We at Our Hen House are thrilled to have the opportunity to announce The Pollination Project‘s “Unsung Vegan Heroes!” We’ll let Alissa Hauser, the Project’s Executive Director, give you the skinny about the impetus behind this inspiring program — one that that sheds light on changemakers who have devoted their lives to speaking up for the underdogs. Let’s acknowledge and celebrate those activists!
The 2014 Unsung Vegan Heroes Awards
by Alissa Hauser, The Pollination Project
Over two decades ago, animal rights philanthropist Ariel Nessel had one of those “aha moments” that altered the course of his life. At age 12, he was walking on Venice Beach in Los Angeles and came across a man tabling with a wide range of information about animal rights and veganism. Ariel read the man’s materials with great interest and then went on his way, not giving it much more thought.
Almost a decade later, walking down the very same stretch of beach, Ariel came across the same man at the same table – and in that moment, it hit him. Moved by the synchronicity of that moment, and suddenly reminded him of the initial information he had been exposed to as a child a decade prior, the truth about animals became clear to him. Ariel realized that he had the power to choose to create suffering in the world by continuing to eat animals, or he could choose to live a life of compassion for all life, by not contributing to animal exploitation. He became captivated by the commitment of that one man, tabling on the beach, day after day, for decades. And it changed Ariel forever.
That’s why Jingles is the guiding inspiration for the Unsung Vegan Heroes Awards, and it is in his honor that The Pollination Project dedicates each one of these awards.
When Ariel finally reached Jingles again (it took us an entire week to track Jingles down), he told Ariel that he had stopped tabling on Venice Beach after 25 years. He was extremely touched to be recognized for all of his work.
The Unsung Vegan Heroes Awards seeks to recognize changemakers like Jingles. In this inaugural year of the awards, nearly 80 people were nominated, each of them inspiring in their own right. A team of judges representing a wide cross section of animal rights and service organizations deliberated for two weeks to determine the winners.
Finally, and with Our Hen House’s help, the Pollination Project is thrilled to present the winners of the 2014 Unsung Vegan Heroes Awards! Each of these winners will receive $1,000, $100 extra dollars to donate to their favorite animal rights charity, an official certificate announcing their award, and an Our Hen House tote bag. We’re sure you’ll agree that the animal advocates listed below represent some of the finest, most dedicated and inspiring animal rights and vegan activists in our movement.
The 2014 Unsung Vegan Heroes Award Winners
- Lesley Parker-Rollins, Vegan Mom and Passionate Volunteer, Baltimore MD: While raising three vegan children, Lesley does a wide range of volunteer activities including tabling, leafleting, fundraising, public speaking, media interactions, and event organizing for a variety of animal advocacy groups.
- Israel Arriola, Volunteer Leader at Anima Naturalis, Texcoco, Mexico: Israel works with Anima Naturalis, an all-volunteer animal rights education nonprofit in Mexico. He also started a spay and neuter program in his city to address the plight of street dogs.
- Lisa Shapiro, Founder of All things Vegan and Boulder Vegan Meetup, Boulder CO: An animal rights advocate and activist for over 30 years, Lisa runs All Things Vegan, a group committed to growing the marketplace for vegan products. She also helps run the nearly 1000-member Boulder Vegan Meetup.
- Gary Smith & Kezia Jauron, Principals of Evolotus PR, Sherman Oaks CA: Gary and Kezia left the corporate world to start their own firm focusing on social change PR. They also rescue animals in their area, and Gary runs the Thinking Vegan blog.
- Creestaaal Sanchez, Model and Vegan-lifestyle Blogger, Los Angeles CA: Creestaaal started @Hispanicvegansofig on Instagram to raise awareness of veganism among Latinos, as well as @veganmakeupshare to share info about vegan makeup and beauty products.
- Joe Espinosa, Social Worker and Volunteer Leafleter, Chicago IL: Joe has volunteered with Vegan Outreach for over 20 years, and recently reached leafleted his 500,000th person. He is a full-time social worker, and so all of his outreach happens during evenings, weekends, and on his vacation time.
- Norma & Estela Sánchez Márquez, Spanish-language social media campaigners, Los Angeles CA: Identical twins Norma & Estela manage this Spanish-language site to support people transitioning to a vegan diet. Their facebook group, Ayuda Animales de Granjas, has nearly 12 million followers.
- James Scott, Founder of Dallas Vegan, Texas State Veggie Fair, Dallas TX: As founder of the Texas State Veggie Fair and the Dallas Vegan blog, James is known as the powerhouse behind the veganizing of Dallas. He is also the main organizer of Vegan Drinks in Dallas.
- Jennifer Mennuti, Volunteer and Networker in South Florida: Jennifer volunteers doing animal rights outreach, tabling, and leafleting almost every weekend. In addition to her full-time job, she organizes events and movie screenings for many groups.
- Vic Sjodin, Senior Outreach & Strategy Coordinator for Vegan Outreach, Los Angeles CA: Vic is known as one of the most effective leafleters ever, and he plays a big role in advising Adopt a College activists on how to reach the most people. He has reached over 750,000 people through leafleting.
May these vegan heroes remind you that everything you do to make the world better for animals is appreciated. Whether it is acknowledged or not, whether it is publicized or not, there are millions of animals who are alive today because of the efforts of animal rights advocates like you. If no one has told you lately- THANK YOU for all you do to make the world a more compassionate place for animals.