Tau Sigma Gamma’s Partnership with Animal Sanctuary Extends Beyond Service
A Chester County farm founded by an Ursinus alum provides volunteer opportunities for the members of Tau Sigma Gamma sorority in a symbiotic partnership.
Chenoa Manor is a volunteer-run sanctuary located in Avondale, Pa. Founded by veterinarian Rob Teti ’95 in 2003, the nonprofit is home to animals such as horses, cows, sheep, pigs, birds, and reptiles. Teti’s mission in establishing the 25-acre farm was twofold, he said. “The mission was to allow for a permanent placement for farm animals and exotics that would not have had any alternative placement. The other component was to allow an environment that would nurture young people.”
For members of Tau Sigma Gamma sorority, it has become a tradition to volunteer at the farm. They aim to visit at least twice each year to perform a full day of service. They care for the animals, maintain habitats, prepare beds for horses, and mend fencing.
Following the severe flooding caused by Hurricane Ida in the fall, the sisters pitched in to help clean up the grounds. “Chenoa was severely damaged, and it was rather eye-opening for a lot of us just how damaging all of the water could be,” said Jenna Menapace ’22, president of Tau Sigma Gamma. “There are streams that run through Chenoa, and some of them go through pastures and pathways for the animals. All of them were crowded over with branches that had swept through the stream. Fences were clogged with debris. We spent a lot of time cleaning up those fences. It was eye-opening, just how much of a difference we could make on a little community like that after such a big natural disaster.”
The group’s connection to Chenoa Manor extends beyond volunteering. Tau Sigma Gamma holds its annual formal at the farm, and also visits as part of the new member education process.
“We all go—the current sisters and our new members. It’s such a great way to bond with everybody,” said Menapace. “Not only do we do the hard labor of maybe getting the beds ready for the winter or fixing fences, but Rob always facilitates conversations at the end where we talk about what it’s meant to us to be there, what we did throughout the day, and how it has impacted us. Then we do various team-building exercises … I remember when I went through the [new member education] process we did an activity where we had to stand in front of a current sister and just hold eye contact with her for an extended period of time. A number of people started crying, just overcome with emotion. That was a really impactful moment for me. And Rob was really the facilitator of that whole event. He’s really supportive of us in helping to facilitate great connections with our new members while at the same time doing service for the farm.”
Ellen (Cosgrove) Labrecque ’95 was a classmate of Teti’s—and a member of Tau Sigma Gamma. She is part of the farm’s Elder Circle (a group of professionals who offer wisdom, experience, and expertise as needed), and she deeply supports the mission of the sanctuary. So much so that’s she recently wrote a book about Chenoa Manor titled A Wabi-Sabi World.
“Rob and I had been brainstorming for years about how to work together on a children’s book,” said Labrecque. “We wanted the book to work for adult and child readers alike: The message of the book is that no matter where a person or animal is on their life’s journey, they are always welcome, accepted, and loved at Chenoa Manor.”
“The Wabi-Sabi way is about finding perfection and acceptance in imperfection. We want everybody to live in a Wabi-Sabi world.”
Read more about Chenoa Manor in our 2010 story that appeared in Ursinus Magazine.