Seth Dellinger remembers the day he was dropped off at Bethesda Mission.
He was a recovering alcoholic, fresh out of rehab. He didn’t stay long, but his experience stayed with him. Now, he’s going back.
“Being able to go back there and help people in the same psychological place as me is important to me,” said Dellinger, director of community engagement at Animal Advocates of South Central PA.
Dellinger and a small group of five from Animal Advocates (pictured) will be serving a completely vegan meal to around 200 residents of the mission. It will include vegan chili, vegetables and other side dishes. They first served at Bethesda in January and decided to return on Aug. 10.
Animal Advocates is a York-based group with a mission to spread the practice of veganism in the area, Dellinger explained. They do this through outreach at fairs, vegan challenges, coaching and volunteer days at animal shelters and rescue missions.
Dellinger explained that one of the main criticisms vegans face is the allegation that they don’t care enough about people. The meal at Bethesda is one way to show that, while they do focus their attention on animals, they care a great deal about people, as well.
Bethesda Mission communications specialist Jessica Henry was grateful to hear the group was returning, especially during a time of year when volunteer participation can decrease.
“To have them in the summer when people aren’t necessarily thinking about shelters is really helpful,” she said. “We are happy to have them again.”
Although Animal Advocates is serving a vegan meal, the goal is not necessarily to persuade any Bethesda residents to become vegan, Dellinger said.
“It’s more about something we are able to do to help them that is in our own ethics,” he said. “No animals are being killed in that meal.”
He noted that, in January, almost all residents said that they enjoyed the meal.
Dellinger also pointed out that veganism doesn’t mean you have to purchase expensive specialty foods from vegan retailers–that it can be affordable.
“Rice is vegan, apples are vegan, you can eat healthy very inexpensively,” he said. “In a way, [the meal] is to demonstrate that vegan food is for everyone.”