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Effingham Magazine



Story by Kelly Harley Photos by Tonya Perry

For over eight years, Effingham’s HOPE Organization (helping Out Pets in Effingham) has given a tremendous amount of real hope to much of the community’s furry friends.

Patricia “Pat” Manser, a New York native, has lived in the area with her husband Rudy for over 21 years; the couple has three daughters: Elaine, Marie and Lorraine.

Pat has long possessed a beautiful heart for the welfare of animals, and she began helping at Effingham County Animal Shelter (ECAS) over 15 years ago. Pat saw that there were a vast amount of animal needs that were not being met due to a lack of funding, and so the euthanasia rate was unacceptably high. Pat was not content with that reality; she had a fervent desire to make a positive change.

In 2012, after seeing a dire need for additional services within ECAS, those not being provided by the county, Pat founded HOPE, a 501(c)(3) organization. In addition, Dena Stapleton has been the board executive for HOPE for the past few years; she has persisted to exemplify a real commitment to the cause and has consistently championed it alongside Pat.

Pat created HOPE with the mission to “reduce the population of unwanted animals in the area, getting the adoptable ones out of ECAS alive and into homes or rescue organizations.”

She really appreciates all that ECAS has done for the shelter animals. Lorna Shelton has been the ECAS director for 5 years; Georgiana Steese has been a dedicated shelter representative for 2 years. Jessi Kicklighter and Tracy Grossman have been committed to the team for quite some time as well. Additionally, various Effingham County inmates have been priviliged to assist the team over the years.

Pat feels that Lorna has proved to be one of the best directors that she has been honored to work with.

“Lorna is so easy to work with; it’s teamwork. When it’s teamwork, it goes along so much better. I’ve never seen a manager work as hard as her. She has often gone out of her way, far beyond what is called for. It is so nice to work with somebody like that,” Pat said.

Pat certainly leads by example, as she adopted her own dog, Fritz, from the shelter. Lovingly calling him her “little boy,” Pat fostered Fritz for two months through Coastal Pet Rescue before she adopted him.

“I fell in love with him and kept him,” she said.

Pat knows, first-hand, the value that the little furballs can add to one’s life, making it inconceivable that anyone could ever mistreat them. She, though, remembers the story of Dorie, a puppy that had been rescued after being brutally kicked around in an open field.

“She was mangy and bald when she came into the shelter. She, however, turned out to be a beautiful Golden Retriever. I called Low Country Golden Retriever Rescue; they took Dorie in, and she was adopted,” Pat recalled. Dorie’s new owner told Pat just how much Dorie changed her life.

“And they do. That little animal coming into your life can change your life. It does not just help the animal; it helps us humans, too,” she remarked.

Character, Strength and Courage Pat feels that the little guys have impacted her world in countless, wonderful ways—in the good times and even the difficult ones. She feels that they have been a big source of inspiration over the years, contributing to her love for life and a lot of her overall determination.

In 2013, barely a year after she started HOPE, Pat was diagnosed with colon cancer. Throughout the years, the cancer would subside but later resurface; she has endured several hospital stays and four surgeries, one of which was quite recent.

Pat’s family and friends, along with the ECAS team, have marveled at her strength and courage for some time now, especially since she persists to maintain the same selfless, loving attitude through it all.

“She has been really blessed; God has really looked out for her. Her attitude and outlook have made a huge difference. She’s a fighter. She is my best friend here. I just love her so much,” Lorna said.

Pat knows that she has been undeniably blessed. “I’m grateful. This has been my 4th time of my recurrence of colon cancer, and I’m not ready to give up yet. I feel I have a purpose. I think the organization is helping me to get through a lot of this,” she said.

Pat gives a ton of credit to the job she enjoys, along with her furry friends that she loves to pieces. “They’re a big part of my life,” she stated.

Making a Difference by Bringing HOPE Since its inception, HOPE has made a tremendous difference at the shelter. Last year alone, HOPE invested over $21,000 in the lives of animals. Some services funded by HOPE include: vaccinations (DHPP for dogs and FVRCP for cats), infectious disease testing (heartworm tests for dogs or leukemia and AIDS tests for cats), on-hand pain medications, antibiotics for triaging and emergency veterinary visits when needed. HOPE has also helped fund a spay and neuter program which has been a huge asset.

“It really helps the whole community with the overpopulation of these animals.

I think we’ve come a real long way with that,” Pat mentioned.

Through HOPE, Pat purchased kennel barriers for the stray animal area in the back of the shelter, an added effort to keep all of the animals safe.

Moreover, for her feline friends, she has recently helped to fund a “catio” (cat patio) for the shelter, along with assisting in its “Trap, Neuter, Release” (TNR) Program.

Spearheaded by Georgiana, TNR is an alternative to euthanization, helping to preserve the lives of healthy feral cats. The cats receive overall treatment at the shelter, which includes neutering and rabies vaccinations. Afterwards, they are returned to the location where they were found, a location with a good food and shelter source.

“TNR stabilizes cat colonies and helps promote public health by reducing the number of unvaccinated cats in the community.” All-in-all, it has contributed to the shelter euthanization rate being about 21%, one of the lowest ever.

“All of this is due to Pat and everything that she has done for this shelter. I can’t think of all she has done because she has done so much. There are no words to describe the kind of person she is. She is kind, loving and giving,” Lorna said.

Interestingly enough, last year, HOPE supplied the Effingham County Fire Department and Emergency Medical Services with animal oxygen masks while universal scanners were also purchased for animal control officers. That is certainly going way beyond the call of duty.

“I definitely see Pat’s passion playing out with her love for the animals; she has a heart for all the animals,” Georgiana added.

Pat is always grateful to help. She loves what she does and would not trade it for the world. She is confident that she is living out her true calling—caring for animals in need, those that have been mistreated, ignored or just left behind. She is that kind voice, that warm smile, that delicate touch that many of them have never known.

“It has really given me a sense of purpose, and I just feel good all over to be able to do it,” Pat asserted.

The funds to support HOPE come from its generous patrons, and Pat wholeheartedly appreciates them all.

“That’s where we get most of our money; we can’t do it without them,” she said.

Some of the shelter’s biggest contributions come by way of the HOPE Hut, a real treasure that was started by Georgiana. Every month, kind citizens donate gently used animal products. Georgiana is able to sell them at the Springfield Antique Mall, as she has created a nice booth there. All proceeds benefit the shelter.

Sincere Gratitude Pat is thankful for her loving and supportive family and friends; she also appreciates the exceptional ECAS team.

“They’re wonderful; they care. They go above and beyond,” she remarked.

Further, Georgiana is grateful for the opportunity to work within a group with similar interests and concerns, all working toward a common, meaningful goal; she is honored for the opportunity to work alongside Pat, who she feels encompasses phenomenal strength, resilience and character.

“It has truly been one of the most gratifying jobs I have ever had. I love it. Pat is a very special lady. I feel like God is keeping her going along ... it’s just amazing. She definitely has a purpose here,” Georgiana said.

The ladies are proud of what has been accomplished for the shelter … for the animals … for the community as a whole.

“We have been an unbeatable team in Effingham,” Lorna stated.

With a HOPEful heart, Pat Manser is looking forward to bright and promising days ahead for herself and her community.