From his reign over Atlanta Pride to heading an organization focused on bringing pets and their owners closer together, Buck Cooke is ready to make PALS a household name and get the Atlanta LGBTQ community more involved!
What does it mean being the new executive director for PALS?
It’s a huge honor. PALS has had a great reputation in the community and is a respected organization, so to be selected by the board to serve in this role means a great deal. I don’t have a pet but I love animals, so to raise money to help our clients keep their pets and care for them is very satisfying.
What do you hope to accomplish in the new position?
One of my areas of focus is fundraising, of course, since that is part and parcel of working for any nonprofit organization. Another crucial area for me is organizational sustainability. For many LGBTQ organizations and HIV/AIDS service organizations, their founding was based around fighting for rights or dealing with a health crisis in the community and at a time when a huge section of the community was decimated by an illness that was, at the time, almost a death sentence. These organizations didn’t get to do a lot of strategic planning or building of infrastructure because their founders and members were literally scrambling to keep the mission of the organization moving forward and trying to find people to help keep things afloat.
As a result, many LGBTQ and HIV/AIDS organizations struggle with succession planning, onboarding of new members and leaders, creating a pipeline of involvement within the organization, and other basic issues of organizational sustainability. I am excited to bring my experience in this area to PALS. Creating operational documents and checklists and evaluations might not be as sexy as planning a fundraiser with entertainment and yummy food, but it’s critical to the survival of an organization. I want to make sure PALS is here to help people living with critical illnesses, people with disabilities, and the elderly care for their pets.
How has the community welcomed and embraced the changes you’ve brought to PALS?
Since I’ve only been with the organization for a few weeks, I’m still getting my feet wet, but we’re hard at work planning the second annual Fur Ball Masquerade, our large fundraiser on November 1 at the Fox Theater. Making sure that the event is well-planned and executed is a priority for our dedicated board members, and it’s a big priority for me as well.
We also are growing our client base, hosting our monthly, themed Drag Queen Bingo Nights at Lips and our monthly low-cost veterinarian clinics at our office. We’re looking for new volunteers to help us with all of those events, food delivery, and other functions, so I hope people would like to get involved.