Mission, Vision and Community Impact

Animal Friends of Westmoreland in 2006 by Candy Valentino Nelson. We received our 501c3 status in 2008.

It took 2 years to renovate the donated building using volunteers, contractors, tradesmen, local schools and businesses within the community.

We opened our doors to the public November 2009 and to date, we have rescued, rehabilitated and rehomed over 2500 animals. We support the Westmoreland and surrounding counties.

Our life saving work is done with only 3 paid staff and an army of over 200 active volunteers contributing over 20,000 man hours to our mission and the lives of whom we care.

We rescue animals and save lives. We provide love and joy to the humans who open their hearts to these animals and those who serve on their behalf as care givers within our organization. We stand up for the voiceless. We help animals and children remember that they matter.

We open hearts and invite unconditional love. We inspire people to stand up and speak out against animal abuse. We encourage a community.

We help children who have suffered abuse and neglect, find healing and gain trust as they relate to the animals who also share such horrific pasts. We remind the world that all lives matter.

In 2017, Animal Friends of Westmoreland will be beginning the next phase of our journey as we forge ahead to create an even bigger impact on the community and leave a legacy for generations to come.

With the purchase of a 62 acre farm, we will be able to rescue large animals like horses, donkeys and cows as well as farm animals such as pigs, goats and chicken to name a few.

We will have space on the farm to build our new facility that will house MORE dogs, cats and rabbits than our existing location can hold.

We will have walking trails and enrichment opportunities for animals that have previously been adopted. In addition, we will be standing in the gap to provide humane animal control and be a service to the municipalities, boroughs and towns in Westmoreland County.

We have an profound mission and a massive vision. Without your support, NONE of this would be possible. Animal Friends Sanctuary. Rescuing animals, saving lives and helping children heal.

Candy Nelson, Board President/Founder

AFW_candy nelsonCandy 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 

AFW_judy gilpin_232_nJudy resides in Connellsville, Pa with her husband and two shitzus, Cocoa 6 yrs, Cody 8 Yrs and Tom Cat 13 yrs old.

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 KritzJoe 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.