Katie and Chelsea, Co-Founders of Redemption for Adoptable Dogs Club
Katie Falcone and Chelsea Edson are on a mission - to save animals. We met them through another animal organization and saw a great opportunity for these two incredible women to share their stories on how they are changin' the world, one dog at a time. Read on how they started their 501(C) non profit RAD (Redemption for Adoptable Dogs Club) in today's spotlight:
Katie and Chelsea, what did you two want to be as little girls and how did those dreams steer you two into the space you’re both in now?
CE: I actually have always loved animals and thought I wanted to be a veterinarian. Out of all my siblings I was the one who always brought home animals (mostly always without permission) and was the go-to gal for dog-sitting ventures from the time I was 10 all the way through college. I more often than not had someone else’s dogs living with me in my teeny studio apartment and practiced major self control in not getting my own dog until I was 26. I adopted my dog Blue from a neglect/hoarder situation in Arkansas and learning the extreme patience that comes with owning a scarred animal was the drive that got me involved with animal rescue.
KF: As a little girl, I was notoriously bossy. If I wasn’t directing a play in the neighbor's basement, I was rearranging my room into a classroom and I, of course, was the teacher. During the summers, I played camp counselor for all the kids in the neighborhood, teaching them how to swim or do gymnastics. Then, I’d beg my parents to buy trophies so I could host a ceremony at the end of the “season.” The other parents on my street hated me because I would somehow coerce their children into gathering tools, rakes & shovels from their garages and then meet me in the woods to build a secret path. Holidays and celebrations were a nightmare. I’d find any excuse to decorate the living room with streamers and balloons which drove my parents crazy. It could be flag day and my dining room would look like party city. I may have not known exactly what I wanted to be when I grew up but I knew that if I was passionate about something, I could use that passion to influence others to join me and maybe build something great. That mindset has definitely led me to the rescue movement.
Can you tell us how you two met and what sparked you two to form Redemption for Adoptable Dogs (RAD)?
CE: Katie and I met at the end of the summer through dog-sitting a mutual friend’s big rescue dog Pace, and found out we lived only a few houses apart. I was riding a rollercoaster of change in my personal life and Katie and I instantly bonded. After less than a month we were together most nights, drinking wine on her porch letting our dogs play together in her yard. By the end of that year, the only thing I had to my name was my dog Blue. Katie and I were reflecting one day and realized the thing that brought us the most love everyday were our dogs, and we wanted other people to experience that. We started volunteering with a local rescue organization and soon realized the immense amount of help they needed in promoting their animals. In particular, we found that their big dogs, senior dogs, and pitbull type breeds were the dogs most commonly overlooked, and we wanted to launch an initiative to help promote them. RAD Girls was born from us rooting for the underdogs and has evolved into so much more than we thought it would.
How do you balance between your day-jobs and your passions for animal rescue and RAD Girls Club? Can you tell us a quick summary on how you two got started in the 501(c) process?
I’d be lying if I said balancing our day jobs with our passions were easy. It can be really tough at times. We are also rapidly approaching our 30s and the pressure of juggling our personal lives while trying to manage our relationships adds another element of crazy.
Chelsea and I have gotten very good at delegating the work. We can both sense when the other is overwhelmed and one of us will pick up the slack. Thankfully, we recently brought two girls on board who are as passionate as we are about the local rescue movement. Over the past few years, we have come across so many people who have full time jobs, but who also want to make a difference in their communities. I think we have created a safe space in our group in which girls feel comfortable to help out as much or as little as they can. We have gotten emails from girls who want to join us on day trips to spend time with the dogs for all different reasons. I think it has been as therapeutic for the volunteers as for the rescue dogs. Becoming a 501c3 was the natural next step. We live in a college town, so students who can only volunteer with us a few times a semester can get college credit or add it to their resume. Non profit status also makes us a favorable candidate for local businesses who want to donate to our cause.
CE: Balance is semi impossible. I work in textile design, run a side business making printed baby goods, and run RAD Girls with Kate, on top of trying to keep my own head above water. Striking the balance is one of my 2018 goals, but it definitely can wear on us consciously if we feel we aren’t making enough phone calls, reaching out to enough foster networks, finding the perfect fit for a tricky dog, visiting the shelter everyday etc. It’s easy to get run down but like Katie said, we are really good at taking on bigger loads if the other is feeling overwhelmed, and are SO grateful that we have two new amazing girls on board who are helping us with the day to day. Seeing one dog who was once deemed a hopeless case thriving in a home makes up for 192899 bad days. We started by just taking dogs out on trips into the mountains and hiking with them- really just springing them out of the shelter for a few hours of fresh air, and the fact that we are now able to fundraise, have volunteers, and have people willing to support our cause is so damn rewarding. The 501c3 process was grueling (Kate Falcone might be on a “do not answer- too many questions” list with the IRS at this point), but it was so worth it for the rewards our organization has reaped and the amount of dogs we have gotten to financially, physically, and emotionally support since then.
What is your advice to anyone who is trying to change the world like you two are?
KF: Be patient and don’t get stuck thinking about all the work that still needs to be done in the rescue community. Focus on your progress. Set attainable goals.
Any piece of good you are putting out is positive change. Even if you are donating a load of laundry detergent to the shelter, you are making a difference. If you can make one positive impact a day, whether big or small, you are making an impact, and the bigger the gesture you put out, the bigger the reward for everyone, including yourself. It’s really very easy to be kind.
What’s next you both and RAD Girls Club?
CE: We are working on expanding our reach in not only Vermont, but across the US. We want people to feel inspired to get together with their friends, grab a shelter dog, and get him outside for a few hours. It’s so important that people see that the dogs we work for are just like us, they are souls with feelings and pasts and scars and were inherently born good. We just received designs from Champlain college graphic designs students and are looking to launch some product this year to help with our fundraising efforts and to assist kids who want to get their artwork shown. We want to get involved with more State-run institutions to get shelter dogs into places where they could be used therapeutically, or teach respect, responsibility, and forgiveness. We want to expand our reach in so many places and have so many big ideas we are ready to tackle. We spent the first year of this getting our feet wet and realizing what we could and couldn’t do, and this past year we did the legwork to become a non-profit organization and get our feet firmly planted, and we know this is the year we take off with the ideas that we have been evolving and putting into place. We have already met so many people who support this cause and can’t wait to reach even more. Redemption is real and attainable for anyone willing to work for it, and giving voices to the adoptable dogs who deserve it is one of the most empowering things we’ve ever done.
Interviewed by Chary