Sunday, March 29, 2009


The Reformation Continues...

For those of you new to Refuge Farms or new to our website, this past calendar year has seen a reformation begin here. It is a much needed reformation as a result of the changing world around us.

You see, when Andy and I formed this concept and wrote our Declaration of Purpose almost ten years ago, we never once thought that unwanted horses would be left in pastures to "fend for themselves" over the winter months, as was asked of The Old Coot and his companion. We never once thought that unwanted horses would be just dropped off in the barns while I was away at work, as happened with Spirit. And we never once thought that horses would be shut in the basement of a dairy barn with even the windows boarded up as if to hide them while they deteriorated and died.

Whether this change of events in the world around us is to be blamed on the economy or the general over abundance of horses or on the lack of responsibility of the humans who no longer feel a sense of responsibility for their animals is not a point of discussion here. What is the point is that the world changed around us and I, as Refuge Farms, could no longer just sit on the outside and look in at the disaster.

As a result, in 2008 Refuge Farms became a Horse Rescue and Sanctuary. We still offer our Horse Ministers to the public for their healing and "magic", however our public hours have been moved to the 'call for an appointment' style. The barns now house Sanctuary horses who have received The Three Promises for a life here at THE FARM as well as rescue horses who are here only to be stabilized and then will be moved to their new homes with their new owners. For the first time in the history of this little patch of land up here on this windy hill, horses now come and go. A huge change and a large task. It has been called a Sea Change and it is truly that large of a change for us.

This reformation, as I call it, requires a different school of thought. It requires a new perspective for day-to-day management of the resources available to us. It requires all of us to realize and work hard understanding that the rescue of the unwanted horse is our primary purpose and our top priority. It requires that the original purposes that Refuge Farms was founded upon be dusted off and re-established. And this reformation also requires a new Board of Directors.

Just this morning, a meeting was held in the woods of Spring Valley of that very Board. I sat at the table and looked at these people and declared honestly and sincerely, that they were "the closest thing to family that I have." And I am grateful that these people will serve for the purposes of our Missions. Each one is a personal friend of mine and I have "history" with these individuals. They have listened to the frustration and the pain of rescuing horses. They have shored me up when it seemed that all was lost. They have rescued animals themselves and know, first hand, the anguish and worry and stress of the world of rescue. And they have stepped up to guide and support what it is that I have taken on as my life's missions.

Please read on and meet these giving hearts of rescue. These kindred souls that have the passion and the will and the willingness to help save lives. I am honored to have them at the table of the Refuge Farms Board of Directors. In alphabetical order, the Board members are:

Rosemary Riga of Ellsworth, WI

Formerly a resident of Minnesota, Rose Riga moved to Ellsworth, WI to the beautiful Rush River Valley in 1991. She continued to work in the wholesale office supply industry and served as Chief Steward and Trustee on the Executive Board of Teamster’s Local #503 from 1986 until 2005.

Simultaneously, she began training dogs and became the Recording Secretary on the Board of Directors of the Midwest Rottweiler Club which led into doing Rottweiler rescue and re-homing. She also served as a Canine Behavior Modification Consultant in that capacity. She has trained several dogs and competed in many activities for both purebred and mixed breed dogs.

Rose has many diverse capabilities that came from these life experiences. They have fostered a great compassion for animals and people alike. Rose has had several dogs and many cats but does not have the location to indulge her love of horses by having one of her own. Refuge Farms supplies the ability to be around these wonderful animals.

Rose continues to be employed at United Stationers Supply Company in Eagan, MN where she has been given permission to donate slightly damaged or discontinued office supplies to her choice of 501.c.3 organizations. In the spring of 2005, she brought her first load of supplies to Refuge Farms and has enjoyed volunteering with THE FARM and working with Sandy Gilbert ever since.

Mary Jane Stach of Bristol, WI

After graduating as a Registered Dental Hygienist from Northwestern University Dental School in 1979, Sigma Phi Alpha, Mary Jane continued her dental career at The University of Chicago, Wyler’s Children’s Hospital, working on the Cleft Palate Team, as well as serving seriously and terminally ill children. She practiced in a private periodontal practice, as well, which was her specialty, for nine years. Following her seventeen year career in dentistry, Mary Jane was hired by a private investment firm in Chicago in 1987 where she continues to thrive doing business today.

In 2006 Mary Jane moved from her home in Evanston, Illinois and now resides in Bristol, Wisconsin with her mother, dogs, cats, and horses. It is here she was able to parlay her medical/dental background from Northwestern University along with her personal passion for horses, and build an equine therapy facility that provides non-invasive care for compromised horses.

Mary Jane met Sandra Gilbert, the Executive Director of Refuge Farms, in June of 2008 when Director Gilbert sent out a state-wide call for help to assist in the immediate removal and re-homing of twenty-seven severely neglected and starving horses from Trempealeau County in upstate Wisconsin. Mary Jane responded to her call and assisted Sandy in the successful rescue operation that saved the lives of all 27 horses. And that’s when it all began for the two of them. Two souls with one heart now joining forces at Refuge Farms.

Gary Stevens of Eden Prairie, MN

A life long resident of Minnesota and long time financial supporter of Refuge Farms, Gary’s 35+ years of business experience in the world of retail technology is reputed as consistently achieving a high level of customer satisfaction. His success, he says, is founded upon his ability to listen to those around him.

Currently the President of the Eden Prairie Foundation, Gary is also the Treasurer of the Eden Prairie Crime Prevention Fund. Both organizations are 501.c.3’s and work to the betterment of the community. A retired Lion’s Club President, Gary is a recipient of the Lions Melvin Jones Fellowship. The fellowship is the foundation's highest honor and represents humanitarian qualities such as generosity, compassion, and concern for the less fortunate.

A personal friend of Sandy Gilbert, Gary has been involved with Sandy’s horse rescue efforts since before Refuge Farms’ inception. His experience, networks, and perspectives bring valuable benefits to the Refuge Farms Board of Directors.

I join these individuals as the fourth member of the Board of Directors and look forward to many lively discussions - all with the goal of saving lives.

Rescuing horses. It's what we do against all of the tides. With the rising cost of feed, we find ways to feed these creatures. With the rising cost of medical supports, we find ways to treat those in need of special cares. And with the rising demands for our time, these people are willing to make the time to work toward the goal of saving the lives of those unwanted horses that cross our paths. To us, it is just not an option to "do nothing". We must act. We must work to save lives. We must "do something".

Just recently, I was one of over 10,000 people as a talented musician and writer sang a popular song. As he sang, I became aware that the room was no longer in my vision. I no longer heard the coughs or saw the cell phones recording the sight. I saw only his face and heard only his words. It was as if he was singing directly to me. For me. He sang, simply,

"...Find a place to make your stand..."

My place is here at Refuge Farms. My stand is the saving of the lives of those who are thrown away. And supporting me is this assembly of trusted friends who now are also my Board Members.

A personal thank you to Rose, and to Mary Jane, and to Gary. May you be rewarded for your works by realizing the inner peace of knowing that you made a difference to a living creature in need.

Now, let's go out there and save some lives!

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

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