On Saturday, July 20, at 6:30 PM, under the tents at the intersection of Wickapogue Road and Old Town Road in Southampton, the Southampton Animal Shelter will celebrate 10 years of Unconditional Love.
The annual event, chaired this year by Jean Shafiroff with host committee members including Antonella Bertello, Amy Cosman, Missy Hargraves, Sharon Kerr, and Randi Schatz, raises money for the no-kill shelter that welcomes all animals, regardless of medical condition, age, breed, or size, serving as a stepping stone for homeless pets until they find their forever home.
While animals certainly hit a soft spot for many, and a decade of caring for community pets is an accomplishment in itself, what makes the Southampton Animal Shelter Foundation particularly unique is it’s breeding a whole new generation of philanthropists, as seen through its junior committee. Junior chair is Kate McEntee, and junior co-chairs include Kingsley Crawford, Jenny Dwork, and Merritt Piro.
McEntee, director of adoptions, began at the shelter as a volunteer and after attending the gala, started its junior committee. “I wanted to invite friends and introduce people my age to the foundation, and having a party is the perfect way to do that,” she noted. The junior committee, which caps off at 35 years of age, began with a small group and has now grown to 20 young people selling tickets, organizing, and getting auction items. The 33-year-old director claims she has “the best job in the world” with “the most amazing staff” that helps pets find homes in a happy, healthy environment.
Piro, 27, has volunteered with animals from a young age with a program called Guiding Eyes for the Blind in upstate New York, where she trained puppies as seeing eye dogs in her personal home. “I have always had an affinity for helping animals and a compassion for their care, so getting involved came naturally to me,” Piro said.
She became involved with the shelter five years ago as a junior committee member for the Unconditional Love gala, alongside helping at various other events. This past spring, Piro was asked to join the SASF Board of Directors, where she currently serves as a member. She added, “It’s tough to ever feel fully accomplished when it comes to animal rescue, but spreading awareness among the younger generation out east, and helping people become more involved with volunteer work is important.”
Crawford, 33, got involved four years ago but said this year is the most rewarding, as she joins Unconditional Love as junior co-chair. “At any given time, at my family’s home, there are eight dogs, all rescues. We never went to breeders simply because there are so many animals that need homes, and we knew no other way. Two years ago, my boyfriend Jesse and I adopted Oliver from Southampton Animal Shelter, and he has brought us and our other dog so much laughter and love. We can’t remember what it was like before adopting him,” said Crawford.
As part of her dedication, Crawford and other members of the auction committee have aided in gathering items up for grabs such as experiences, fashion pieces, sporting activities, art, even a restored Classic 1952 MG TD British automobile. At the event itself, animals will be up for adoption, and money raised at the event additionally goes toward helping veterans in need of companion animals.
Dwork, 34, noted that being involved is about more than donating money. “You can donate your professional expertise, and your network,” she said. She lends her talents to the digital marketing and social media side of things, which eventually led her to adopt a kitten of her own.
“This gala stands out because it is a celebration — it is recognizing everything we did, everyone we helped, and what we are really about — and that is something to cheer about. We are the community shelter and we could never do what we do without the support of our community,” McEntee concluded.
Aimee Sadler will be this year’s honoree. Sadler is the founder and CEO of Dogs Playing for Life. A cocktail hour will be followed by dinner and dancing. The entertainment will be provided by Elan Artists’ Nation. Stone Creek Inn is catering the dinner.
Tickets are available online at www.southamptonanimalshelter.com with auction items listed. To bid on items, register by texting ULOVE19 to 52182.