“I didn’t grow up on a farm or anything,” says Ellen Thomas, video editor at the animal advocacy company The Dodo turned animal caregiver for the Goats of Anarchy sanctuary. “I guess I had to move to New York City to find out how much I loved animals.”
Born and raised in Tennessee, Ellen had been searching for her place. She’d spent four years working in video production, but wanted something more. “I wanted to put myself in a bigger pond to see if I’d sink or swim,” she says. The next thing she knew, she was on a plane headed for New York City to interview with The Dodo. “I went without any real plan,” she remembers. “I just kind of felt that everything would be okay.”
Six hours after landing Ellen was sitting in The Dodo’s offices, demoing the video production skills that would ultimately land her the gig. At The Dodo, Ellen created video content profiling animals and their human friends, sometimes showcasing rescue organizations and sanctuaries dedicated to animal welfare. “It was wonderful to be able to use my video skills to create content that had the potential to do real good,” she says. Through her work, Ellen’s love for animals continued to grow, and she was often heartened by the almost immediate impact her videos had on The Dodo’s audience. “Sometimes just a few hours after I was finished, the video was up and people were talking and doing something about it,” she remembers.
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One video Ellen worked on featured a farm animal sanctuary in Denmark. “Their animals were being threatened (some were even poisoned) by hostile neighbors, and they needed to raise money to move the sanctuary to a new property,” she says. The sanctuary owner was also struggling, giving all he had to his animals, leaving him to live in a dilapidated building with no heating. “His dedication really struck a chord with me,” Ellen remembers. “I wanted to help, so I pitched the video, and when it got the green-light, fast-tracked it.” Within a week of the video being published, the farm animal sanctuary reached their fundraising goal. “It was incredible,” Ellen says, “to be able to make that kind of difference for animals just by doing my job.”
It was through this work that Ellen began volunteering with Goats of Anarchy, a vegan sanctuary for special-needs farm animals located in Hampton, New Jersey. “[Farm animals] often get the short end of the stick,” she says, “so I think it’s important to help them lead better lives, however we can.”
As Ellen became a regular weekend volunteer, she began to notice a shift. “I realized I was looking forward to it all week,” she remembers. Then, Goats of Anarchy founder Leanne Lauricella made Ellen an offer. “I remember Leanne asking me if I'd want to move to Goats of Anarchy and work there full-time. It felt out-of-the-blue, and I honestly thought she was joking at first—but it just felt right, so I said yes anyway!”
Ellen now lives on the sanctuary, providing care for nearly 200 animals—many of whom have special needs. Her routine begins in the early morning, equipping the goats with their prosthetic limbs and letting them out of their barn to roam and graze. While the animals are out, Ellen and her fellow staff members and volunteers clean the barn, do farm chores, and provide enrichment for the animals. When their chores are finished, it’s usually time to bring the animals back in for the night. The work can be a grind, but Ellen couldn’t be happier. “I’ve never been more physically exhausted in my life,” she says, “but I wouldn’t go back to a desk job for anything.”
Though she no longer spends her days at a desk, Ellen hasn’t completely left her old work behind. She now creates videos to help fundraise and promote Goats of Anarchy online, giving Ellen a chance to put the skills she developed at The Dodo to good use. “We’ve been building a presence on YouTube and we just got monetized,” she says, “which is really great because we rely so much on donations.”
“Everything works out the way it’s supposed to,” Ellen says, reflecting on her journey. “You have to trust yourself and go for what makes you happy.”
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Angel uses his skills as a storyteller to support and inspire job seekers and aspiring social-impact professionals.