Uniting a pet-loving community for a day of special services and celebration
Five ASPCA Mobile Spay/Neuter Clinics pulled up to 125th St. on
April 18, 2009. It was only 8:30 A.M., but the Harlem Community Block
Party was officially underway.
Harlem residents lined up with their dogs and cats to receive free
spay/neuter services and low-cost vaccinations. Pit bulls and pit mixes
were vaccinated for free.
It was about curbing the population of cats and dogs. It was about
assisting low-income residents with excellent services. And it was
about building up this pet-loving community by celebrating its animals
and its families.
"Almost 209,000 animal friends live in this area," says Joel Lopez,
ASPCA Administrative and Outreach Manager of Mobile Spay/Neuter
Clinics. By holding the block party, the ASPCA strived to go where the
pets are and strengthen the community.
View a slideshow (.swf) of the event, and read on for suggestions from Joel Lopez for pulling off a community special event.
Throwing a party with a purpose takes careful planning and coordination. Lopez offers some advice for getting it right:
- Be prepared for a large turnout. If you're offering free or
low-cost spay/neuter surgeries, you can expect a crowd. Reach out to
your community to bring some additional transport vehicles to use as
holding and recovery areas for the animals. This frees up your
spay/neuter vehicles so you can perform as many surgeries as possible.
- Create team structure. Lopez successfully adapted the
Federal Emergency Management Agency's Incident Command System model,
assigning a leader to Outreach, Logistics, Media, Finance and Safety
teams. "I played a double role of Outreach team leader and incident
commander," Lopez says. "The system facilitates delegation and trust."
(You can learn more about the Incident Command System on our Disaster Preparedness pages.)
The beauty of organizing a community block party is you don't need big bucks to do it. The ASPCA spent under $2,000.
- Utilize your own team. To save money and enhance the
community-building experience, draw on the skills of your
staff/volunteers. Assign different team members tasks, such as taking
event photos, face-painting, providing music, and running educational
- Ask for free support. "You may be speaking to an
animal lover and not know it!" Lopez says. "Even in these tough times,
business owners, individuals and community leaders were eager to extend
a helping hand." It's a good idea to assign one person on your planning
committee the task of "gathering free stuff." Lopez says they were able
to secure food, raffle prizes, and even vaccines and microchips, all
Identify your targets. The ASPCA maximized block party attendance by
reaching out to community based groups, churches, schools, libraries,
local businesses and politicians.
- Do your research. "We had two ASPCA volunteers use the
internet to research local community-based groups. They initiated
contact with the groups and scheduled meetings for the Public Outreach
Field Coordinator to follow up with," Lopez says.
- Pound the pavement. "Street teams were out daily
distributing and posting event flyers in high foot traffic locations
including shopping districts, commuter hubs and large housing
complexes," Lopez says.
- Send electronic flyers. Ask your team members and your partnering community groups to send flyers to their email distribution lists.
- Procure media coverage from various outlets. You'll want coverage on television, newspapers and radio.
- Create buzz. Use social media — your Facebook and
Twitter pages, your blog — to advertise your event. Encourage friends
to share news of your event with their friend lists.
The surgeries and vaccinations were administered on a first
come/first served basis. Lopez and his team were prepared for the long
lines; they kept the crowd both entertained and educated:
- Legendary KISS FM radio DJs
- Hot 97 street team
- Face painting
- Raffle-local business contributed prizes
- Fun animal-related quiz
The success of the event is evident in the numbers. "All five Mobile
Spay/Neuter Clinics were filled to capacity and hundreds of
appointments were scheduled for future clinics," says Lopez.
Not only did the block party unite the Harlem community in a day of
great fun and great deeds, but it boasts these impressive stats:
View a slideshow (.swf) of the photos taken at the Harlem Community Block Party.
- 114 spay/neuter surgeries
- 40 pit bulls vaccinated
- 150 pets licensed
- More than 250 future appointments