It's Time For A Load Of Crap.
A Horse Tale Rescue Is Finding Innovative Ways To Stay Afloat- But They Still Need Our Help...
About 8 years ago, Mike Grenier fell in love with his job at A Horse Tale Rescue, a shelter in Vaudreuil-Dorion providing horses with a safe and loving home. The non-profit organization which has been operating since 2013, is devoted to taking care of the horses in all ways possible and has long been running on the support of sponsors and community volunteers. Like other non-profits, the effects of COVID-19 have taken a financial toll on the rescue centre. It hasn't, however, taken a toll on the ingenuity and creative minds of the employees and volunteers. Kris Artuso sat down with current Executive Director, Mike Grenier to discuss the centre's new initiatives.
Kris: Many people have heard of A Horse Tale Rescue but there's still many people that don't quite know what it is yet.
Mike: So we're a centre that rescue, rehabilitate and rehome horses in need of a second chance. We currently have 310 members. There’s an annual membership where you get included in our Facebook group, get invited to certain events and it gives you the opportunity to come out and volunteer. Volunteering is either helping out with feeds which happen 3 times a day, 365 days a year, where there's three to five people volunteering on each feed and there's also many other areas where one can help . It's either with committees, various programs, open house....so there's lots of ways. We have about 90 volunteers who help out to keep the organization moving forward.
Kris: It seems like everyone has a designated role, what would yours be?
Mike: I joined eight years ago, probably about a year or two after it was created. I started off just helping out mucking, which is picking up the manure and later moved onto the board of Directors and then about three years ago, I started to focus on this full time as Executive Director to make sure the organization is properly structured, funded, and well supported with the right people in the right position to help it move forward. I’ll tell you, I never worked so hard in all my life.
Kris: It's definitely hard labor, it's intense.
Mike: But it's also managing a business, right? I mean, yeah, hard labor is one aspect of it. But, also, making sure we have a fundraising plan in place for the year, understanding our expenses and making sure we have the proper funding coming in, especially during Covid. It hasn't been easy so we had to be creative. The manure drive is one way of being creative, seeing we weren't able to have people at our open house or have our annual barbecue where we used to welcome 700 people.
Kris: What’s the manure drive about?
Mike: We had to rethink and adjust our sales based on the wind so, our newer staff was like: "Hey, we've got all this (horse) crap!"
Mike: So it’s in the field building up - It's fully composted. It's all organic. We figured, hey, why don't we just drag it up? Offer it to the public. They can come out, leave a donation for the horses. It basically gets people out of the house; They can come see the horses, pick up fertilizer for their garden knowing it’s 100% organic and we get a donation. It's a win win all around. That started that last year. This is our second year. It's great and it’s coming up this weekend.
Kris: It seems like it’s a very fulfilling job.
Mike: Well, when volunteers come and help out, they're benefiting from getting out of their “regular” life, right? I say: put life on pause when you come in, be in the moment and enjoy the tasks that you're doing. You're contributing by being here with the horses. You’re rejuvenating.There's a lot of groups that can't do that either because they have physical or psychological restrictions.
Kris: Which leads us to the Experience program.
Mike: Right. So three years ago I created the experience program, which welcomes community groups that include individuals with mental health issues, people on the autism spectrum, women shelters and right now, we're focusing on frontline workers. They join us for about an hour and take part in just... being with the horses. It's not manual intensive, but it's really just time to kind of just disconnect, recharge and rejuvenate. We also don't charge for the program so we need to make sure there’s proper fundraising that goes on to help keep the program free of charge.
Kris: That’s an amazing experience for those who can come out...
Mike: Well we've actually started to go on the road for groups who maybe can't come out. We have our horse trailer!
Kris: Oh really?
Mike: Yeah. We have Rusty who has become our superstar and we visited two residences (safely, following protocols) already. We go to their location so they can come out, spend a moment with Rusty, look in his eyes, touch his fur, get a picture, and kind of just break the routine. The feedback we got from it has just been phenomenal.
Kris: That's definitely a morale booster.
Mike: They told me: “Mike for the first time Covid didn't exist” and it broke my heart. You know doing something so simple like going to visit, has meant so much for the elderly and for those that are in a residence where they don’t have much to look forward to. We've got four more that are lined up over the next month or so. As you can see, there's lots going on.
Kris: There is! I mean AHT is doing a lot for the community and one of those things is the manure drive which you said is coming up, correct?
Mike: Saturday and Sunday from 10-4 . To participate, you have to send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org . The reason we have to do that is because we have to book a time slot for you so that people are social distancing. Then, we let them know what the minimum donation is for (x) number of bags. You can always get more bags and there's also perennial plants that are available for people to leave a donation for to get their gardens started.
Kris: Do you have spots left?
Mike: Saturday’s about full and Sunday’s about 75% open, but what we're going to do is add another weekend just like last year so don't worry that. If there’s a need, we will create the time but people need to first register so we can schedule it properly.
Kris: Right, and I imagine, there's always room for more support when it comes to raising money within the community, because AHT does great things, but it's important to stay afloat, right?
Mike: Especially during the pandemic, it hasn't been easy, but like I said, we're doing well and we want to grow. We’re not only trying to raise funds to keep our doors open and keep the regular operations running, but we need to make sure that we're able to supplement revenue to be able to look at growth, should we need to move to another location for expansion, rescue more horses or just maybe offer them an even better quality of life for them.
Kris: So for anyone reading, what's the most important thing you need right now as far as community support goes?
Mike: Revenue. Support and donations. People can either do a one time donation or do a monthly donation but one of the biggest things people can do is sponsor a horse.
Kris: How would that work?
Mike: People can sponsor the horses that are here. Maybe that horse’s story or past may spark interest in your heart. Sponsoring is as simple as $20 a month and it can go up from there. You get a welcome package with a bio of the horse, a picture and a welcome letter. You get invited to sponsor weekends where you come out for half an hour or an hour to spend time with the horse for brushing and kind of just getting in contact with them and you get regular updates on how the horse is doing. I mean, all the funds don't go directly just for that horse - we share it amongst all the horses..but it’s a great way to fundraise and get someone to create a bond with the horse. You can also sponsor our Experience program.
Kris: That's amazing.
Mike: I bet you learned a lot.
Kris: You can say that again.