News of Julianne Westberry being inducted into the United Way AmeriCorps went viral over the weekend, creating a backlash against the Anderson, South Carolina agency. AmeriCorps is the national service initiative signed into law by President Clinton in 1993. Americans earn education awards in return for encouraging and rewarding service, where their mission AmeriCorps is to improve lives, strengthen communities, and foster civic engagement through service and volunteering.
I want to explain how I learned of this and what action has been taken by the cat advocacy community since this was posted Sunday on social media. First of all, I was contacted by several of my cat friends about the article posted. Westberry is pictured on the left wearing an orangy/red shirt. The photo has since been removed, but the article remains online. I was enraged, since the article tells us that Julianne Westberry was inducted for the 2015-2016 year.
Last night I emailed Anderson mayor Terence Roberts about the honor bestowed on Westberry. I included the new website to go online showing the crime scene photos inside the house. I want to warn readers here DO NOT look at these photos, because once you see them, you can’t un-see them. There are photos of the dead cats inside the Westberry home, a well as photos taken at the farm where many of the cats were released or allegedly destroyed. If you click on this link you’ll be taken the page of photos. They are thumbnail photos and when you arrive at the page you won’t initially see full images.
The email I sent to Terence was forwarded to United Way in Anderson, after which I received the following reply:
Good afternoon Elisa,
Mayor Roberts forwarded us your inquiry into Julianne Westberry. Please allow me try to clarify this issue in regards to United Way of Anderson County for you.
Julianne Westberry was a member of our AmeriCorps Program from August 2013 – May 2014. Prior to her service with AmeriCorps at United Way of Anderson County, she had no arrests or infractions on her record. We do background checks on everyone that we employ here. When this issue was brought to the forefront in June of 2014, she was no longer employed as an AmeriCorps member with United Way of Anderson County. The photo that was on our website was old photo with a new article and has been removed.
We currently have no affiliation with Miss Westberry and have not been affiliated with her since May 2014.
Please feel free to contact us if you would like to discuss the great things we are doing here at United Way of Anderson County and the impact we have made in our community through our programs and through the various other agency programs we have funded over our 70 years in existence.
Director of Marketing & Communications
United Way of Anderson County
604 N. Murray Ave.
Anderson, SC 29625
P.O. Box 2067
Anderson, SC 29622
From what I gathered from additional emails from Lynn, her office has been very busy with calls, faxes and emails concerning the photo and the article. Lynn said she was very surprised to see that photo along with the article. Comments are still being made on their Facebook page.
The United Way posted a response on May 9 as to when the photo was originally posted on Facebook stating
“the photo was not mistakenly posted. It HAD been on our website since 2013 and was never removed. When it was posted, she was a member of our AmeriCorps team BEFORE all of this issue was discovered. We will NOT post a retraction because we have not done anything wrong and as far as we are concerned, this matter is over and we have nothing to do with it. As I’ve stated before, if you have issues or concerns about Miss Westberry, please contact The South Carolina Law Enforcement Division or the Anderson County Sheriff’s Office.”
After seeing the latest statement, I did yet another search, this time into their Facebook albums. The photo is from one of their albums from October 3, 2014, and can be found here. Please stop contacting the United Way, as they’re telling the truth about this. The offensive photo from 2014 has been removed from the article.
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