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The Anderson Humane Society’s animals will be riding in style, thanks to Toyota and YouTube.
With the help of volunteers, one YouTube video and social networking, the Anderson Humane Society won a new Toyota Sienna minivan through the car company’s “100 Cars for Good” program.
Donna Callahan, executive director of the Anderson Humane Society, learned of Toyota’s promotion in the beginning of March. She sent out an e-mail March 2, asking members to help draft a grant in order for the group to move on to the next stage of competition.
“’Hey gals — either of you want to do this grant real quick? We sure cold use a nice van to transport pooches in!” Callahan wrote via e-mail.
When volunteers learned their grant application was accepted, they also learned they had only one week to plan, shoot and edit a winning YouTube video. The entries were narrowed to 1,000 applicants, and only 500 finalists received a camera to shoot a video with.
Five separate non-profits competed each day during Toyota’s 100 days of the give-a-way in an online voting contest. The Humane Society was scheduled to compete on Day 27, June 4.
Karine Maynard, vice president and Humane Society volunteer, said they knew many of the other videos would be serious.
This wasn’t the case of the Anderson Humane Society’s YouTube submission. Maynard said to her, the video captured the spirit of Anderson County.
“I think the idea to use humor came from all the opinions (for the video): what about a dog hitchhiking on the side of a road? What if we all had wagons?” she said.
Her husband and fellow volunteer, Matt Maynard, agreed.
“These are all very heartfelt, serious stories,” he said, “but we need to approach it with a light-hearted feel, too.”
The video depicts Karine Maynard and other volunteers resorting to transporting dog food and animals via wheelbarrows, wagons and one ancient jalopy made of old farm equipment — Matt Maynard’s “art car” that has found notoriety on the Web.
Jason Chesser, Anderson County’s animal control officer, even brought his horses and wagon.
Before winning the new minivan, Humane Society volunteers transported animals and dog food using their own vehicles.
“Because we need the vehicle to transport animals to vet appointments, adoption events, out-of-state transports, etc. a van was most practical for our needs and so we requested the Toyota Sienna,” Lisa Beran, the Humane Society volunteer who wrote the grant, said via e-mail.
About 25 people were involved in the day and a half of shooting, moving from the Humane Society headquarters to Ace Hardware to a local farm. Bob Sanders and Beran edited and put the footage together.
Karine Maynard said handling the small Flip video camera provided by Toyota and shooting video was a new experience for the Humane Society. The Humane Society is more used to making slideshows of animals, usually uploaded to Facebook, one of the social media engines that increased voting for the non-profit.
Those who friended the Anderson Humane Society on Facebook were granted access to a link to their video, and links to vote online. On Saturday night fans and friends of the Humane Society tweeted, e-mailed, texted, posted and spread the word urging others to vote for the non-profit.
“Through friends, we mobilized people coast to coast,” Matt Maynard said. “It was exponential.”
Beran said she was skeptical about voting through Facebook, thinking it might exclude those who didn’t have an account, but it impressed her that Facebook made it possible to expand their community.
“Not only did it make communicating to a nationwide audience of people possible, but the friends sending to friends, etc. is really what got us the votes,” Beran said.
Karine Maynard agreed.
“That’s when everyone kicked in and started that social networking that Facebook is so good at,” she said.
By the end of the day of voting, the Anderson Humane Society led with about 37 percent, which Maynard estimates to be a couple of hundred people who voted.
“You want to say thank you to everyone, but there’s no way to know who voted,” she said.
Maynard said she found out the Humane Society won that night, and woke up Callahan to tell her the good news.
“At midnight my phone was just ringing, ringing,” Maynard said.
Callahan expressed her thanks for the community’s support via e-mail.
“I am so happy I can hardly contain my smile!” she said.
Beran said according to prior communications with Toyota, the Humane Society should receive the new vehicle within 30 days.
“Toyota’s very simple,” Maynard said. ‘Wait for it to be in your driveway!”
To view the Anderson County Humane Society’s winning YouTube entry, visit www.theandersonnews.com.