Southampton Animal Shelter Foundation’s (SASF) latest Volunteer of the Month will probably look pretty familiar. It’s Hannah Berner from Bravo’s Summer House and Bravo’s Chat Room.
“Hannah began volunteering at SASF this year and since then she comes frequently to socialize our kitties, walk dogs and do the laundry,” Crystal Monaco, SASF Community Engagement Coordinator, explained. “She is there to help provide our furbabies with lots of love, play time, and always gives them clean and comfy bedding, and much more! She is always willing to help in any possible way to benefit our shelter pets.”
Not only does the “foster phenom” stop by weekly for cuddles and to provide assistance, she has also been using her massive social media following to help find SASFans their forever home.
“Most recently, Hannah helped us with our Chihuahua rescue mission! She has a lot of patience and can make any shelter pet feel loved and comfortable. She is also currently fostering multiple kittens at her home. She helps foster shy dogs to make them trust humans and set them up for success in a forever home,” Kate McEntee, SASF Director of Animal Relations, shared. “Hannah even helped match one of our senior pitties, PupStar, with a family member. He is enjoying his forever home dearly. She visits frequently to take him on walks too! We are so lucky to have her as a volunteer. Her love of animals and her humor are welcomed and appreciated. She is very kind and very funny.”
We had the pleasure of chatting with Hannah about the honor, how fostering has brought her and fiancé Des Bishop closer, how Des popped the question, filming Summer House during the pandemic, and much more.
Congrats on being named Volunteer of the Month. How long have you been volunteering for Southampton Animal Shelter?
HB: When I first met my boyfriend, he was fostering. Actually sorry, he’s my fiancé. When I first met my fiancé in July, he had been fostering dogs at Southampton Animal Shelter, specifically pit bulls who had been abused or abandoned. It’s funny, I fell for him first when I realized that he can control a pit bull, so I realized he could help train me. He wants me to let you know that he was a former Volunteer of the Month as well. Seeing the whole concept of fostering and that you can actually help so many more animals than just one was beautiful. And then we started to kind of get a connection with the people at Southampton Animal Shelter and they were just so kind and it was fun. And in the pandemic, I had nowhere to go and I’m such an animal person. I realized, wait, this place is such a source of joy and can get me out of my own head in this pandemic for a second to be with this different community and help these animals. So, I’ve been volunteering for almost three months, which involves little things like doing laundry or dishes, to feeding the dogs to walking the dogs to socializing the cats, but any little thing. And also, I realized that I could start using my social media in a positive way where I could try to get some of the animals adopted for people in the Long Island area. If I saw a cat that wasn’t getting enough attention or marketing, I would post on my own page and do a swipe up for adoption. I think I’ve been able to connect some animals to homes and it just has brought a lot of joy to my life.
And didn’t you and Des judge the Wag-O-Ween Spooktacular Costume Contest back in October? So you’ve been connected with Southampton Animal Shelter for awhile now.
HB: Yeah, so I connected with them, but I didn’t officially start doing weekly volunteering then. But I’ve been connected with them since I’d say September.
And congrats on your engagement! How did Des pop the question?
HB: It’s so funny, it just got released today, so good timing. But it was on Valentine’s Day. When I was in the Summer House house filming, he would send me funny videos of like him rapping about whatever we were joking about that week. So, he sent me a funny video of when we first started dating. It was in the morning, when I was in bed, and it ended saying I have a surprise for you. He proposed to me in bed. I was like crusty eyes, invisalign – but it was beautiful and simple and kind of just us, because we kind of fell in love in this pandemic. And I do think that fostering animals and the Southampton Animal Shelter was a big part of us falling in love and being held together. We have the same interests and it probably kept us from being in our own BS. Being around animals and dogs that were struggling or cats that were struggling, we would have to be a team to help socialize them or go on walks. So, it was our first foray into parenting together.
How many animals have you fostered?
HB: With Des, we had Flynn, then Nutella, then Tumtum, then Nina, and then Little Mama – so we’ve had five fosters and four of the five have been adopted to great homes. And two kittens.
For you, what’s the best part of volunteering or your favorite aspect of it?
HB: My favorite aspect of it is the escape of all the little things that could be going wrong in your life. Being with an animal, it’s just positive energy. You just can connect on such a raw, beautiful place with an animal who’s gone through a lot in its life. You not only can bring the animal joy, but you watch all the people getting joy from the animal. Even fostering, people are always like, how are you not a foster fail? How does it not break your heart? And it’s really true that there’s not a better feeling than feeling like you’ve helped the dog be ready to make another family happy. But I really I love it all.
Season five of Summer House is currently airing and with COVID, that meant that you and your co-stars were stuck together in the house for six straight weeks. What was it like to film during a pandemic?
HB: It was really difficult because, I mean, it’s hard enough being stuck with your own family for a period of time. But being with a group of friends with huge personalities is really hard because you never got a break. I also was away from my cat, Butter. We weren’t allowed to have any pets in the home because of the rental agreement. And I think that it was really hard because you just kind of get in your own head and you get paranoid. I was definitely dealing with depression and anxiety. But we were so fortunate to at least be able to be in the beautiful, beautiful Hamptons – and we had a tennis court where I would play and we had a pool to swim. So, it was really just like the most beautiful possible place to be quarantining.
In your opinion, what makes a good Summer House roommate?
HB: When someone is not a stickler – because the number one rule for me is fun. So, if they’re complaining about a cup on the ground or laundry being full, that’s not the point of Summer House. The point of Summer House is to forget your worries and just laugh and have a good time.
In addition to the Bravo hit, you also have your podcast, Berning In Hell. Who can we expect in upcoming episodes?
HB: I have some Bachelor people, I have some comedians. And I also have some really interesting life coach, mental health specialists. So I’m really all over the place in terms of just finding people who are successful – and then finding out what their demons are and what keeps them up at night to make everyone feel a little less alone.
Is that what made you want to delve into one’s personal hell?
When you’re in the Hamptons, what are your favorite spots and things to do?
HB: I grew up going to Shelter Island, on the weekends in the summers, so I love SALT on Shelter Island. I love playing golf on Gardiner’s Bay. I love Vine Street. I think it’s amazing. Right now, I’ve been living in Westhampton. We love getting our coffee at North Fork Roasting Co. We love to Tonino’s for takeout. And we love Hampton Coffee! I get an iced chai like every morning from them. We also highly recommend Flora, the best new dinner place in Westhampton.
I haven’t been there yet.
HB: It’s really good. They have a flower pot dessert, where it’s like Tate’s cookies, ice cream, and on the top is crumbled cookies, and then a little basil. It looks like you’re eating a flower.
That sounds like heaven.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
HB: I’m also doing Bravo’s Chat Room on Sundays at 10:00 p.m. Eastern. It’s on Bravo as well. It’s a talk show.
Southampton Animal Shelter is located at 102 Old Riverhead Road in Hampton Bays. For more information, visit southamptonanimalshelter.com. For more information about Hannah, check out her Instagram @beingbernz.