Remembering Charity Rennie, a Best Friends ‘main ingredient’
Annus horribilis. A horrible year for the Best Friends family as we said another heartbreaking goodbye recently: to co-founder Charity Rennie, who passed away peacefully in November.
Charity was born in Glasgow but raised in Yorkshire in the North of England and attended, by her own account, “a very hoity-toity girls’ school.” She couldn’t wait to get to London where she would go on to study drama and act in London’s West End theater district. She was clever, sharp and very funny, often leaning on her classical drama training and experience in English repertory theater as well as her time as a radio actor on popular British shows to get the most out of jokes and stories.
When she and the other founders started Best Friends, Charity put her acting skills and voice training to professional use once again, but this time it was to coach her co-founders in public speaking and voice projection. Those skills made her a natural when she stepped into a fundraising role, calling and engaging with thousands of donors while working on the phone for hours every day. Chances are, if you donated to Best Friends in its earlier days, you spoke with Charity.
In the 1980s, Charity ran Best Friends’ early outreach in Phoenix, while the bare-bones Sanctuary operation was still taking shape and in need of support from our programs based in large metro areas. She wore many hats, as was the rule in those days. She handled fundraising and managed the off-site adoption of cats and other animals from the Sanctuary until she moved to Kanab full time in 1991, where she worked in donor cultivation. Of course though, as was her nature, Charity stepped in to help in emergencies whenever possible, including taking care of cats from the Great Kitty Rescue in Pahrump, Nevada in 2008, a hoarding situation where hundreds of cats were rescued.
She was exceptionally empathic and would sometimes surprise me and her co-founders with an off-the-cuff “psychic” reading. And she was usually spot on! Charity even extended her psychic gifts to the Best Friends Lint Roller Party, a benefit in support of our Los Angeles programs, giving entertaining readings to guests. She always was game for anything.
Charity was a main ingredient of the Sanctuary experience for visitors from the early 1990s through 2018, hosting volunteers and visitors every day in the Best Friends Village Café. Her easy and gracious manner put everyone at ease while her energy and laughter were contagious.
I will remember her most for her generosity of spirit, which helped me through my own mom’s passing as well as some other difficult personal times and for which I will be forever grateful. And I can never forget our Thelma and Louise moment in Las Vegas celebrating her birthday and taking in a Cirque du Soleil performance. Charity was fun, wild, unconventional, and usually spoke with an unfiltered lens. Simply, she was and remains part of the fabric and history of the organization, but her one-of-a-kind presence will be dearly missed.
Rest in peace, Charity; you will always be in our heart.