Finding purpose: Midstate woman rescues animals so they can help people rescue themselves

CAMP HILL, Pa. (WHTM) – At her new Cumberland County home on Wednesday, Xena was too excited to focus.

The border collie-German shepherd mix bounded around the back year, ignoring calls from her new mom, Angela Episale, and letting a missing tennis ball get the better of her.

Episale is still getting used to having another dog around. “We’ve only had her about a week and a half so far,” she said.

But Episale has big plans for the 1-year-old pup she rescued.

“The intention for her is to be emotional support for an individual in recovery,” she said, meaning addiction recovery.

Episale used to work for the state Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs. Before that, she worked in human services for a decade. Now, in the midst of the heroin epidemic, she’s seen the effect it has on every family.

Some of her friends have overdosed, she said, and so have some of her friends’ kids.

She left the DDAP in December with an idea.

“These animals don’t care what somebody’s done in the past,” she said. “They need somebody to take care of them now.”

After a half-hour drive to Elizabethtown, she introduced us to another rescue: Jack.

“Hi, Jack!” she greeted the gray thoroughbred currently staying at Double D Stables. “How are you?”

Jack was a racehorse for seven years, close to half his life. His purpose now, with a little help from Episale, is to provide purpose to those in recovery who need it.

“They need a reason to go on with their everyday and have responsibilities,” she said, giving the horse a thorough brushing. “They needed somebody counting on them.”

And Jack needs to have someone to count on. That’s why Angela is starting the group Pennsylvania Purpose. She rescues animals, and they help those in recovery rescue themselves.

She planned to file for 501(c)(3) status with the state Friday.

So far, Jack and Xena are the only two animals in the program, and Episale has not started working with recovering addicts who will start off as volunteers. She will start teaching life skills classes at a local recovery center and hold meetings at another in the near future. Xena will come with her.

As more funding rolls in, she’ll be able to rescue more animals. Eventually, she said, she hopes to buy a permanent facility and be able to pay those in recovery to work there.

“They’ll have a dog that’s with them every day,” she said. “They’ll have horses that need to be taken care of, a farm that needs to be worked.”

It’s purpose, as she explained, to keep both the animals and the people caring for them going.

“The animals need them, and they definitely need the animals in return.”

If you’d like to donate to Pennsylvania Purpose, you can do so on her GoFundMe page by clicking here.

You can also support her work Saturday at the Harrisburg Midtown Arts Center. The venue is hosting Playing for Purpose: Music and Arts Festival, a show featuring ten acts, starting at 1 p.m. Proceeds benefit Episale’s efforts. Tickets are $30. You can buy them here.

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