About Our Shelter
How we got started:
The Animal Friends of Westmoreland began in 2006 by Founder & President, Candy Nelson. Her dream of helping abandoned and homeless dogs and cats was inspired by her love and passion for animals, and one very special dog, Puddles.
Her vision for the no-kill shelter now known as The Animal Friends of Westmoreland is located in Youngwood, Pennsylvania (about 30 miles outside of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania) was to create a place to serve the community and house abandoned, abused, neglected and otherwise displaced animals and provide food, shelter, veterinarian care and love until new loving, forever homes could be found for those in need. An organization committed to stimulate awareness on pet adoption and educate the public on becoming animal advocates serving those who cannot speak for themselves.
Ms. Nelson donated the current shelter facility, an 8000 square foot building, to the organization and the work to make that space a functioning shelter has been a continual work in progress. By seeking support from volunteers and businesses, a very large portion of all the renovations done to the shelter were done in good will. Focusing on keeping expenses down, the organization can use its supporter’s generous donations on what matters the most, the animals. Because of such financial discipline, The Animal Friends of Westmoreland has gone on to help thousands of displaced dogs and cats find loving, forever homes. Nelson’s business background brought a unique approach to non-profit charities by combining the traditional business operations of a profitable company with the fundraising avenues used by non-profit organizations thereby creating a self-sustaining organization with strength and stability to be able to live on and thrive long beyond her years.
Candy Nelson currently serves the organization as a volunteer in her role of board President, as well as the chairperson to numerous fundraisers and events. Her dream and vision has come true and unfolded right before our eyes.
“The lifeline of any organization is only as strong as its supporters. I want to sincerely thank every single person that has contributed to the vision and mission of The Animal Friends of Westmoreland. You are truly the reason this is possible.” – Candy Nelson
Prior to 2009, the organization was using a network of foster homes to house the dogs and cats in our care. In fall of 2009, The Animal Friends of Westmoreland was able to officially open its doors to the public and hired full time shelter manager, Robin Stewart. Robin is the only full time employee at the shelter and is responsible for all day to day aspects of the facility including care for the animals, adoption screening and facilitation and veterinarian coordination.
In 2012, a part time employee was added to manage daily responsibilities of administration duties to help expedite the adoption process as well as maintain public shelter hours and keep our supporters and volunteers up to date on shelter events, fundraisers and pet available for adoption.
In addition to having public shelter hours Monday thru Friday, the shelter has an off-site adoption center at the Petsmart in Greensburg, where you can find us most Saturdays and Sundays.
In 2012, the Animal Friends of Westmoreland installed their first official board of directors:
Candy Nelson, Board President/Founder
Candy resides in Greensburg, Pennsylvania with her husband and six rescued chihuahuas, Gucci, Louie, Armani, Caroline, Carlos and Sophie. She oversees the direction, operational aspects and financial responsibilities of the shelter. She also organizes and chairs the organization’s five major fundraiser events. Her undying dream was to breathe life into The Animal Friends of Westmoreland and create a no-kill animal shelter that would be a voice for those who cannot speak for generations. Candy has a heart for the senior and special needs dogs, and has always felt strongly about helping the less adoptable animals. She feels so blessed to be surrounded by an amazing team of people that share the same passion and vision and is honored to be on this amazing journey.
Judy Gilpin, Board Treasurer
Judy said she wanted to be involved with The Animal Friends of Westmoreland because she was amazed and pleased by the passion and commitment of the volunteers, management and Board. She stated, “This is a top notch charity in my book.”
Judy has decades of experience in bookkeeping, accounting and corporate controller positions. She is involved with AFW so that she can be part of helping the shelter to grow and further its goals for this much needed endeavor.
Joe Kritz, Board Member
Joe has been a volunteer at the shelter before the doors were open to the public. Joe has been an avid animal lover his whole life, so when he was recommended by a friend to visit The Animal Friends of Westmoreland, he fell in love with the cats and has been there ever since. Joe serves as the lead cat caretaker and volunteers daily to do cleaning, feeding, and administration of medications. Joe resided with four cats of his own, three of which came from AFW, Thomas, Gabby, and Helen. Helen was found by a volunteer walking along a major highway, and later learned she was blind. Joe says he finds volunteering very rewarding; finding good homes for stray animals is not only good for the animals, but also gives a family another loved one.
Robin Stewart, Shelter Manager
Robin currently resides in Norvelt, Pa and has 6 cats. Moo-cow, Gabby, Helen, Thomas, Daisy, and Feck. Robin started her animal career by volunteering at a local shelter, where she first discovered her passion for companion animals. At that time, she worked a full-time office job for almost 12 years. She was looking to adopt a dog, with no intention of ever becoming involved however after seeing all those sad faces behind those shelter cages, she knew she had to help. One week after her first visit ever to an animal shelter, she started going to that shelter almost every day to spend time with the animals. Before she knew it, she started taking dogs and cats home to foster them. She found herself drawn to those less-appealing to others. Over time, she started helping to train and rehabilitate the scared, abused animals one after the other, and proceeding to match them up with people that would ultimately give them a permanent home. She eventually gave up her clerical job to accept the Shelter Manager position at AFW. Robin feels as if she has her dream job and is happy to be spending every day surrounded by animals.
Bethany Morse, Animal Care Manager
Bethany currently resides in Greensburg, PA. She has been with The Animal Friends of Westmoreland since 2012, when she was hired as office administrator for the shelter. Her role at the shelter has grown over time, and she is now the Animal Care Manager. Bethany oversees adoptions and intakes of animals; does much of the social media updates; and also serves as the shelter photographer, taking pictures of all the animals that come to AFW. She has always had a strong love for animals, & currently shares her home with three dogs and a cat, Sandy, Sophie, Toby and Leroy.
Bethany has grown to love working at the shelter and having such a rewarding job. She feels blessed to be part of such wonderful group of animal lovers.
Anna Kuszajewski, Administrative Assistant
Anna currently resides in Greensburg with her husband, three cats, and two dogs. She has been office administrator for the shelter since August 2015 and is responsible for reviewing adoption applications and helping to make sure the right pets goes to the right homes. She had previously worked in the mental health field but felt she needed a career change. She’s always had a love for animals and feels fortunate to have such a rewarding job.