We had quite a busy outreach season. It was well worth it because of the many wonderful interactions we had and the receptive event attendees. 85% of the people who watched our virtual reality video said they would start cutting out animal products from their diets. We reached well over 2,500 individuals on a personal level which means we had some sort of meaningful communication.
We had our first fundraiser, a vegan bake sale, which went very well. Volunteers baked cupcakes, muffins, cookies, zucchini bread, waffle pops, and we even had some freshly squeezed lemonade. We sold out of all of our treats and made some much needed money for the organization. At Dogs Day in the Park we were asked to be the main food vendor as well as putting up our normal table. We served all vegan food to a huge crowd in New Freedom, PA, which was awesome exposure. It was exciting to see so many non vegans eating the vegan food we had prepared for them!
Thanks to the hard work of our very dedicated Board, as well as a few friends, we managed to finish the South Central PA Vegan Guide just in time to debut it at the Lancaster VegFest. The reception to the guide was overwhelmingly positive. We ran out of the 1,000 guides we had printed within a few months and had to order 2,000 more after doing some fundraising. We have the guides at locations all over the area including at Root, West End Yoga and Cinnaholic in Lancaster. We began to get requests on our Facebook and through email about local businesses wanting to stock some guides for their customers.
We got some press and exposure after visiting the York Fair and being interviewed for a YDR article, as well as writing our own blog piece about the animal exploitation of farmed animals. This included a sow in a gestation crate and tigers being used for a traveling show. We filmed a short video clip of one of the tigers walking a tightrope that went viral and had hundreds of people calling into the fair about their disapproval of using captive exotic animals for a silly sideshow. This press got us on the radar of Animal Defenders International who reached out to us about coordinating an effort to help push the PA Senate Bill 248. This bill, if passed into law, would ban the use of exotic animals in traveling exhibitions which would be a huge win for animals in our state.
Among animal advocacy, we also helped coordinate some pretty cool social gatherings including the largest ever Vegansgiving at Central Market and a pizza party especially for our amazing volunteers at MexItaly. I have met such a great community of people throughout the past few years, and it just keeps getting better and better. I don’t know what it is about the vegan community but everyone is so generous, kind and willing to help others. I especially am so grateful to everyone who has helped make the Animal Advocates a success – I could never have done everything we’ve accomplished alone. Each volunteer (all 30+ of you!) has made a difference, not just to the organization but for animals.
The feels are happening – I am getting a bit emotional as I type. This organization was started for one reason – to help animals. We want to help not just companion animals, but those who suffer more than we could ever comprehend – animals who are exploited for food, research, entertainment, fashion and in the pet trade (both exotic and domesticated). Our mission sums it up pretty nicely : we spread compassion for animals – all animals. As a self-proclaimed “animal lover” since I was little, I did not align my values with my actions for the first 25 years of my life. I ate animals, loved my leather handbags and went to zoos where I knew the captive chimps and cheetahs were not happy. I was ignoring the truth. Going vegan was simply the best decision I’ve made for both myself and others. It puts my compassion for animals into focus and has made me more aware on many other levels. Starting an animal advocacy organization was not the plan but it just kind of happened. I can’t say it just fell into my lap, because it took a lot of effort! It did become much more than I ever anticipated, pretty quickly. I have my friends (who are also Board members and volunteers) to thank for helping, putting up with me, and for generally being awesome people – you guys are the best!
Now, let me get back to the recap. After the busy part of the year wrapped up we began focusing on 2018. Over the last 2 months we have geared up for what is to come and we are thrilled about all of the exciting things we are planning! Our volunteer base has grown and we are ready to take on larger projects. Our main areas of focus will be a kickball tournament fundraiser, 30 Day Vegan Challenge, Harvest Vegfest York, outreach events and possibly a billboard campaign. Keep an eye out for everything and have a wonderful new years!
Peace and love,