We’ll say it again and again, volunteers are the heart and soul of SAFE; without them we couldn’t do all that we do, for horses! In 2023 we had over 180 active volunteers who came together and shared their time, skills and hearts, all to better the lives of horses. Each year we take on the very challenging task of picking just one volunteer who has really stood out for their hard work, care, dedication to the horses, and SAFE as a whole. We are extremely lucky to have so many amazing folks here in our community; which makes for a rather difficult decision! Though when deciding who would be the Volunteer of the Year for 2023, one name just kept coming up from everyone we talked to. So it is with great pleasure that we officially introduce and congratulate, Joan Yankis, as our 2023 Volunteer of the Year!!!

Joan began volunteering with us back in September of 2020, starting out on a chore shift. Right from the beginning, Joan wanted to learn how she could be the most helpful to the needs of SAFE. She chose to spend her Saturday evenings every week at the barn; after learning the shift was a little harder to fill at that time.

As time went on, Joan started to see that many shifts throughout the week would need help, as folks went on vacations or couldn’t come in due to illness. She signed up as an Emergency On Call Volunteer and a Emergency Nearby Volunteer (as she was able to make it to the barn even when the weather wasn’t so kind to us). Not only did Joan start filling in on other shift, as the Saturday team gained new teammates, she came up with a great idea to be a Chore Shift Floater! She kept an eye on the schedule and would add herself to shifts in need, as well she was always so kind to check in with staff to see where the biggest need was, or answer our emails/texts for last minute help.

Over the years, Joan has helped on every chore shift that SAFE has; and while she isn’t officially assigned to any single shift, Joan is a key teammate on every shift! When teams know they are short, and there are many chores to do, just the sight of Joan brings a smile to their faces and a deep sigh of relief as they know they have excellent help for the day!

When Joan isn’t helping on a chore team, you can find her spending time grooming our horses. As well, she has helped another amazing volunteer (Sue Coulter) with teaching and refining our grooming class that SAFE offers to our current volunteers, so they can continue to learn and expand their knowledge of how to care for equines. Joan has also taken part in our Walking Program, where she would spend time with some of our older companion horses for a gentle stroll around the farm, to share companionship and help them to get some extra exercise in.

While many opportunities with SAFE take place at the barn, we have some very important ones that volunteers do behind the scenes. Two of these are helping to check references and to do site checks for all potential adopters; and you guessed it, Joan is one of these fabulous people! Through this, Joan helps move potential adopters one step closer to bringing home a SAFE horse, and making them part of their forever loving family.

We are so thankful for all of the time, love and care that Joan shares with us here at SAFE! She is always so kind, very knowledgable and wise, such a hard and dedicated worker, has a great sense of humor and is always there to help where it’s needed most! Joan, you helped to make 2023 such a great year for all of the horses and people of SAFE; thank you, and congratulations for being our 2023 Volunteer of the Year!!!

Joan and Daisy


Halloween 2023, Joan won Best Costume on the PM Chore Shift!