Sunday, January 27, 2008


The Caretakers

Yesterday was the day of the 2007 State of THE FARM Annual Meeting. And once again, this committed group of volunteers plus some of our Friends of THE FARM assembled to review the year in numbers and to recall a few of our memories. It was a morning of admissions for me, personally. A morning filled with acknowledgements that Andy had been right. Yes, I said that. Andy had been correct – it has just taken me seven years to admit it.

We began the meeting by reviewing our new Recap Accounting Process and by reviewing the contents of a sample recap. By implementing this recap, our numbers have shifted in sub-categories in comparison with 2006. The major categories, however, have remained constant between years. Now what do I mean by that? It’s best explained by just giving you the numbers:

In 2006, Refuge Farms completed 21 events (recaps) for a net income of $13,077.

In 2007, Refuge Farms completed 59 events (recaps) for a net income of $31,234.

Don’t let the numbers mislead you! We did not radically increase our numbers of events! Not at all! In fact, we dropped the Summer Social, for instance. What we did in 2007 was to complete an Event Recap for every event. Every presentation. Every group visit. And every single day of Public Hours. Hence, the increase in the number of events and the resulting redirection of the dollars.

And then we need to consider something I call Unsolicited Donations:

In 2006, Refuge Farms received $27,231 of Unsolicited Donations.

In 2007, Refuge Farms received $8,033 of Unsolicited Donations.

This variance is again due to the fact that events were recorded on recaps therefore minimizing the opportunity for these unsolicited donations. In 2007, an unsolicited donation was just that – a donation that appeared out of the goodness of a heart and not related to an event or a planned visit to THE FARM.

Add those two numbers together, and now we have a valid comparison of Total Donations:

In 2006, Total Donations for Refuge Farms totaled $40,308.

In 2007, Total Donations for Refuge Farms totaled $39,267 or a decrease of 0.97%.

And even a decrease in Total Donations doesn’t cause my heart to stop beating. Not in a year of $3 fuel prices and a year when even The Red Cross is laying off employees due to decreased donations. No, we held our own. The Friends of THE FARM did not forget us. Bless every single one of them. Bless them, indeed.

Our expenditures were the next big number to examine. No changes in the way we record Expenditures, so the comparisons are valid between the two years:

In 2006, Refuge Farms Expenditures rose 3% to a value of $57,643.

In 2007, Refuge Farms Expenditures rose 3.15% to a value of $59,464.

And this, too, is a remarkable factor when you consider that mowing the lawn used to cost us a bit over $20 in fuel. It now costs us over $60 to mow the same lawn with the same equipment. And a bag of feed was roughly $8.50 in 2006. That same feed in that same bag is now over $12! Remarkable that we were able to maintain expenditures to a single digit increase at all!

Guests? This should blow your socks off!

Because of the recaps and the factors that we accumulate, I can tell you for a fact that 2,829 people were touched by Refuge Farms in 2007. 2,829 people. Think of that! That’s 6,000 hands to touch a horse! 6,000 feet to walk the yards and 6,000 eyes to look a the Memory Bed! 3,000 people! Amazing! Refuge Farms became a destination in 2007.

The Refuge Farms deficit in 2007 was up by 16.15% to $20,999.
Our challenge in 2008 is to eliminate the deficit. Either by reducing expenses or increasing donations or most likely, by a combination of both.

At this point in the meeting, the room erupted with ideas! Hands were everywhere with ideas on how to improve and what fundraisers to modify or add! It was noisy with your comments and ideas! And your energy and dedication in solving the deficit! What do we do with all of those ideas?

Focus Groups!

On February 9th at 10am at the Menomonie Public Library, anyone with ideas is welcomed to join us as we break in to groups and brainstorm solutions. Solutions to Event Publicity, Volunteer Training, Bulletin Boards versus Email, Fundraisers, Event Evaluation… We will meet and come to conclusions which will change the way we manage this facility. Exciting. Scary. Record setting. And needing every one of you.

* * * *

Throughout the presentation, we viewed a sampling of the Tony Stromberg pictures of The Herd that will be featured in his new book, “Forgotten Horses”. You could hear and yes, you could feel, the responses. Even on a lousy personal computer with a minimal projector, you could tell the photos were heart reaching. You could tell this talented man had captured the spirit of PONY! and Lanna and our Babee Joy. What a treat to share these gifts from Tony! What a kind and generous and obviously talented man he is. Thank you, Tony Stromberg. We are honored to be among those featured in your new book. And we are in hopes that this new book will awaken all of us Humans to those that are forgotten…

* * * *

No annual meeting is complete without Volunteer Recognition. Especially in an organization that is completely supported – without exception – by volunteers! The volunteers of Refuge Farms did this in 2007:

Over 12,875 hours were contributed to our Missions of Healing by 69 volunteers.

Remarkable people giving remarkable talents and their time. How do you say thank you for that???

One small way is to recognize those volunteers with 100+ hours of service in 2007. These volunteers recognized were:

· Jessie A. at 104.5 hrs.
· Melody G. at 109.5 hrs.
· Barb G. at 113 hrs.
· Mark G. at 122 hrs.
· Rose R. at 168 hrs.
· Colleen B. at 182 hrs.
· Betty G. at 182 hrs.
· Tara B. at 231 hrs.
· Sabra B. at 239.5 hrs.
· Lynn S. at 296 hrs.
· Tracy O at 379 hrs.
· Kathy M. at 1,424.5 hrs.
· Cathi C. at 1,562 hrs.
· Vincent V. at 1,905 hrs.

Thank you to all volunteers for your time and service to Refuge Farms. We are an organization run totally by volunteers. As I say over and over, without you there is no Refuge Farms! Thank you! From me and The Herd!

* * * *

Lastly, we recognized a volunteer who has lived the Missions of Healing in all aspects of their life. Not just by volunteering at Refuge Farms, but by the very act of living their life – their priorities, their beliefs, and their dedication to the healing of all around them.

Colleen B. was recognized for her commitment of saving lives of all creatures and for the generosity of her heart. Colleen saves bunnies and cats and dogs and yes, she stops for turtles. And her energy for creative ways to reach people with her message is never-ending! It was with great and deserving pride that I presented Colleen B. with the 2007 Frances Andrew Award.

And this year, again, I couldn’t stop at just one recognition - no, there was another!

Cathi C. was recognized as a Human Being who walks in the steps of healing. In the short time I have known Cathi, I have watched her become personally upset if her healing cannot quickly resolve an issue or if she cannot be included in the healing of a hurting creature. Cathi heals horses and humans, dogs and cats, birds and bunnies. Cathi exemplifies the Missions of Healing and so it was a pleasure to present the 2007 Frances Andrew Award to Cathi C.

And this year, I couldn’t stop at just two recognitions - no, there was one more!

Tracy O. has a heart the size of the Chippewa Valley. She absorbs people’s dogs, the first Annex horses of Refuge Farms, and she continues to teach me and others around her how to minimize our ecological footprints. She teaches by example. And she joins us with a sense of humor and a continuous willingness to contribute that again, teaches us all. Tracy is committed to the preservation of the wolf, the fair treatment of all living creatures, and to living a lifestyle in true and honest respect of the earth. Awarding the 2007 Frances Andrew Award to Tracy O. was a natural response for me.

* * * *

We closed by retelling the story of Frances Andrew and Diane. The story of how “it’ was found between the two of them on a cold and drizzly day in October. At a time before the road sign, before our brochures, before the guest book, before the website, before something called public hours. Back when I was struggling with the concept of sharing my horses and a man in Texas was doing his best to teach me. And teach me he did and still does.

When Andy and I would talk, if guests had come to THE FARM and had not found “it”, I told Andy that I was convinced I had done something wrong. I hadn’t poured out my heart enough. I had failed somehow. And if guests had come to THE FARM and had found “it”, I told Andy I was convinced that in that visit I had done something right. That was obvious to me since they had found “it”. I put the pressure of everyone’s ability to find “it” right square on my shoulders. I told Andy I believed that I needed to find the formula for the perfect tour so I could guarantee that guests would find “it”!

Wrong, Andy said. I had done nothing right or wrong in either situation. “It” was either meant to be or not meant to be and my actions would not change the destined result. I was simply the caretaker, he said. “You create the platform. You assemble the herd of unwanted horses. You open your barns. You be the caretaker, Sandy. The rest will happen on its own.”

For seven years, I had dismissed Andy’s wisdom as misguided. What did he know? I had thought he simply didn’t understand. And it was I who was wrong. Again.

Andy was ever so right. We are all the caretakers. When a family or a single guest arrives at THE FARM and we give a tour, if they find “it”, then destiny is fulfilled. If they do not find “it”, then destiny again is fulfilled. We present our Ministers each and every time with the love and respect and awe that we have for each and every one of them. We welcome our guests as genuinely as if they were our family. And we leave it to them to find “it”, if they are to find “it”.

We do nothing right or we do nothing wrong. “It” is here for the finding. We are the caretakers and the ones who will share “it” freely with anyone who comes. The rest must happen on its own.

Just retelling the story and remembering Diane and Andy and his words were healing to me. I am relieved of the weight of having to do it perfectly each time. No, I don’t do anything to help others find “it”. “It” is here. I am just the caretaker of them. And proud and humbled to be that caretaker. Each one of you is a caretaker, too. Every hour that you give is in taking care of The Herd in some fashion. Telling the stories. Mowing the lawn. Picking the barns. Selling the calendars. You are taking care with each and every gesture. And that, my family, is what we are to do. We take care of them. And in doing so we take care of each other and of ourselves. The rest will happen on its own.

* * * *

Our challenges in 2008 are to remain faithful to ourselves, each other, and the Missions of Healing. We must allow the public access to our Ministers “free of charge”. We must work smarter and not harder, please! And we must utilize our strengths and talents to the very best of our abilities. We go forward with big challenges but with equally big hearts and minds set in determination. I look forward to our first Focus Group meeting! Hang on! It won’t be a quiet meeting, that’s for sure!!!

To those of you who attended, thanks for being there and thanks to listening as I brought us back to the very beginning. “Take this horse and make a difference in somebody’s life with it,” he had said. I wonder if he knew what he was starting….

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

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