In late July of 2015, I attended the National Animal Rights Conference in Alexandria, VA right outside Washington DC. One of the memorable presentations I saw was Bruce Friedrich’s talk on effective activism. Among the several good ideas was one that piqued my interest. Bruce mentioned that he and his wife Alka Chandna maintained over 40 magazine stands which contained Vegan Starter Kits (VSK) around the DC region.
I thought this was a great idea. When I used to leaflet, I had to take the time to go to a popular location and then approach people to hand out the magazines. The time commitment was great and my consistency was not. By having a stand at a particular location, not only could people take the magazines at all hours of the day, my time commitment would be limited to refilling it a couple of times a month. I approached Bruce after the talk and he directed me to PETA about taking on the task of maintaining a stand.
I got in touch with PETA and was informed they had an indoor and an outdoor version of the stand. I would have to get permission to place the stand, purchase the stand itself, and PETA would provide me with an endless supply of FREE magazines.
Initially I thought about placing a stand at Dunn Loring Metro Station and MOM’s Organic Market in Merrifield, VA. Dunn Loring was the closest metro station to me and I frequented MOM’s a lot so I thought I’d take a shot. Unfortunately, MOM’s didn’t have the space for the stand. Also, when I contacted the WMATA rep, she told me someone had already gotten in touch about placing a PETA stand at Dunn Loring Metro. I didn’t see that coming. Did somebody else get the idea from Bruce at the conference and get the jump on me, I wondered.
I reached out to PETA to confirm they already had a volunteer who was already interested in Dunn Loring Metro. They had no such information but said they’d do some digging and get back to me. I went back to WMATA to get further clarification and was told they would also do some digging and get back to me.
While I was waiting, I decided to contact the local libraries to see if the VSK’s could be placed in the public information shelves. I contacted several libraries:
- George Mason Library in Annandale (my local library)
- Beatley Central Library on Duke St (a few miles away and one of the largest in Alexandria City).
- Arlington Central Library (largest library in Arlington County)
- City of Fairfax Regional Library.
- DC Central Library (near Chinatown)
The first three libraries gave their permission almost immediately which was a bit surprising. I had expected them to say PETA was controversial and they couldn’t support the organization. The City of Fairfax Library Manager said they only allow county material to be displaced and PETA’s VSK didn’t meet the requirement. The DC Central library didn’t have shelves for public information (they had trouble maintaining the section in the past) so that was a bust also. I hesitatingly left about 30 copies at George Mason, Beatley, and Arlington Central hoping the staff wouldn’t throw out the many that would still remain in the shelves (Yes, I’m an eternal optimist)
A couple of weeks later I went to restock the VSK’s at George Mason and Beatley Central. I didn’t see any VSK’s in the shelves. That was strange, I thought. I wonder if the staff threw them out. I went to the information desk at both libraries and spoke to two different staff members at each library to make sure the VSK’s hadn’t been thrown out. They hadn’t.
I was shocked that all the VSK’s were taken. I definitely didn’t think there would be none left. What shocked me even more was the fact that there were many left at the Arlington Central Library. Of all the libraries, I thought for sure Arlington would run out first due to the younger, progressive crowd that lives in the county.
A month after I first got in touch with WMATA, I found out that Dunn Loring Metro was open and I was free to place the box as my application was approved. I was happy because I was sure many more VSK’s would be taken at the metro station with the new development that was recently built at what used to be the old parking lot.
Unfortunately, Dunn Loring Metro was also a bust. I had no explanation except for the fact that the stand was placed to the left of the station entrance and the vast majority of passengers took a right to exit the station.
In January 2016 I attended the PETA DC Volunteer Work Party to get some advice on what to do with the stand. Alka Chandna attended the event and suggested moving it to Rosslyn. A couple of nights later, the stand was moved to Rosslyn with the hope that the stand would get more traction in Arlington County.
When it was time to restock the VSK’s, yet again George Mason and Beatley were out of supply. I left 50 copies each thinking it was better to have too much than run out. Again, Arlington Central had plenty left so I decided to give it one more month to see if things pick up or pull the plug. The moment of truth arrived…was Rosslyn Metro station a better location? Did I make the right choice?
ABSOLUTELY! There were only about 20 VSK’s left in the stand which started with about 200. I was really happy with this development. I had made the right choice! I restocked the stand with another 200 hoping that would last a month.
It’s been four (4) months since I first started putting the VSK’s. In that time, I’ve learned there is a demand for the Vegan Starter Kits whether in a library or at the metro station. I also learned that I prefer to restock the supply monthly so I’ll be leaving about 300 total in the three locations. If all goes well, over 3,500 VSK’s should be taken in a year. And that’s not to shabby a number considering the minuscule amount of time I will be spending on the project. 🙂