Refuge Farms home of "Horses Helping..."

The Dunn County News
October 1, 2006

The family of Refuge Farms provides healing environment at 'Home of Horses Helping'

   We are a rapidly growing non-profit in Spring Valley, Wisconsin. Today, that simple sentence almost sounds like an understatement.
   It seems to me that we always have cars in the yard and people around the place. That may seem a little odd to the neighborhood, since they know that I am a very busy single woman with a full-time and a part-time job. However, this non-profit is Refuge Farms and the people around here are the volunteers, or "The 'Other' Herd", as they are affectionately called. And you dare not underestimate the power of that statement!
   I am blessed to be the Executive Director - big title. What that big title means is that this non-profit is rapidly growing in my back yard and in my barns and with my horses. But you know something? All that stuff just isn't "mine" anymore! Big step, for me to say that! You see, I've come to see and accept that my back yard and my barns and my horses now belong to the missions of Refuge Farms. That's why, more and more, I am saying "we" instead of "I".
   What a transformation this is! To share what I created for my own healing!!!
   Kathy Myren of Menomonie, our Operations Manager, says it for me when I hear her saying, "We use these healing horses to help people heal. It's amazing to watch a kid with a disability relate to a horse with a similar disability. You have to see it! I can't explain it! But I've seen it again and again. We heal here. It's real simple. We heal here at Refuge Farms."
   Kathy retired from UPSŪ after delivering packages for 30 years. Upon retiring, she looked forward to an easy life and knew she never really wanted to volunteer. That was then. Today, she volunteers as our Leader for a huge salary - 50 business cards per year. And she loves it! "Yah, we work hard," she says, "but the rewards are so great. I can't imagine doing anything else now!"
   So why, do you ask, does Kathy work a part-time job for THE FARM? And travel here 4 or 5 times each week to work even harder? Why does she live and breathe THE FARM? "I do it for the smiles!" she says, beaming herself. You see, Kathy has the passion.
   Another volunteer is Cass Dunahee, also of Menomonie. Cass began coming to Refuge Farms before the name was even created and long before the non-profit status was pursued. She liked to visit THE FARM to just be with the horses. That was over 7 years ago. As she puts it in an article she wrote for publication, "I've seen the healing powers of these creatures, because I, just like every one else in the world, had problems in my life that I didn't want to admit, or in some cases didn't even know were there. I don't know when these problems went away throughout these last years, and I don't really care, but I do know why these issues went away and I'll give you one guess what it was that made the change. It certainly wasn't my doing."
   Cass still volunteers at Refuge Farms as her busy schedule permits. She is what you would call one of the "cornerstones" of the place.
   Other volunteers include Tara, a young Baldwin lady who began volunteering at the ripe old age of 13. Graduated from Baldwin-Woodville High School with Presidential Honors, Tara is pursuing her education at UW-River Falls in Pre-Vet. Now, wouldn't you have to admit that there's some connection there???
   I could go on and on and on. There's Tracy and Lambing Barb and Famous Barb and Mechanical Mary and New Mary and Kate and Ashley and Lynn and Beth and MaKenna and Taylor. Don't forget about Cheryl and Hudson Barb and Linda and Isla Jane and Suzie the Gardener and Heather and Toni and Devan and Luretta. And oh, there's Tony and Karen and Jessica and OS Rose and Val and Emily and Ethan and Colleen and Brandon. And Sheila and Randy and Shannon and Eva and Kristen and our Vincent. We have hopes of Jean and Melissa and Jenny and others!
   Every one of these people - and more! - gives freely and with great spirit and compassion. They have the passion, too. The love of doing good. The need to help heal someone or something. And it comes out in their smiles and cooperation and willingness to come back and work some more.
   I'm the first one to tell you that without the volunteers, there is no Refuge Farms. The job is just too big for one person. But with "The 'Other' Herd" behind me, I continue to open the doors to the public, free of charge, so that Humans may learn and relate to these salvaged horses.
   And the pay for these hardworking, dependable volunteers? A meager "thank you" and a meaningful hug. And the satisfaction of knowing that their contribution allows the public to still come - free of charge - and pet Unit and April and marvel at Jimmer. And have bonfires and roast marshmallows. And get a little dirty. And just have fun!
   You see, there truly is magic here. I witness the magic of respect and forgiveness and trust and tolerance every single day. These horses and these volunteers repeatedly show what is best about the world. What a lucky person I am to be surrounded by two great herds - the herd of these thrown away horses and the herd of these generous volunteers! I am truly a rich woman.
   So this is my way of saying "THANK YOU" to all of those in "The 'Other' Herd". Applause, please! So many to help in so many ways. And all just because they want to help. To be a part of this mission of healing.
   We have had another successful and meaningful summer season. A grand Open Barn! And even in spite of the weather! Blessings to each of you. I am eternally indebted. And welcome to those yet to join us! You are about to embark on the journey of joining a caring and giving family! The Family of Refuge Farms.

Enjoy the journey of each and every day,
Sandy and The Herd
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