Hanky Panky is proud to be a supporter of Our Companions, an animal rescue organization based in Manchester, Connecticut. To learn more about Our Companions’ mission and how to help, visit their website. This article about their new dog sanctuary, the Henree House, originally appeared in their Fall 2013 newsletter.
An Irresistible Opportunity
by Jennifer Barrow
In early 2013, Our Companions (OC) had the great good fortune to receive its largest donation to date: a joint gift from three generous and ardent animal lovers; and in July the long-anticipated Phase-Two of sanctuary construction began. The timing and magnitude of this contribution were absolutely critical in making it possible for OC to break ground for Phase-Two construction on schedule, as promised one year prior. Thanks to this overwhelming outpouring of support, the future Henree House will be the first sanctuary structure tailored to provide a temporary home-like environment to homeless dogs awaiting their forever homes. You may find yourself wondering exactly who inspired this cheerfully named rescue cottage. As it happens, its namesake, Henree, is the wildly popular and slightly eccentric Chairman of the Board of a prestigious Park Avenue specialty clothing company. She also happens to be an eleven-year-old rescued female standard poodle—the devoted and constant companion of Lida Orzeck.
Lida Orzeck and Gale Epstein are the dynamic duo of a highly creative and successful New York City-based lingerie company boasting the witty and fun-loving name, “Hanky Panky.” The idea for their company and its clever moniker came about some 36 years ago, when Epstein designed a beautiful set of undergarments for friend Orzeck, crafting them entirely from handkerchiefs.The team’s continued creativity and resourcefulness over the years have yielded a highly successful company that is making a difference for people, animals, and for the planet.
For Epstein and Orzeck, partnering with Our Companions to create the animal sanctuary—the only one of its kind east of the Mississippi—was a natural extension of their longtime involvement with organizations near and dear to their hearts. Yet there was one overwhelming factor that made OC a standout organization in their minds, and that was the endorsement by Orzeck’s sister, Valerie Friedman, OC Board Chair.
“We both trust Valerie’s judgment implicitly,” says Epstein. “She is the financial advisor for Hanky Panky, and she’s never steered us wrong over these past 36 years. When she makes a recommendation for a group worthy of our philanthropic support, we listen.” Epstein, Orzeck and Friedman joined forces in making the lead gift that will fund Phase-Two of the sanctuary construction.
Both Orzeck and Epstein were enthusiastic about the creation of a safe haven for companion animals, but it was critical that they also believed in the overall mission of the organization.
“One of the critical points for me was OC’s method of working with individuals and families who contact the organization seeking to put their pets up for adoption,” explains Orzeck. “In such cases, the first priority is to assist these callers in improving their current situation, if at all possible, so that re-homing may no longer be necessary. It would be ideal if there were never a need for a sanctuary at all.”
The business partners also were intrigued by the concept of having a facility similar to Best Friends here on the east coast. Best Friends is a Utah-based animal sanctuary often looked to as a model by rescue organizations all over the world. The opportunity to become involved in the creation of the Ashford sanctuary was one Epstein and Orzeck couldn’t pass up—OC’s mission and vision were a perfect fit with their company.
Hanky Panky has been in business for 36 years and is located on Park Avenue South, in New York City. The company prides itself on its American-made, beautifully crafted lingerie. Part of Epstein and Orzeck’s commitment to the company, their customers, and the planet is to ensure that the manufacturing of their products is undertaken with care and safety in mind. They see many parallels between their work and the work of OC, and how both organizations have evolved over the years.
“We started something from nothing with this business,” notes Epstein. “I started with some handkerchiefs, and from them created something entirely different and enjoyable to others. Similarly, we love the story of OC — where the sanctuary property came from and the fact thatit was an inhumane chicken farm, now transformed into something wonderful—a glowing sanctuary for animals to thrive.”
“We find the whole concept of the sanctuary an irresistible idea. It’s like a park—anyone can visit and interact with the animal residents. They can have positive experiences with these pets that will benefit both themselves and the pet, whether or not they end up adopting.”
The financial success of Hanky Panky has enabled Orzeck and Epstein to support organizations they are passionate about above and beyond what each is able to do on an individual level. Because their interests have a lot of overlap, identifying opportunities for giving in a larger sense has not been difficult. In the case of OC, Henree may have held some sway in their decision. As a rescue herself, she no doubt appreciates the idea of creating a safe and supportive place for her fellow creatures.
Henree came to Orzeck at the age of two and a half. “I never knew you could rescue any breed,” says Orzeck. “Henree’s former family gave her up following her first litter. I was looking for a non-puppy and I got a very sweet, well-behaved standard poodle who serves as Chairman of the Board of Hanky Panky!”
Henree reports to the New York office a couple of times a week—a delight for the entire staff—and enjoys occasional excursions to the warehouse in Queens, which boasts vast square footage ripe for exploration and romping. “She meets and greets and closes deals,” Orzeck quips.
Orzeck and Epstein are planning to attend the ribbon cutting celebration for the first Phase-Two cottage and the formal opening of The Henree House. If she can manage to clear her busy calendar, Henree will be in attendance too.