Meet The Staff
Kim Sturla is our Executive Director and 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 is our take-no-prisoners full-time donor steward who 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 is our Director of Fund Development and 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 is our Animal Care Director, 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, three cats, Brian, Mila, and Blue, and eleven tiny chickens.
Patti Nyman is our Food for Thought Campaign Director. Patti holds a Master’s degree in Social and Political Thought from York University in Toronto, and has taught undergraduate courses in the social sciences. Patti oversees Animal Place’s Food for Thought campaign, which works with nonprofits to help them adopt animal-friendly menu policies for their events. Patti also enjoys playing guitar, eating carbs and spending time with rabbit companion, Binksopolis.
Michelle Miller is the Animal Care Manager and a residential caregiver at our Grass Valley sanctuary. She shares her life with Levi-her husband of 13 years, their 11 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 is the Animal Care Shelter Coordinator at our Grass Valley sanctuary, providing care to the 300 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.
Claire Couron is our Social Media Manager. She creates content for Animal Place’s social media and engages with our online community. Claire first joined the Animal Place team as an Advocacy Intern, quickly fell in love with the mission, and became a staff member. Claire spent a year in China, and hopes to continue exploring and trying vegan food all over the world.
Carlo Dela Cruz is the Manager at our vegan store in Berkeley, Animal Place’s Vegan Republic. Carlo joined the team after volunteering during his spare time at the store and teaching a donation-based fundraiser yoga class at the vegan gym in Oakland, NewEthic Strength and Conditioning, from which all the proceeds went to Animal Place. He also manages the vegan day spa in North Berkeley, Spa Organica, and teaches yoga in the East Bay. When he finds time away from his busy schedule, he is outdoors climbing, hiking, and camping.
Crystal Kozlak is the West Coast Coordinator for Animal Place’s Food for Thought Campaign. Crystal 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 is our Northeast Regional Coordinator for the Food for Thought Campaign. Vegetarian since the age of seven, Deva made the change to a vegan lifestyle in 2009 after reading Jonathan Safran Foer’s “Eating Animals.” She currently resides in Glen Arm, Maryland with her husband, Matthew, and two cats, Alphie and Sophie. She is also the proud co-owner, manager, and full-time baker of Sweet Dukes Vegan Bakery, a small-batch organic, vegan bakery she founded with her husband.
Liz Walch is our Great Lakes Regional Coordinator for the Food for Thought Campaign. Liz 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 is our Administrative Assistant. She 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!