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Unconditional Love For Southampton Animal Shelter

Originally Posted: July 30, 2012

Lee Fryd

Jean Shafiroff, Lucia Hwong Gordon, Kim White, and Melanie Wambold found a puppy to love. (Photo: Rob Rich/SocietyAllure.com)

In three years, the Southampton Animal Shelter benefit has grown from a start-up cocktail benefit to a full-blown, sit-down gala. Chaired by Jean Shafiroff at the Southampton estate of Sandra McConnell, a roster of NBC personalities drove in for the night to pay homage to honorees Ellen and Chuck Scarborough.

Honorees Ellen and Chuck Scarborough. (Photo: Rob Rich/SocietyAllure.com)

The Southampton Animal Shelter became privately supported when city funds dried up. Their "angel" is below-the-radar benefactor Susan Allen.

I asked Scarborough's colleague's if they had a funny Chuck story. They all said the same thing.

"I do, but it couldn't be repeated," laughed Lynda Baquero, adding, "Don't tell those stories Darlene!" Darlene Rodriguez wasn't about to.

"Chuck is really very funny in social settings," explained David Ushery, Scarborough's substitute anchor and host of "The DeBrief." "The viewer just knows that he's been there for all the important stories." An example of his humor? "I may have to circle back to you on that. Not that there's anything illicit or untoward....We're like family and this is going to strike you as being funny as me saying this," said the bald anchor, "but we just like to let our hair down."

Clearly at an impasse, we asked "New York Live" host Jane Hansen about her work for shelter dogs. She said she has a rescue Yorkie. And "New York Live" showcases adoptable animals weekly on Thursdays, with 100% success, even for older ones, often the product of an economy too tough for their owners to afford.

Scarborough had just gotten two year old Emma, on "death row" at a Carolina shelter. "She was a homeless single mother from the South who found a gentleman of means in New York," he deadpanned. "Ellen gets a lot of emails from various organizations working for the welfare of animals and she just took pity on this particular one."

Leading ladies; Jean Shafiroff, Sandra McConnell, and Sharon Kerr. (Photo: Rob Rich/SocietyAllure.com)

Seems like Scarborough has an equally big heart, not only for animals and Hamptons charities, but his colleagues as well. "I anchored with Chuck for several years," Darlene Rodriguez said. In the beginning, "obviously there was a lot of pressure, and a big spotlight on me. He's a legend. And I was nervous. But, he really took me under his wing, gave me great advice, and supported me. To this day, I cherish that."

The advice? "Look at the camera and be seductive. Keep your eyes half closed as if you're just saying, 'come hither.'"

If Jean Shafiroff said, "come hither," to anyone other than husband Marty, we suspect she'd be selling fundraiser tickets. Behind those ball gowns is a tireless fund raiser who researches every charity to which she gives her name, and then brings in record contributions. "It's been a labor of love," she said of the Southampton Animal Shelter, "and a great team effort." Jean's daughters Elizabeth and Jaqueline are dedicated animal welfare supporters. We've seen Dad (Martin Shafiroff) walking the sweet Pit Bulls they've rescued, and Jean trying to find homes for the ones they can't keep.

Sandra McConnell also has a soft spot for the rescue animals she opened her house to help. We know her dear, beautiful Bella, who has recently passed, must have been in her and partner Chris Obetz' hearts that night, ours as well.


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