LYMAN, MS (WLOX) - South Mississippi Animal Rescue Team and Refuge in Lyman is the only local animal shelter with an absolute "no kill" policy. Some of the pets they rescue stay there for years, but get trained and eventually many are adopted out.
The founder and her children run the open air refuge with virtually no financial assistance. So we honor the volunteers of SMARTR as South Mississippi Heroes.
Sitting at his microphone in the 105.9 WHGO studios, long time Coast radio personality "Weerd" Wayne Watkins talks about his favorite charity on the air a lot.
"Consider adopting and animal from this no kill shelter and drop off your bags of dog and cat food right here at the station," Watkins told listeners.
He said the people who run South Mississippi's only "no kill" shelter, SMARTR, are selfless heroes to the animals they save.
"SMARTR is a fabulous no kill organization," Watkins said. "And as much as I am an animal lover, I think every innocent pet should have a chance at life."
Watkins is talking about animals like Chester, who got adopted after four years at the no kill shelter. He has an almost knowing and grateful expression with his new owner. Time was something he needed and got, thanks to them.
Blondie was adopted after three years of training at the animal refuge. And Petey's owner passed away knowing his best friend would not be killed, but rather, cared for.
"Can you imagine hundreds of animals and you're keeping and maintaining, you know, and feeding them and loving them," Watkins said. "And the amazing thing about SMARTR is most of it comes out of their own pockets because of the love for the animals."
It all comes at the personal expense of about $40,000 a year to its founder, Jonean Crowle. She and her sons, Colt and J, spend virtually all of their time and money there. Even J's fiancee, Roxanne, has dedicated her life to the animal refuge, sacrificing a whole lot.
Jonean Crowle said, "Three years in a row, they have postponed their wedding. They've given up every bit of money they could. They selflessly devote everything and they've even put college on hold."
To care for the more than 400 animals, they even sleep in tents at night with no power or water on land generously leant to them by Cotton Fore.
"He's our protector," Crowle said. "He doesn't know that, I don't think, but he is our protector. Thanks to him, we have survived the past two years."
Now they've found a flat piece of land they'd like to buy, where they can build and set up their animal rescue and refuge center for good.
"So that we can put in electric and water, cause we've trucked in water for two years and used little head lights at night to see what we're doing, and a propane lantern in the tent where the kids stay," Jonean Crowle said.
Their goal is a permanent "no kill" shelter. Wayne Watkins said most other states have federally funded ones, but with this community's support, he feels Jonean Crowle could create one here and save countless more innocent lives.
"I would be ecstatic," Watkins said. "It would be a dream come true."
And more happy endings for pets like Chester who need the time to find their forever homes.