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Meet the staff

Jeff Lydon – Interim Executive Director

IMG_4683Jeff comes to Woodstock Farm Sanctuary with more than 20 years of senior management experience, previously serving as the Executive Director of Farm Sanctuary, VegFund Inc., and Tompkins SPCA. As the Interim Executive Director, he provides expert leadership as the Sanctuary continues to grow and impact more lives than ever before.

Jeff is a certified leadership coach and consultant and holds a master’s degree in education with a concentration in humane education. He has published regularly on animal advocacy and other social justice issues, and frequently presents at conferences including Taking Action for Animals (TAFA) and the Annual Animal Law Conference.

Jeff lives with his wife, children, cats, and dogs, and enjoys playing the drums in his spare time.

Rachel McCrystal – Director of Development


Rachel joined the team of Woodstock Sanctuary in 2014. She formerly was the Senior Director of Development at the Pennsylvania SPCA and the Major Gifts Manager at Best Friends Animal Society. Rachel volunteers with rescue groups, vegan advocacy organizations, and does humane education with her rescued pit bull Mazzy. She also lives with a brilliant dog named Fredo, an iguana named Itze, and two doves named Peaseblossom and Puck. Rachel is a former journalist and a tango dancer.

Katherine Keefe – Shelter Director

kathBorn and raised in rural Massachusetts, Kathy is one of nine children and has always had an affinity for animals and the woods. After meeting an amazing cow, her eyes were opened to the suffering of other beings and she became vegetarian at 14 years old.

After living in California, where Kathy cared for stray cats and any other creature that crossed her path, she moved back to the Northeast and settled in Woodstock, New York. When she started volunteering at a local sanctuary and fell in love with a draft horse named Ted, she knew she had found her one true purpose in life — to save and care for as many animals as possible. Kathy immediately went vegan and spent years volunteering and working as Farm Manager at Catskill Animal Sanctuary.

She now works as Shelter Director at the Sanctuary, where she manages the team of Caregivers and ensures all animal residents are provided with top-of-the-line medical care and treatment. In her free time, Kathy can be found reading a good book or hiking in the Catskill Mountains.

purvi-staffPurvi Natarajan – Accounting and HR Manager

Purvi joined the Woodstock family in July 2015 as the Accounting and Human Resources Manager. She studied at the University of Albany and has more than 15 years of experience working as a CPA with companies like American Express, Goldman Sachs, and Tishman Speyer Properties. Purvi also lived in Europe for three years where she learned to speak French, adding to her language repertoire which includes Gujrati (an Indian dialect) and English. She came back stateside to spend more time with her family and now resides in Kingston, NY.

Susan Mannella – Office Manager

suemA week before Thanksgiving 2012, Susan went to the Albany VegFest where she intended to learn about the health and environmental benefits of going vegetarian. While there, she ended up attending a lecture where her eyes were opened to the horrors of factory farming and the wondrous individuality of animals of every species (not just canines like her beloved dog, Zoey Belle). She was instantly transformed.

Six months later, Susan experienced another talk about veganism and felt intensely motivated to begin making a difference in the lives of farmed animals. While perusing the Sanctuary website for volunteer opportunities, Susan stumbled across the Administrative Assistant position. Her previous experience in the field made Susan the perfect fit for the job, and she has become an indispensable member of the Sanctuary family.

Susan is constantly busy with all the administrative details that keep Woodstock Sanctuary running and we’d be lost without her. She lives locally with Zoey and her two rescued cats, Zephyr and Mischief.

Jess Davis – Programs Manager

jdd-clydeJess has a background working in and for environment and social-justice focused nonprofit organizations, including PhillyCarShare in Philadelphia and Housing Works in NYC. She has always had a passion for working with animals and has volunteered at the Animal Refuge Kansai in Osaka, Japan all the way to the Wild Bird Fund in NYC.

She went vegan back in 2004 when she was studying at Temple University — hers was a cerebral journey from vegetarianism to veganism through reading many of the hallmark animal-rights works by authors such as Gary Francione and Carol J. Adams, and listening to the Vegan Freaks podcast with Bob & Jenna Torres.

Jess was thrilled to join the staff of Woodstock Farm Sanctuary in the summer of 2015 and combine her nonprofit background with her enduring belief in the inherent worth and dignity of both human and non-human beings. She is constantly amazed at the ever-increasing variety of artisanal vegan cheeses!

Chrissy Pawlak – Development Associate

Prior to joining Woodstock in 2015, Chrissy spent the first few years of her career in Finance and Consulting. She grew up loving all animals, so learning the truth behind the animal agriculture industry was a sobering shock that left Chrissy feeling increasingly unfulfilled in her corporate job. Knowing there is so much work to be done on behalf of animals, particularly farmed animals, she left the business world and to pursue a career doing just that. She’d been following Woodstock Farm Sanctuary for a few years, so a leading farmed animal sanctuary with an amazing team of passionate advocates that was also close to home was naturally the perfect fit.

Outside of work, loves to cook delicious vegan food for friends and family and opening their eyes to the ease and benefits of living a compassionate lifestyle.

Ashley Nester – Marketing & Communications Manager

Before joining the Woodstock family, Ashley held marketing positions in the publishing and higher education fields. Although great jobs, she continuously found herself feeling uninspired in her work. Growing up an animal-lover, she realized that she needed to work towards something she was passionate about, something that gave her purpose. That’s when she quit the corporate world to work at Woodstock Farm Sanctuary and pursue her true career path — making a difference in the lives of animals. She joined the team in 2016 and brings with her expertise in advertising, marketing, and public relations.

In her free time, Ashley volunteers with therapy dogs and enjoys being outdoors with her rescue pup, Taurus.

Eric – Development AssistantEric & Clyde hat

Eric joined the Woodstock Sanctuary team in April of 2016. He previously worked as software developer in San Francisco and near Seattle and is looking forward to using those skills for animal advocacy and other ethical causes. He is amazed by the rescued animals’ resilience and willingness to trust in the sanctuary caregivers, staff, and visitors alike, given the often brutal conditions from which they were rescued. Their ability to live in the moment has been an inspiration to Eric and is something he is striving to implement in his own life.

Dawnell Kilbourne – Animal Caregiver

dawnell-maybeDawnell came to us with experience working for an animal refuge, as well as part-time in the library system for 20 years. She relocated all the way from Yellow Springs, Ohio to work at Woodstock Farm Sanctuary. If you visit, you’ll recognize her as the tiny lady in the cap faithfully followed around by her dog, Maisy. All of the animals seem to appreciate her quiet grace and, if you take a moment to watch her with them, you can feel the love going both ways.

On top of her job, Dawnell is an artist and sculpts and paints. She also enjoys exploring the area on her motorcycle.

Hervé Breuil – Animal Caregiver

herve-staffOriginally from France, Hervé moved to the Woodstock area to work at the Sanctuary as a Caregiver.  He has lived in a number of places in both countries and when he hasn’t been employed in the animal advocacy field, he has used his bi-lingual talents for work – teaching English in France and French in the United States.

A long-time animal lover, Hervé has been fighting for animal rights both in France and the United States for many years. Notably, he was the Campaign Director for L214 in France.  He now uses that know-how and spreads the word about the Sanctuary, veganism and animal rights. The depth of Herve’s love for animals is fulfilled both by the hands-on time he spends tending to the residents of Woodstock, and by the time he spends away from the farm, educating the public about the plight of farmed animals everywhere.

Gabriella Desantis – Animal Caregiver

GabriellaGabriella has loved animals from a young age and was inspired to go vegetarian at just 15 years old. While watching a television show about the treatment of marine life across seas, she realized that treating animals with kindness and compassion shouldn’t be dependent on one’s culture or viewpoint. She went vegetarian that evening, and just a short two years later went vegan after learning about the dairy and egg industries.

In addition to being a full-time caregiver at Woodstock Farm Sanctuary, Gabriella regularly campaigns in NYC and other cities as an activist with various animal rights groups. She continues to be an effective advocate and hopes to continue changing the way people view animals raised for food.

She loves a good slice of vegan pizza and always has her two dog companions, Aiden and Junior, by her side.

Todd Friedman – Animal Caregiver

ToddTodd has worked various jobs, everything from a snowboard instructor in Aspen to an owner of bagel shops in Connecticut and New York. It wasn’t until he moved back to his hometown in Northern New Jersey to open his own printing company that he heard of Woodstock Farm Sanctuary and realized his one true passion—animals.

Todd began volunteering regularly at the Sanctuary in 2014. After managing his print shop all week, he would make the trip from New Jersey to spend every weekend with the animals. Shortly afterwards, he went vegan.

When offered a Caregiver position, Todd sold his printing business without hesitation to pursue the job he truly loves. He now resides in High Falls with his two dogs, Floyd and Lyle, and can often be found in the pig barn giving Andy lots of kisses.