Thank a turkey: Animal Place to host 10th annual Thanksgiving fundraising event online |

Thank a turkey: Animal Place to host 10th annual Thanksgiving fundraising event online

Know & Go

Who: Animal Place

What: 10th annual Thank the Turkeys

When: Saturday, Nov. 21 from noon to 3 p.m.


Tickets: $40

In the mid 1980s, Kim Sturla was working in Vacaville at an animal shelter when she saw a great need to offer permanent homes to farm animals that would not end in their slaughter.

Animal Place Program Director Kelcie Leach said it all began with a pig named Zelda.

“The same people wanted to adopt her, wanted to raiser her, and eat her,” explained Leach, “That is when Kim really made the connection and knew she wanted to form an animal sanctuary. That is how Animal Place was founded and that little piglet was our first resident.”

Initially founded on 60 acres in the Bay Area, Animal Place moved to Grass Valley in 2010 and is home to some 400 rescued farm animals who live out their days and nights on a 600 acre parcel, tended to by staff and volunteers.

“We appreciate the community support and we love to continue to get the word out so people can come out and enjoy the sanctuary as much as the animals do.”— Kelcie LeachAnimal Place program director

Leach said, “We also wanted to create a community space for people to come out and meet the animals and make individual connections with them.”

COVID-19 has put a stop to public visits and tours but the work of Animal Place continues.

Animal Place also runs a shelter in Petaluma, California for finding permanent homes, but in Grass Valley the sanctuary provides food and shelter to a plethora of farm animals including large farm pigs, donkeys, cows, sheep, goats, rabbits, chickens and turkeys.

At this time of the year, turkeys are top of mind and Animal Place would like to propose an alternative way to include the fowl this holiday season. The 10th annual “Thank the Turkeys” takes place Nov. 21 online.

Leach said, “We started this event to have people come out to the sanctuary and have a compassionate alternative to a Thanksgiving dinner that typically has a turkey on the table.” Having people meet and feed the rescued turkeys pumpkin pie and sharing fun facts about them while offering alternative meal ideas is modified this year, but will still include an educational component, some entertainment via the turkeys and a cooking class.

“Thank the Turkeys” features a live cooking class by Toni Okakoto Shapiro from Plant-Based on a Budget and Michelle Cehn from World of Vegan. The pair will demonstrate how to make a holiday dessert as well as how to prepare a holiday plant-based roast from their Friendly Vegan Cookbook.

In addition, Co-Founder and Executive Director Kim Sturla will give a short talk about turkeys and ticket holders will also enjoy the turkeys eating pie video.

“We want people to learn about turkeys and meet our turkeys virtually,” said Leach. “It is really fun to watch them eat pumpkin pie and throw the pie all over their body. They are walking through the pies like it’s a foot massage.”

Tickets to the virtual event are $40 each. Participants will receive a “Thank the Turkeys cooking apron, as well as a Foster Parent Certificate.

Nearly all funding for Animal Place comes via private donations. Leach said the money raised from this event will go directly to helping support the flock of about a dozen who live at the sanctuary. Leach offered this fun fact about turkeys: Turkeys can show their emotion with the color of the skin around their neck and face.

“So if they have blue around their face, that usually signifies happiness or calmness,” said Leach. “If they have a red face they could be worked up for several different reasons!”

Animals come to the sanctuary in a variety of ways — from owners who can no longer take care of their animal to those found to be at risk for a number of reasons, Leach said. “ A lot of them have come from cruelty cases. They come from different industries. Magnolia is a dairy cow who was likely sterile so she couldn’t reproduce and wasn’t of any use so instead of being used for veal or going to auction, luckily she was able to come to Animal Save where she will live out her entire life, but each of the animals comes from a different background.”

In addition to offering sanctuary, education is a key component of the nonprofit’s mission.

“We have a Food For Thought campaign where we have coordinators all over the country that work with dog and cat shelters to adopt animal friendly menu policies for their events,” said Leach.

While a portion of the land is also segregated for wildlife, the focus of Animal Place is and will always be on farm animals.

Leach concluded, “We appreciate the community support and we love to continue to get the word out so people can come out and enjoy the sanctuary as much as the animals do.”

To join Animal Place for their 10th annual “Thank the Turkeys” event on Saturday, Nov. 21 from noon to 3 p.m., visit

Hollie Grimaldi Flores is a Nevada County resident and freelance writer for hire, as well as a podcaster at HollieGrams. You can hear her episodes at She can be reached at holliesallwrite@

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