Best Friends Animal Society CEO Julie Castle, location and date unspecified | Photo courtesy of Best Friends Animal Society, St. George News
ST. GEORGE — Best Friends Animal Society in Kanab just lately acquired two awards from the Salt Lake Tribune, together with being named one of one of the best locations to work in Utah in 2021. Additionally, the nonprofit’s CEO, Julie Castle, acquired the Tribune’s sole 2021 Leadership Award of their giant enterprise class.
Castle informed St. George News that her journey that will in the end lead her to Best Friends started with harrowing expertise when she was a scholar at Southern Utah University and visited a shelter in Enoch within the early ’90s.
“I went there to adopt some cats,” Castle mentioned. “But I found a tin shed with no animals. Just a man who wore cowboy boots and a cowboy hat sitting behind a desk.”
She mentioned she requested the person the place the animals had been, and he responded, “I took care of them.”
“I asked him what that meant,” she mentioned, “and he told me that he put them in a barrel, then ran a hose from his pickup truck to the barrel, and…”
Castle trailed off at that time within the story. But she added that have might have been the second that sparked her ardour for the work she would ultimately pursue.
Castle graduated with magna cum laude honors from SUU in 1994. She determined to forgo a profession in regulation for a low-paying, high-demand job working to assist animals in want. She found Best Friends Animal Sanctuary whereas en path to Mexico and determined to remain.
As the 17the worker within the historical past of the sanctuary, Castle gave excursions, answered telephones, cared for animals and even did some landscaping. She labored her manner up the ranks to develop into the group’s first feminine CEO in March 2018.
During her tenure as CEO, which started with a dedication to finish the killing of canines and cats in America’s shelters by the yr 2025, she has helped to construct the group into an 800-employee nationwide chief in animal welfare. While Castle mentioned she’s grateful for the management award, she’s extra excited by the group’s workplace award.
“I’m really all about workplace culture,” she mentioned. “To learn that they are gratified by their jobs and their employer means that we’re doing something right. After all, we spend much of our lives at our jobs. So it had better be good.”
Amy Kohlbecker: ‘They really invested in me’
Amy Kohlbecker was a instructor in Florida earlier than she packed her belongings right into a U-Haul to affix Best Friends 11 years in the past. Today, she’s the director of Cat World on the sanctuary. She had no expertise in animal welfare, however she had a ardour to assist animals. She took an opportunity on Best Friends, she mentioned, and was repaid in form.
“They really invested in me,” Kohlbecker informed St. George News. “They invested time and effort in me, just as they do in all their employees, as well as the animals we help.”
As an instance, Kolhbecker mentioned Best Friends stepped in to assist the Cedar City Animal Shelter after they struggled to get cats adopted.
“They had so many cats,” she mentioned, “and they were considering euthanizing them. They were running out of space, so they reached out to us.”
Best Friends, in flip, reached out to their huge community to see what could possibly be completed. Ultimately, Kohlbecker mentioned, they agreed to simply accept almost 50 of the cats in Kanab.
“Cedar City’s Shelter manager, Brittany, wept,” Kohlbecker mentioned. “That’s a great great example of what we’re about.”
“I’ve always been as generous as possible,” she continued. “Best Friends is that way too. It feels amazing to be able to do what I love for a living, and for an organization whose goals and values align so well with mine.”
Brianna Vlach: ‘They create the space for us to improve’
Brianna Vlach supervises the Wild Friends part of the sanctuary. She studied conservation and wildlife at Montana State University and has been working with the wild pals – animals that aren’t usually domesticated, like desert tortoises, squirrels and crows – for almost three years.
Though she admitted that she was biased in favor of Best Friends, she mentioned that Castle, in addition to Faith Maloney, who helped discovered Best Friends, have exceeded all expectations.
“Julie makes a point of getting to know each of our employees, as well as our animals,” Vlach mentioned. “She asks how Salvadore, our rooster, is every time she visits.”
Maloney needs to know whether or not staff and animals are doing effectively, Vlach added. And when one thing’s not proper, she mentioned, Castle is proactive in making no matter adjustments are vital.
Vlach mentioned that she has been lucky sufficient to love the varied locations she has labored, however Best Friends is phenomenal.
“Our leadership leads by example,” she mentioned. “Faith makes a point to eat lunch with every intern. She answers questions they have and gets to know them. Every time they have lunch with Faith, they come back glowing.”
That feeling of assist and appreciation extends to Vlach too.
“Whatever I want to do, as far as professional development goes, they do whatever they can to make it happen,” she mentioned. “They want us to succeed. Just like they are always working to improve, they create the space for us to improve too. And that changes everything.”
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