Meet The Staff
Kim Sturla, Executive Director co-founded Animal Place in 1989. She has been a central figure in the animal rights movement for more than 35 years and wrote two precedent-setting state laws: one protecting pre-university students unwilling to participate in animal dissections, another requiring shelters to sterilize adoptable animals. Before co-founding Animal Place, she served as director of the Peninsula Humane Society. Kim is our resident Pig Whisperer, able to communicate beautifully with even the wiliest of pigs! She shares her home and life with dogs Marty and Poppyseed.
Estelle Barber, Donor Steward oversees the processing of donations, bookkeeping, and other vital administrative tasks. Estelle has been doing non-profit bookkeeping for over 20 years. She enjoys the gratifying work at Animal Place, especially going on hen rescues. She shares five sons, one grandson, and two well-trained goldfish with her partner, Mark.
Marji Beach, Director of Fund Development has been with Animal Place since 2004. She earned her BS in Animal Science from the University of California, Davis. For more than a decade, she oversaw the education, social media, rescue & adoption programs, fundraising efforts, and onsite education programs. In 2019, she transitioned to Director of Fund Development to focus efforts on expanding, improving, and nurturing all areas of fundraising…so that we can save even more lives! You can see her photography of the animals here. She loves the cows and chickens! Marji is owned by Mexi-mutt mop-dog Tobi, Podenco Canario Audrey, cat Shawn, and human Izzy – all adopted!
Hannah Beins, Animal Care Director, is responsible for overseeing the care of hundreds of farmed animals in residence at our Grass Valley sanctuary. She joined our staff after completing animal care internships with both an east coast sanctuary and Animal Place. She shares her home with two dogs, Squishy and Kody, two cats, Brian, and Mila, and ten tiny chickens.
Michelle Miller, Animal Care Manager shares her life with Levi-her husband of 15 years, their 13 year old son- Cash, 2 dogs (Howdy and Freya), 2 cats (Wednesday & Ygritte), 4 hens and 1 rooster. Prior to Animal Place, Michelle worked with companion animals in various capacities. She is passionate about advocating for pitbulls and other dog breeds targeted by negative legislation and breed specific bans.
Blake Caraska, Animal Care Shelter Coordinator at our Grass Valley sanctuary, helps provide care to the nearly 400 animals at the sanctuary. He first joined Animal Place as an ambitious volunteer before accepting a staff position at our Vacaville Rescue Ranch facility. His hobbies include hiking, cycling, and cracking open a good book. Blake and his girlfriend share their lives with four cats.
Crystal Kozlak, West Coast Coordinator for Animal Place’s Food for Thought Campaign was inspired to go vegan after taking a philosophy course on animal ethics during her undergrad at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada. Dedicated to making this movement her life, Crystal completed Animal Place’s advocacy internship and then worked as a campaign coordinator for the Brave the Cage campaign for two and a half years, traveling to college campuses in the Southwestern United States to educate students about the egg industry. In addition to her work at Animal Place, Crystal volunteers for The Humane League’s corporate outreach campaign, writes articles for her vegan and spiritual blog, and is helping build a vegan community where she currently resides in Long Beach, California. She also enjoys traveling for vegan food, relaxing in hot tubs, running half marathons, and spending quality time with her husband, Clark, and rescued Chihuahua, Akayla.
Deva Holub, East Coast Coordinator for the Food for Thought Campaign has been vegetarian since the age of seven and made the change to a vegan lifestyle in 2009 after reading Jonathan Safran Foer’s “Eating Animals.” She has assisted The Humane League of Maryland in the development and planning of various fundraising events including the annual Baltimore Vegfest. She currently resides in Maryland with her husband, Matthew, and two cats, Alphie and Sophie. She has a deep affinity for garden gnomes and an unparalleled drive to perfect her vegan croissant recipe. She is also a part-time humane educator speaking to middle and high school students about ethical food choices.
Liz Walch, Food for Thought Campaign Manager grew up in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, but has lived in Chicago for the past ten years, where she received her B.A. from the University of Illinois at Chicago and started volunteering at an animal shelter. With her passion for animal advocacy and education, Liz went on to earn a certificate in Animal Studies from Humane Society University and her M.A. in Humane Education from Valparaiso University. During graduate school, Liz began a humane education internship in the Chicago Public School system with HEART (Humane Education Advocates Reaching Teachers). After her internship, Liz continued on as a humane educator for HEART in Chicago and also combines her love of working with both kids and farmed animals by working as a summer camp counselor at Heartland Farm Sanctuary in Wisconsin
Stevie Walsh, Membership Coordinator studied Animal Science at CSU Chico. She loves photography, hiking, true crime, scary movies and baking vegan treats(especially sharing them with non-vegans)! Her dog, Charlie, is her absolute best friend and she takes him everywhere with her. Stevie and her boyfriend have been vegan for two years now and he is a chef and makes awesome, creative entrees!
Rachel Hardy, Animal Care Supervisor spent over two years working in a veterinary office and then went on to attend Humboldt State University. After graduating she spent a year living in South Korea and traveling. She loves being an animal caregiver because it allows her to be around animals all day and spend time outdoors.
Allison Hooson, Animal Care Assistant was vegetarian for 8 years, but once she learned about the egg and dairy industry, being vegan was a clear choice. She enjoys hiking, running, painting, and working with the animals. She has two wonderful rescue dogs– border collie/mcnab mix Theodore and mini Schnauzer Finnagan. She loves her job, her life, and all the animals she is fortunate enough to look after.
Kelcie Leach, Program Director has been with Animal Place since 2016. She earned a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration with a focus on Marketing from California State University, Sacramento. Prior to working at Animal Place, Kelcie worked in veterinary medicine as a vet assistant. She enjoys spending her off time training her rambunctious pup, Milo, cuddling her cat named Pig, and spending time with her human family members.
Conor Beins, Animal Caregiver at our Grass Valley location has been vegan since 2012. He went vegan for animal rights, and has recently developed an interest in plant-based nutrition and fitness. He loves working at Animal Place because it allows him to spend my time outdoors, be active and care for so many wonderful animals.
Liz, Animal Caregiver at our Grass Valley location has always wanted to work with animals and worked at another animal sanctuary for 1.5 years before coming to Animal Place. She loves all animals, but she especially loves llamas because of how sweet and kind they can be. In her free time she likes to explore, travel, and craft.
Jessica Janson, Central US & Canada Coordinator has a
degree in Theater which has lent to a gratifying career in outreach
and public speaking. Over the years she has broadened her experience
through field work, advocacy, legislation and rescue. She has had
the privilege of advocating for some of the most well-respected animal
welfare organizations in the world, such as Big Cat Rescue and The
Humane Society of the United States. In 2016 Jessica was a field organizer for the groundbreaking Yes On 3 campaign which brought about legislation to end cruel confinement for chickens and pigs in Massachusetts. Jessica, who is also a yoga lover, practitioner and teacher, co-founded Animal Friends Yoga Retreats, an organization that combines luxury yoga retreats and ethical eco-tourism. She lives in Nederland, CO where she spends a large portion of her time advocating for prairie dogs, one of her most beloved wildlife species.
Lee, Animal Caregiver, relocated to California from Nashville in February of 2020. While in Nashville he volunteered at various sanctuaries. He purchased a van to provide animal transport for sanctuaries and individuals. He then decided to turn his passion of helping animals into a career by working at Animal Place. He spends his free time working out, reading, and watching hockey (go Bruins!).
Jennifer Leach, Intern & Outreach Coordinator previously worked in the veterinary field for 7 years until joining the team at Animal Place. She received her bachelor’s degree in Psychology at CSU, Chico and is passionate about helping people, as well as animals. In her free time, Jennifer likes to bake vegan treats, spend time outdoors, be with her family, and cuddle her two cats Toby and Beetle.
Not Pictured (but appreciated!):
Kristin Rodriguez, Membership and Administrative Assistant, has been with Animal Place since 2010! She is responsible for updating our database and keeping in touch with our lovely supporters. She not only advocates for animals at her work, but rescues corgis and cares for dozens of chickens, pheasants and other birds. She’s taken in displaced and disabled birds for over 20 years now! In her spare time, she travels, attends anime cons, and spends quality time with her animals.