Clare’s House

 Clare’s House is a tail-wagging good time.

Like my German Shepherds I raised years ago Starr and Crosby, my ears perk up when I overhear chatter about making life better for both pets and their owners. Two new friends in the locker room of a local gym were chatting about “fostering dogs” and “time spent working together.”

Curious about their “dog talk,” I find out they volunteer at Clare’s House.

“We find short-term foster parents for dogs whose humans are either in the hospital or rehabilitation center,” Sue Harrison said. “Terry Economos started it. We are regrouping and always looking for volunteers. Karen and Terry are “the real thing” – they love dogs and wholeheartedly believe in this mission. There is no BS here. I love their enthusiasm and loyalty.”

Wanting to know more, I made a quick connection with Karen Newberry, communications director.

The original goal of Clare’s House, a nonprofit organization began in 2014 was simple: Help families keep their pets with them in their homes as long as possible. Its focus is on both the dogs and their humans. After all, dogs and humans are best friends. What is one without the other?

Clare’s House, manned completely by volunteers, helps dogs and humans overcome a temporary change such as hospitalization, rehab, deployment, or illness. This assists in avoiding added stress and worry about a dog who needs and provides loving companionship. If that is not possible, Clare’s House, in partnership with Yuppy Puppy, helps orphaned pets find the new, loving forever homes they so deserve.

Not a shelter or pet-sitting service, volunteers and foster parents consider themselves a home for the dogs – for a day or lifetime. Clare’s House calls their fosters TLC’s, or Temporary Loving Caregivers. A TLC’s love and care provide peace of mind and help humans and dogs navigate the crisis.

The energy of Terry Economos, executive director, is contagious.

“I can’t even begin to thank the Clare’s House team for all they do. The fact that everyone is a volunteer makes it even more special. I became aware early on that it was not going to happen with me solo. On November 7, 2018, I held a kickoffboutique/fundraiser at Table 3 and the turnout and support was amazing! This is where it started to fall into place. 2019 was the year of building a team and fundraising in the hope of purchasing a home we could call Clare’s House,” she said.

“My mom’s name was Clare and she died in 2009. That was also the same summer my Uncle Norm asked, “who will take care of my pets if I die?” I knew this was the perfect way to honor both my mom and my uncle.”

In 2020, a blind email to Valley Mount Ranch fulfilled the dream. The owner saw potential in filling the human need to keep a family pet at home and safe when that stability is threatened. He and his wife, Lori, provided a family farmhouse for Clare’s House to rehab. In July 2021, Second Chance Ranch opened its doors. Within a few months, it was apparent that many rescue pups and seniors desperately need a home, so Clare’s House turned the Ranch over to the rescue community to run as a senior surrender hospice rescue.

That allowed the team to return to what it started out to do, that is, provide one-on-one service to pets and their owners.

My invitation to Clare’s Pawty, its location donated by Perennial on Lockwood, in Webster Groves, was impressive for its celebration supporters, volunteers, foster parents and dogs. All kept happy by door prizes, appetizers, drinks, and dog treats. As a new volunteer myself and a former employee of the nonprofit world, I have never witnessed such a well-run nonprofit with such happy volunteers who matter as individuals in reaching Clare’s House’s mission of providing experienced and caring fostering. I was cheered and astounded at the number of supporters who showed up.

These working volunteers join Terry with a single vision: They love animals and pets. In addition, they want to use their considerable energy in the world.

 Lori Schonebaum, manager of marketing and social media, worked with Terry and reached out to her upon retirement because she loves dogs and Terry’s passion. She wants to help Clare’s house reach as many people as possible who might benefit from Clare’s House services or have interest in volunteering or fostering. She says, “Our key need is to build both our TLC (Temporary Loving Caregivers) and our support network at a pace that can sustain each other.”  And she invites everyone to follow Clare’s House on Facebook to stay up to date on the pups and events.

Karen Newberry, communications director, knew Terry as a coworker in the corporate world. At that time, Karen regularly ordered PetKids treats and catnip bags for pets of friends/family’s every year at Christmastime and then donated the proceeds to animal organizations like Stray Rescue. Karen signed on early to the Clare’s House team.

“Working on Second Chance Ranch became my full-time passion project throughout 2020 in the middle of the pandemic,” Karen said. She and Chris Stanze managed the volunteer scheduling. “I was part of the team that worked as a volunteer during the first months of operation.

When Clare’s House began their new chapter in late 2021, we focused on developing our fostering services. We’ve also begun ‘Golden Leash’ activities to walk dogs for owners who can’t physically do it themselves. Sometimes those dogs are the best medicine for their humans, and those are the relationships we want to nurture as long as we can!”

 Sue Harrison, volunteer coordinator, told me, “I got involved with Clare’s House because I knew Karen; she originally introduced me to the first rescue organization. As we refocused on the original vision, I told Karen and Terry, I would support them, in their efforts. I am involved with creating documents, monitoring the volunteer tracking system, attending, and helping with fundraisers, and attending weekly planning meetings. I like being on the ground floor and having a voice when decisions are made.”

Chris Stanza, foster, and volunteer coordinator, begins our conversation with these words, “I believe in signs.” I’m in. I believe in signs too.

After losing her beloved Tugger, Chris was talking with her husband about another dog to keep their dog Toby company. “He was getting older, missed his buddy and I thought needed a friend.”  Her husband was concerned about what might happen to the dog if they were unable to take care of him and said no more dogs.

“I can’t imagine being without a dog and I was sad about it. I’ve always had dogs, my parents had dogs and I’ve always volunteered helping animals. I wasn’t sleeping saw an article about Clare’s House. While I am thinking about no more dogs, I find an organization talking about opening a place to help senior dogs and their humans and that was my sign. I contacted Clare’s House and started by helping them with the opening of Second Chance Ranch. I then moved on with Terri and Karen to help them continue the Clare’s House mission of helping dogs and their humans in time of need, with temporary fostering of their family pet.”

“I really believe in their mission; people are kind and committed and everyone works together for the right reasons. Along with coordinating foster care and the volunteers, I answer emails and Facebook messages. I also prepare fostering humans who are ready to take in dogs,” she said about her responsibilities.

“Initially we started with seniors due to health and rehabbing issues. We also help veterans with their animals. We can also help women who might need to stay at a Women’s Shelter and get themselves settled. We are short-term care to get dogs and their human families through a rough spot,” Chris said.

Sue Smith, volunteer coordinator has one goal: Encourage and assist in the TLC giving area! “Chris, Sue, and I are on the “foster side” working side by side. I started at Second Chance Ranch and clicked with Terry. When Terry branched off with Clare’s House, it was a better fit for me. I wrote the SOP, as well as handle the thank you ideas and rewards for TLC volunteers. When we are trying to raise money and tender loving care givers, the only way to get word out, is to have fundraisers and I’m a part of that too.”

Sue understands that people might hesitate to turn their dog over, so she makes a special effort to walk them through the process which includes a meet and greet.

“I try to put their hearts at ease by telling them that we know about these dogs and know they are going back to their homes. We try to find out as much as we can about the dogs for our TLC volunteer. Our intentions are to return the dogs. This is short term.”

As for taking the Clare’s House mission forward, Terry would like to build a new physical Clare’s House that would be a home for orphaned family dogs. This is a long-term plan that will take time and significant resources. Karen adds, It’s a great need, and not easy to find families for orphaned dogs, but we will not give up on that effort.”

As Terry says, “We are hoping to have additional TLC’s (Temporary Loving Caregivers) open their homes to help in short-term care. Would it have been nice to have one home for our TLC family pets? Sure, but we are putting one paw in front of the other. Maybe in a few years….”

It was a sign for me- I am so happy I was listening in when Sue and Holly were talking. Amazing what can happen when we put our considerable energies into creating positive experiences. For both humans and dogs! I know both Starr and Crosby would be happy about Clare’s House. They would be wagging their tails!

Love Beyond Boundaries! Please go to the website for a TLC application and to find out more!

Clare’s House

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About Pam Wilson

I've been writing since I can remember. At heart, I am a story-teller; making sense of my world, finding humor and light through writing. Now I help clients to write their own stories. As I continue my own writing journey, my passion is to help clients write their own stories.

2 Comments

  1. Nancy Ellermann on July 29, 2022 at 6:13 pm

    Thanks Pam! Wonderful coverage about a needed service for our furry friends!



    • Pam Wilson on July 31, 2022 at 10:08 am

      thanks for reading!!!! Clare’s House is definitely needed!!!