With Valentines Day fast approaching, now is the time to reflect on what we cherish at Conway Area Humane Society. Admittedly, we have a lot to love! In addition to unforgettable animals, supportive staff, and a variety of community volunteers, CAHS is fortunate to have a phenomenal selection of Board Members. These individuals selflessly dedicate their passion for animals, talents, and community connectedness to help the circumstances of homeless animals.
This month, we highlight the work of Nathan Marles. Nathan’s commitment to CAHS, his compassion for homeless animals, and his community-centered spirit, is at the heart of all we do. What is your passion? Did you always know what was most important to you, or did your life’s purpose become apparent over time? For Nathan Marles, the answer to that question is probably a combination of both.
Nathan’s dedication to CAHS began in 2016, but his appreciation for the human-animal bond began as a child. Typical of many animal lovers, Nathan grew up with pets. His mother was a ‘cat person’ with a particular affinity for felines needing rehabilitation. All but one of her cats had been abused in some way prior to joining their family. Young Nathan grew up watching his mother rescue and comfort homeless animals, a testimony to the power of empathy in the healing process. These formative experiences left an impression that would follow Nathan into adulthood.
Nathan spent his college years at Florida Technical Institute, a fitting institution for a business-minded computer guru. Although Nathan’s education was based on business and logic, these years also provided him powerful experiences to empathize with homeless animals. In his free time, Nathan decided to volunteer at a local shelter. He desired to give back to his community, but was unprepared for the grim realities he faced.
To this day, Nate can still see the euthanasia calendar tacked to the shelter wall. Euthanasia is often the only solution for overcrowded shelters. Nathan describes the animals he worked with as ‘never getting a fair shake’, recalling a severe shortage of space where 2-3 dogs shared one small kennel. A shortage of volunteers meant that dogs were not able to be consistently walked. Nate remembers volunteering to walk such dogs, and watching them transform once outside.
“Indoors, these dogs were nothing like themselves. They were forced to live in crowded conditions with unfamiliar cohabitants. Outside, these dogs showed their true personalities.” Though heartbreaking, this experience helped Nathan develop an even stronger sensitivity to homeless animals’ suffering and urgency for human intervention.
“Humans have the ability to help themselves. Animals don’t have that same ability.” This sentiment encouraged Nate to again lend a hand when he and his wife moved to the Conway area in 2016. The search to support homeless animals brought them both to the doorstep of the Conway Area Humane Society.
When visiting CAHS, Nathan witnessed animal care staff staying in kennels overnight to help dogs in need. This provided a stark contrast to his college experience. “It was clear that all hands were on deck to support these animals.” Nathan recollected. With that experience, the businessman was sold, and quickly become a lifetime supporter.
Nate’s support of CAHS was strong from the start, and has remarkably grown stronger through the years. He began work as our resident handyman, repairing any building issue he could get his hands on. From water hoses and faucets to walls and air conditioning units, Nathan fixed it all. He took ‘hands on’ service to the extreme, cleaning kennels and providing company to our animals as well.
Nathan and his wife soon began helping with animal transports, a process where homeless animals are transported to our shelter from outside of the region. This process allows animals a last chance opportunity to prevent being put down. Fittingly, Nathan became a true supporter of transports and the second chance at life transport animals received once arriving to CAHS. In every possible way, Nate was helping our homeless animals feel at home, and find forever homes beyond our shelter walls.
Some time later, Nate attended Tuxes and Tails, an annual fundraising event for CAHS. Nate donated that night, on top of the overwhelming hands-on support he was already providing our shelter. Nathan looks back to that night with fond regard. When approached with the opportunity to join our Board, Nathan immediately agreed. In addition to Nathan’s hands-on support, CAHS now had the gift of Nathan’s strategic mind.
On our Board, Nathan’s tireless dedication and influence remains consistent. He is an ardent supporter of transports. “If we can support both local animals and animals from out of area, this is a no brainer.” Nathan’s business background helps us understand how to better recognize and collaborate with local businesses. Teaching the community about the work we do encourages animal adoption and responsible pet ownership. These efforts stimulate local businesses: pet stores, veterinarians, dog parks, trainers, groomers, and more.
Pragmatically, Nathan advocates for community donors. “There will always be a need, and there is never enough money to do all that we do.” He recognizes the need for our community to be aware of CAHS’ important community work and special needs:
- Most people realize that we support animals with food, shelter and love 365 days a year – but do people realize that we also provide medical care?
- Our well-used building needs continual maintenance and upkeep.
- We work hard to find animals forever homes, and that work takes funding.
- We are a primary point of contact for animal owners who fall on hard times. Our Safe Haven program provides animal assistance in emergency situations. We also have a Pet Food Pantry for individuals struggling with purchasing pet food.
- Our Lifelong Friends program matches elderly residents with elderly animal companions for a mutually loving, stress-free experience.
- We offer a variety of outreach to schools, community centers, youth, adults, and the greater community in terms of animal welfare education and programs that cherish and support healthy animal-human relationships.
Nathan is excited that our new website will increase visibility of our work, further emphasizing that no amount of money would ever complete our mission. “Our mission doesn’t end with adoption. This is a great cycle of life that is ongoing. It’s important for all community members to realize this.”
“If a human adopts an animal, that animal will shape their entire lives.” Nathan’s intimate understanding of how animal impact our community is outstanding. He stresses that the community must realize CAHS is not just about pets. “It’s a common misconception that animal shelters have nothing to do with humans. Our work has everything to do with humans.”
In addition to all of the community services mentioned above, Nathan describes adoption and pet ownership as being a cultivating part of society. An animal’s life is saved, and a family is grown. Having household pets creates unique opportunities for children to build social skills, such as kindness and responsibility. These same skills deeply benefit our society. Pet ownership supports local business, local dog parks, attend animal-related events, and more.
“Animals create a community of humans with strong values,” he relates, with a pause, just long enough for me to let him know that our hour long conversation must unfortunately come to an end. He apologizes profusely for talking so much, and then launches into a new story about his adopted dog, Frankie. The clock is ticking on my end – I have meetings to attend, articles to write, and deadlines to meet, but somehow all of that seems to shrink in importance to the love Nathan’s heart for service and incredible devotion to homeless animals.