Rose Chmielewski was a child when she rescued her first dog.
The collie was emaciated, had been shot by a BB gun and spent his days tied to a tree. When the dog got loose one day, Rose brought him to her house and called his owners. They said they didn’t care what happened to the dog, Kipper, who became the catalyst for what Chmielewski now describes as her life passion.
Now 23, Chmielewski, for Rock Hill, operates Every Life Matters Animal Rescue, a charity she founded a few months ago.
“I’ve just always had a soft spot for animals,” said Chmielewski. “I picked up animals all the time growing up.”
Chmielewski will compete in the South Carolina Strawberry Festival Pageant in Fort Mill Saturday, April 11, to bring awareness to her charity and educate the public on topics such as responsible pet ownership and the plight of shelter animals.
According to the Humane Society of the United States, about 7 million animals nationwide are taken into shelters each year. Of those, about 2.7 million animals are euthanized.
Although the Chmielewski family fostered around a dozen pets and volunteered at shelters while Rose was growing up, it wasn’t until the summer of 2013 when a relationship ended that she became heavily involved in animal rescue.
“I needed something to replace it with,” Chmielewski said. “To fill that void.”
For the next year and a half, Chmielewski got involved with local animal rescue groups, rescuing pets, helping with bookkeeping and organizing fundraisers and events. Chmielewski was a key organizer for a silent auction gala at the end of last year that raised $1,600 for a local rescue group.
When Chmielewski was laid off from her job in the forklift industry last May, she volunteered with rescues full-time until returning to work for Forklift Pro in December.
Around that time Chmielewski decided to start her own animal rescue organization. Every Life Matters Animal Rescue is listed with the state as a charity, and Chmielewski plans to apply for 501(c)3 nonprofit status.
Since December, Chmielewski and her team have saved more than 60 shelter animals. ELMAR has around 20 animals available for adoption. Social media is the main way the rescue gets word out about animals in need.
“Facebook is very big in the rescue world,” Chmielewski said.
The organization is financed by donations and operates with volunteers. Another vital part of the rescue is its network of fosters – people who provide animals with a temporary home until they are adopted. More fosters and volunteers are always needed, Chmielewski said.
“It just means we can save more dogs,” she said.
Rescuing animals can be costly, especially when many are sick, Chmielewski said. It costs around $450 to treat an animal with heartworm disease, for example.
“A lot of these dogs definitely surpass their adoption fee,” Chmielewski said. “We’re relying on donations to remain.”
ELMAR focuses on a holistic approach with the animals, Chmielewski said, not just saving them from shelters, but providing them with behavioral training if needed. Chmielewski partners with Customized K-9 Professional Dog Training by Anthony Rosa in Clover.
Chmielewski was the co-chairwoman for the Cookies for Kids’ Cancer 5K in York County last year. CFKC is the Strawberry pageant’s chosen platform for the second year in a row. But whether she was raising money for animal rescue or pediatric cancer, Chmielewski said one local business has always supported her efforts.
“Empire Pizza and Bar and owner Kosta Doulaveris has always been a wonderful sponsor to me and all my charities,” she said. Empire houses donation jars for the rescue at their Newport and Fort Mill locations.
The pageant’s emphasis on each contestant’s platform was what drew Chmielewski to enter the pageant the past two years.
“It’s the growth and confidence in yourself that you learn,” said Chmielewski, who was Miss Red Rose of Lancaster 2012 and competed in the Strawberry pageant last year.
If crowned, Chmielewski said she would continue her passion to educate the community on shelter statistics and help as many animals as she can.
“It’s definitely not easy,” Chmielewski said. “There’s a lot of tears shed and a lot of happy moments. It’s about the rescue and getting funding for these animals, so they can survive.”
Want to help?
In addition to monetary donations, ELMAR is seeking donations of collapsible metal crates, collars, leashes, cleaning supplies and gas cards, to assist with transporting animals to and from shelters and foster homes. Paypal donations can be made to firstname.lastname@example.org. Checks may be mailed to 530 Harmony Glen Circle, Rock Hill, S.C. 29730.
Call Rose Chmielewski at 803-579-1250. For more information, go to everylifemattersanimalrescue.com.