Abby Serfilippi’s passion for helping animals began in the fourth grade.
The 16-year-old Delmar resident said her life changed after she was asked to do a service project while still a student at St. Thomas the Apostle School. Students were asked to do volunteer work in area animal shelters, but she soon realized she wanted to do more.
“I didn’t really know about animals being abused and abandoned, or in shelters, until I did that service project,” she said.
Serfilippi started small. Having a guinea pig of her own, she began by helping to find homes for guinea pigs that had been brought to local shelters.
“She became quite persistent in her goal of providing a home for these animals, and we adopted many homeless guinea pigs,” said Abby’s mother, Mary Jane Serfilippi. The family has adopted 22 guinea pigs over the years and currently owns eight of the small creatures.
But Serfilippi still wanted to do more. She was soon given permission to sell homemade crafts at her school’s crafts fair, with all of the proceeds going to local animal shelters and sanctuaries. That’s how her small local business, the Dust Bunnies Boutique, was formed.
Serfilippi’s creations are now sold at Perfect Blend Cafe and Loving Cafe in Delmar, and Lil’ Buddha Tea in Albany, among other places. She also sets up tables at various craft fairs throughout the region and the Delmar Farmer’s Market. The business is a family affair, with Serfilippi’s mother and sister both helping make the crafts.
“My family has really helped me and they’ve always been really supportive,” said Serfilippi, adding how she believes the experience has helped them bond.
Many will be familiar with Serfilippi’s Button Buddies, small felt animals that are decorated and glued to buttons. But the family also makes Buddies in a Basket. These creations are similar, but slightly larger and placed in small baskets. Serfilippi said they are popular around Easter, while the family’s homemade Christmas ornaments are also a best seller for those seeking holiday gifts.
Since the venture began, Serfilippi has raised $5,000 to be donated to local animal havens, including the Mohawk Hudson Humane Society, the Catskill Animal Sanctuary, Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary, Farm Sanctuary and the Critter Connection in Connecticut. Serfilippi raised $1,700 this year alone, with her most recent donation of $500 being presented to the Animal Protection Foundation in Scotia two weeks ago.
“We try to raise money throughout the year and then give one large donation to the organizations each year,” she said.
Serfilippi said her first service project and her work with animals have dramatically altered her life choices.
The Academy of the Holy Name student became a vegan after learning about factory farming and seeing videos of animals being abused by farm workers. She’s created her own information pamphlets about factory farms that promotes a “plant-based diet” and started a “Meatless Monday” movement at her school. Serfilippi also chooses her clothes and personal care products based on whether they were tested on or made from animals.
“Her dream is to see all animals treated with respect and kindness,” said Mary Jane Serfilippi. “Until this happens, Abby will continue to be the voice for the helpless and overlooked animals in our community.”
Serfilippi said she plans to continue her work to protect animals, but is not sure if she will one day make it her career.
“I don’t really know what I want to do when I’m older, but I’m open to suggestions,” she said.
Serfilippi said what she does know is she’s happy to have participated in that first service project in fourth grade.
“It really opened my eyes,” she said. “I wouldn’t have known about any of this stuff that goes on and I didn’t really know the true story behind the food that was on my plate. It changed my entire lifestyle.”
The Dust Bunnies Boutique can be found on Facebook.