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Pooler Magazine

Lisa Scarbrough to the Rescue

Lisa Scarbrough to the Rescue

Story by Cindy Reid


Lisa Scarbrough is the founder and director of Coastal Pet Rescue, a non-profit animal rescue organization 501(c)(3) dedicated to saving the lives of homeless, abused and neglected dogs and cats in Savannah and surrounding areas.

Founded in February 2003, Coastal Pet Rescue has changed the lives of countless homeless pets in Chatham, Bryan and Effingham counties through its foster home program and small capacity shelter, Camp Pawsawhile Retreat. As director of Coastal Pet Rescue, Lisa serves as Chief Executive of the Executive Board.

She has dedicated herself selflessly to Coastal Pet Rescue and on any given day she can be found transporting animals from surgery, picking up a rescue, conducting an intake or handling a prospective adoption meet and greet. Lisa is a “paws on the ground” manager, and says “There is no typical day because we never have the same day twice, which is good and also scary!”

Early Rescues

Caring for animals “Is just how I was raised,” says Lisa, “My Dad showed me by example and his teachings have transitioned over to me and stayed close to my heart.”

The family moved to Tybee Island when Lisa was 12 years old and she grew up helping out at the family business—Lazaretto Creek Marina and Captain Mike’s Dolphin Tours.

The family’s first rescue pet was Peaches, a terrier mix dog “ who literally ran into our house,” says Lisa, who was in second grade at the time, “and we couldn’t say no so she stayed and promptly had nine puppies.”

In sixth grade Lisa found a puppy in the Crab Shack restaurant dumpster. “We were going to keep the ‘dumpster puppy’ for one week. Of course that didn’t last and we kept her for 14 years.”

Lisa says it was a wonderful childhood and that she inherited her work ethic from her parents Mike and Iris. “Mom, who I am named for, worked at Southern Bell for 27 years. She was a great Mom. I learned by watching both her and my Dad work hard every day.”

Lisa was a First Mate while studying for her Captain's License and looked into attending the Coast Guard Academy but ultimately went to college to pursue her dream of being a National Geographic Society photojournalist. It was the beginning of the personal computer era and after graduation from Georgia Southern she became a web developer.

But there were still animals in need.

Coastal Pet Rescue

Coastal Pet Rescue recently celebrated its 20th anniversary. Lisa says, “I had no intention to do this for 20 years. It started when I kept bringing homeless pets I found into the vet. I was paying for their care out of my pocket and my vet, Dr. Pam Fandrich, said I should do this as a non-profit. It started because I wanted to help the animals I was finding and here is where we have ended up.”

Starting a new organization also includes fundraising and public relations. “I am actually an introvert but running a nonprofit means you have to get in front of people so I have had to work hard on that. My female mentors have been a huge help,” says Lisa, “The eWomen Network—Marjorie Young from Carriage Trade Public Relations who taught me so much, Bunny Ware, who helped me build up my comfort zone—they were all very supportive of me.”

While it is rewarding, the work also remains stubbornly difficult. Lisa says, “I absolutely love working with animals and I know I have done the best I can do but I still have anxiety over all the problems people throw at us on any day. Our resources are finite and we can’t create more space, especially during kitten season.”

Coastal Pet Rescue works with other rescue organizations to provide referrals. “No one organization can do it all,” says Lisa.

Family & Work Balance

Although she was working around the clock with Coastal Pet Rescue Lisa says, “My trajectory changed when my son Ian was born.” She loved being a new mom but early on she saw he wasn’t following the standard milestones. Ian was diagnosed as developmentally delayed at nine months old and diagnosed on the autism spectrum at 18 months old.

Lisa had moved to Effingham in 2009, which has been a good fit for her and Ian. “I was advised to keep him in the Effingham school system and today he thrives out here. It is a safe environment where I don’t have to worry about my son. We love it here.”

Being a single parent, especially with a child who needed much support, meant Lisa had to make work/life changes. “I had been going out in the evening for speaking engagements to get support for the rescue but there wasn’t any child care where I was going and my son had therapy three times a week. He had become my primary focus and I really had to rely on others to carry the rescue.”

She says the rescue staff has been able to fill in the gaps and that the majority are women who understand the challenges. “Luckily I have trained enough people so that it is not necessary that I am there every minute of the day. As a single mom with a son on the autism spectrum, I need flexibility. At the rescue I have back up available for me. If I need to be elsewhere, the rescue can function.”

Today Ian and Coastal Pet Rescue are both doing great and Lisa is able to devote time to another passion- scouting.

Boy Scouts of America

Although Ian was involved with several activities, as soon as he was old enough Lisa signed him up for Boy Scouts. Scouting proved to be beneficial for Ian and Lisa both. She says “At the time there were a lot of challenges and scouting gave me a place to have that support as a mom that I didn't have before. I found my people at Scouts.”

She never saw herself as a Scoutmaster, preferring the behind the scenes organizational work, but when she was asked to step in as Scoutmaster for the all-girls Troop 665G Rincon last year she said she was “both honored and terrified.”

Today the troop consists of eight girls, with three more joining at the end of the month, and at their most recent court of honor they earned over 50 combined awards and have performed nearly 90 hours combined community service.

“I am so proud of these girls and it has been more rewarding than I could have imagined,” says Lisa.

Lisa is also the Council STEM Chair at Coastal Georgia Council, BSA. STEM—Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics—is part of an initiative the Boy Scouts of America has taken on to encourage the natural curiosity of youth members and their sense of wonder about these fields.

Lisa says scouting, and just being outdoors, is her family’s fun time. “We found early on getting outside works great for my son and I. We really enjoy camping and touring battlefields because Ian loves historical places, and I enjoy helping others experience these places for the first time.”

They are currently hosting an exchange student from Spain and have enjoyed showing him the sights. She says, “That's the down time, being outside on a trail, where it’s peaceful. I like doing the nature loop at Skidaway but I have all the park passes and we go all over. Ultimately camping is my best recharge time.”

Twenty Years

“I have the same birthday as Coastal Pet Rescue, which just turned 20, and I turned 44. I had honestly hoped that in 20 years I would have been retired from rescue because it wasn't needed anymore. But that’s not the case, “ says Lisa.

“The work can be heartbreaking and difficult, especially when dealing with people, and it has taken an emotional toll.” But she says “Ian is now 12 years old and doing so much better and I love what I do for the animals. It really has been an incredible journey and I look forward to the next 20 years. I can’t wait to see what’s next!”