Anita, Animal Advocate: The Staffworks Charitable Fund Story

Through the achievements of our partners and donors, The Community Foundation is moved forward in innovative directions. Steering this new direction are funds like the Staffworks Charitable Fund, which is pushing the boundaries of what’s possible through advocacy and philanthropy.

In June, the Staffworks Charitable Fund became The Community Foundation’s first $10 million fund with a living fundholder. Established in 2006, the donor-advised fund was created by Anita A. Vitullo on behalf of Staffworks. Vitullo is founder and president of the staffing agency, which provides temporary and direct placement services through nine branch offices in Central and Southern New York.

“I learned from my early career in the staffing industry and boiled it down to a regionalized, customized service model, and that’s how Staffworks was born,” says Vitullo.

Vitullo built her company by understanding that each organization has its own unique goals and mission. Staffworks helps organizations find the “perfect fit” for a job, and in turn, assists career-seeking individuals in finding meaningful employment. Success in the staffing industry requires a highly perceptive, knowledgeable and people-focused approach because work provides a sense of purpose. Vitullo’s professional achievements drive her ability to fulfill her philanthropic goals.
The Staffworks agency’s “perfect fit” philosophy carries over to its charitable fund, supporting animal welfare organizations’ efforts to find homes for animals in need.

Under Vitullo’s leadership, philanthropy and a passion for animal welfare became part of the organization’s DNA.Vitullo’s love for animals began as a child, when her parents took her to Stevens-Swan Humane Society to adopt a dog, an experience she lovingly refers to as the “Princess effect.”

“I was so astounded to see all these dogs in cages who didn’t have homes,” recalls Vitullo. “And that’s when I discovered Princess, a German Shepherd-Collie mix. She really cultivated my love for dogs.”

The Staffworks Charitable Fund is dedicated to supporting the plight of animals, and the organizations whose mission it is to rescue them from harm. Since 2009, more than $1.4 million in grants has been awarded to community groups including more than a dozen animal welfare organizations across the region.

“Staffworks has made a unique investment in an important facet of our community’s quality of life, the love of animals,” said Alicia Dicks, president/CEO of The Community Foundation. “Anita’s amazing philanthropic leadership and remarkable professional achievements provide a shining example to us all—what one person can achieve and inspire within an entire community.”

“Profits from Staffworks are put to good work supporting a humane environment in our communities by funding organizations that care for abandoned, neglected and abused animals,” said Vitullo. “Animal shelters in every community do not receive state or federal funding; and local government support is minimal, causing shelters to operate at a tremendous financial loss. If it were not for the dedicated efforts of staff and volunteers and the generosity of our citizens, at-risk animals in our communities would have little hope of survival.”

“I commend the Stevens-Swan Humane Society, Herkimer County Humane Society and Humane Society of Rome, as well as the many other animal organizations supported by the Staffworks Charitable Fund,” Vitullo stated. “Against all odds, these organizations save animals’ lives.”

Local animal shelters and adoption centers take in thousands of stray, homeless and abused dogs and cats each year. With food, shelter and medical treatment in a safe and caring environment, animals that were once vulnerable have the chance to find the loving home they deserve.

Adoption is a truly special act of kindness that can move hearts and minds. Opening our homes to a dog or cat in need is rewarded with unconditional love and loyal companionship.

Vitullo is outspoken about the importance of adoption. Over the years, she’s rescued many dogs and has inspired those around her to adopt as well. Just ask Community Foundation President/CEO Alicia Dicks, who adopted her family’s dog, Lucy, through Stevens-Swan Humane Society’s 2017 Wiggle Waggle Walk-A-Thon.

At press conferences and events, Vitullo is always joined by a special guest—a local animal awaiting adoption, the “face” of her mission as she likes to say. Gizmo, an 8-year-old pit bull, and Teddy, a 7-year-old rottweiler/pit bull mix, were both adopted after receiving community attention as Vitullo’s special guests at recent events.

For years, Vitullo has advocated for no kill shelters and the compassionate care of animals, a message that was received by the many local organizations that have transformed the way they operate and have eliminated kill practices.

“Animal over-population results in endless animal suffering in our own communities and causes the deaths of millions of homeless animals throughout the United States,” she said. “The only hope of reducing this horror is high-volume, low-cost spay and neuter services. No birth equals no kill.”

Despite the Staffworks Charitable Fund’s many achievements, Vitullo believes her work has just begun. Her next goal is to implement an ASPCA national model spay/neuter clinic in the region, setting out to solve the root cause of the problems she wishes to address.

“The Staffworks Charitable Fund has helped us come full circle in achieving our shelter’s goals,” said Stevens-Swan Humane Society Shelter Manager John Treen. “When you’re a no-kill shelter, the amount of money it takes to care for each individual animal is exponentially higher because we’re providing them with the maximum amount of healthcare to make sure that they’re good to go out in the community.”

In recognition of her outstanding community contributions, The Community Foundation presented Vitullo with the Rosamond Childs Award for Community Philanthropy this year. The award honors individuals who exhibit the spirit of giving and a profound commitment to the community, as exemplified by Rosamond G. Childs, The Community Foundation’s first major benefactor. Recipients are known for their selflessness, leadership, compassion and generosity.

Through her work, Vitullo’s inspiring the next generation of advocates and philanthropists including Brenna Baker, owner and creator of Baker’s Doggone Delicious Treats. The 16-year-old from Norwich began making homemade dog treats in 2012, donating the money raised to the Chenango SPCA. She saved up her profits for several months and doubled them for the Chenango SPCA through the Staffworks “Save A Life” Campaign in 2017. Inspired by the campaign, Baker reached out to Vitullo with a special request.

“I wrote a letter to Anita and asked her if she could match my donations from profits I made in 2018, and she said yes! So far, I’ve donated more than $4,000 to the Chenango SPCA,” said Baker.

The Community Foundation is just one group to recognize Vitullo for her recent philanthropic work. She has also been selected as the 2018 Outstanding Philanthropist by the Association of Fundraising Professionals – Central New York Chapter and is the first-ever recipient from the greater Utica area since the award’s inception more than 20 years ago.

Vitullo was also recently inducted into the Oneida County Historical Hall of Fame as a “Living Legend,” an award that recognizes individuals for their service as community leaders and advocates, and for their efforts in furthering the region’s industries, culture and educational opportunities.

At The Community Foundation, we couldn’t agree more with Vitullo’s status as a living legend. But she prefers to sign her emails with a simpler moniker that captures the incredible scope of her work—AAA: Anita, Animal Advocate.”