Category Archives: Volunteer of the Month

May Volunteer of the Month: Michelle Stokke

MIchelle and her horse Gino
For tirelessly volunteering on multiple chore shifts at the barn and for the many unsolicited hours she contributes, SAFE has chosen Seattle native Michelle Stokke as May’s Volunteer of the Month.

Michelle’s lifelong love of horses started with a pony ride at Seattle’s Woodland Park Zoo. “It is actually my first true memory,” she says. “The leather saddle, pungent scent of pony, the soft fur, playing with the bits of mane I could reach and the sun shining through the trees . . . I was lost from that moment.”

SAFE first came to Michelle’s attention when her high school classmate Terry Phelps-Peddy invited her for a tour. Michelle started volunteering and enjoyed the comradeship in support of a good cause and being around horses. She misses her horse Gino since he was retired to southern California and admits she is quietly looking for a new companion.

A full time employee of the Boeing Company, Michelle enjoys spending time off with family, traveling, working on her house and garden, and reading.

April Volunteer of the Month: Candi Kintzley

Mini wrangler, facilities helper, auction procurer and general all-around energetic assistant, describe SAFE’s April Volunteer of the Month Candi Kintzley.

Candi lives in North Bend with her husband Kerry, a sergeant with the Washington State Patrol, and their four dogs. The couple have identical 21-year-old twin sons.

“I have always had a love for horses since the first time my aunt Jackie put me on the back of her horse Luke when I was only two,” Candi says. “I used to have a Saddlebred and rode saddle seat in the Southwest Circuit in Texas, Arizona and New Mexico.  When we moved back here, we couldn’t bring my horse and I missed it terribly.”

Candi first got involved with SAFE alongside her aunt and joined up as a regular volunteer about a year ago. “At SAFE, I am a part of the auction procurement team, the facilities team, I help record at the auction and I am co-mini wrangler with Jackie for all of Sunny D and Shasta’s outreach visits. I fill in on chores and was the official pooper-scooper for the Joel Conner Clinic. I am a ‘get ‘er done’ kind of gal. Give me a project, assign me a task and I will make sure it gets done. I am so excited to be tackling the greenhouse, aka ‘Jeanne’s Place’ so Jeanne, SAFE’s facilities manager, can have it for her facilities headquarters.”

Candi says she is in awe of SAFE, “the dedication of its volunteers, the compassion, success stories and overall commitment to making life better for the horses that have suffered such injustice. An added bonus is that I get to spend more time with my BFF/Aunt Jackie! We are the ‘can do’ team.”

When not volunteering at SAFE, Candi is a photographer, specializing in real estate photography, and runs her own marketing company.

March Volunteer of the Month: Caryn Littler

For volunteering tirelessly through thick and thin, for the many unsolicited hours contributed to SAFE, and in recognition of her indefatigable good attitude, Caryn Littler is SAFE’s Volunteer of the Month for March.

A native of Rochester, New York who now lives in Seattle, Caryn has been riding pretty much since she could stand up. “I’ve been riding in backyards and at riding stables ever since, much to my parents’ amusement,” she says. She now rides a 13-hand welsh pony named Cricket, “learning to be a tiny eventing team.”

Caryn says she has always been around horses and volunteered at a rescue in New York for a brief time. When she first came to Seattle, she thought about volunteering to help horses and to meet new people. People she talked to had heard about SAFE from some of the rescues in Pierce County and were impressed with everyone’s professionalism, “so I knew this would be a great fit.”

Asked what she likes most about volunteering with SAFE, Caryn says, “I like that I get to learn something new, whether that’s watching Terry work with the horses, horse care, or facilities work around the farm.”

Phoenix is one of Caryn’s favorite rescue stories. “I wasn’t here when he was at SAFE the first time, or when he was found and brought back, but he was one of the first horses to greet me when I first started,” she says. “I didn’t think this horse, who thought he was a puppy, would ever get adopted: he had so many quirks, as lovable as he is. When Terry told me he had found his forever home, I was shocked! Now, I get to see pictures of him relaxing in a pasture and even roping cattle. I’m so happy he found a mom and dad who love him just as much as our volunteers and barn visitors do.”

When not helping at SAFE, Caryn likes to go exploring. “I’m not from the Pacific Northwest so when I’m not riding or volunteering, I drive to strangely-named places or go on day hikes to soak in views from our beautiful section of the world. And I’m always looking for suggestions.”

February Volunteer of the Month — Casey A!!

Congratulations to Casey A. who has been named Volunteer of the Month for February in recognition of her stellar ground work and riding. “Casey is tireless, has a great attitude, is a star stall cleaner and communicates well with our ponies,” said SAFE Volunteer Manager Jane Millar. Trainer Joel Conner also praised the thoroughness of Casey’s prep work that sent Stevie to training with a great foundation for riding.

Casey started riding when she was eight at a small hunter/jumper barn in upstate New York. “I was hooked immediately,” she says, “and started spending every spare minute around horses, doing chores in exchange for lessons and board. Lady Louise, my first horse, was a small chestnut Arab with a flaxen mane and tail who, I like to think, chose me as much as I chose her. Affectionately known as Her Mareness, Lady taught me the value of elbow grease, gumption and quality. At nearly 30, she is now happily retired and well-loved by my mom, Sandy, in New York.

“Horses had become an indelible part of my life, so when I moved to the Seattle area in 2012, I was feeling the void. In the spring of 2013, I serendipitously found SAFE and started volunteering on a Tuesday night chore shift. Shortly after, I joined the riding and training program. Being a part of the SAFE community has felt like a gift. I have learned so much since joining the team, and I feel so fortunate to be surrounded by like-minded and strong horse people.”

Casey says she can’t choose a favorite SAFE horse, and is struck by how resilient and forgiving they are with kindness and consistency. “Right now, Stella, Stevie, and Jewel are keeping me on my toes,” she says. “They are each remarkably different, and I feel so fortunate to have the opportunity to learn from them.”

SAFE is fortunate to have volunteers like Casey A., who work so hard to keep our horses healthy and on the path to finding their forever homes.

January Volunteer of the Month: Dave Shepherdson

Dave Shepherdson of Kenmore is SAFE’s January Volunteer of the Month in recognition of his willingness to serve tirelessly on multiple chore shifts and with the Facilities crew.

Dave came to SAFE initially because he wanted to spend time with his wife Colleen, who was volunteering on Friday evenings. He asked if he could come and help and soon became a regular. But even before signing on as a regular shift volunteer, Dave was instrumental in building new fencing and shelters for our horses.

Colleen Shepherdson and their daughter Bianca owned horses and a “cheeky” pony in their native South Africa. Dave says the pony would jump a five-foot railing to get into dog food stored in the garage. The family immigrated to Minnesota in 2001 and later moved to Kenmore. They became U.S. citizens in 2012.

Dave has enjoyed getting to be around horses for the first time and getting to know most of them. “They are really cool animals and, treated right, are like big puppies. I now can sense if they want to be left alone or would like a scratch.”

Asked if he has a favorite, he says, “I guess it is a reciprocal relationship. I really like Emmy and she likes me, so we tend to have lots of interaction when mucking out her stall.”

When not helping out at SAFE, Dave enjoys going to the gym and practicing 3D Archery.

SAFE is an amazing haven for horses because of people like Dave. Thank you, Dave!

December Volunteer of the Month: Megan Wilson

Megan with her mom and her mom’s horse, Atlanta

December’s Volunteer of the Month, Megan Wilson,started volunteering at SAFE in 2013 and now leads the Saturday morning chores team. Megan was nominated for this recognition by her peers and is admired for her upbeat, positive attitude that embodies the spirit of volunteerism.

Originally from Virginia, Megan and her husband Carlton (who also fills in at SAFE when needed) now call West Seattle home. She grew up riding horses and competed in hunter/jumpers and eventing during high school and college. She also volunteered with a therapeutic riding program while a college student.

Megan was looking for a way to get involved with horses after settling in Seattle when she came across the SAFE website. “SAFE has become such a special part of my life,” she says. “I feel so lucky to be part of such a dedicated, wonderful, supportive, caring group of volunteers!”

Since losing her mare Julep to colic last year, Megan is part-leasing a mare from a good friend. She enjoys the SAFE horses, and while she doesn’t admit to a favorite, she likes working with Cameo because “she challenges me to be better. She’s so sweet, but also sensitive, and even just hand-walking her is an opportunity for me to improve my communication with her. I can’t wait for her to find her forever home so she can really bond with her person.”

Megan is a family medicine physician at the UW Family Medicine residency program. “When I’m not working or at a barn, I’m usually hanging out with my wonderful and very supportive husband.”

2016 Volunteer of the Year: Caren McMillen

Choosing just one SAFE volunteer to be named Volunteer of the Year is never an easy task, but when someone like Caren McMillen is part of your family, the choice becomes utterly obvious. Caren has been with SAFE as a volunteer for almost three years, but there are times when it feels like she has always been part of this organization. She brings so much heart to everything she does here at Safe Harbor, and she always seems to find a reason to chuckle, no matter what. Knowing that Caren is on site means never having to worry about a thing and if ever there is a problem that needs solving, she is usually front and center making sure it gets done. She is a dear friend to so many of us, and the horses love her too. So choosing Caren as our Volunteer of the Year was very easy, as she absolutely beyond a doubt was our Most Valuable Player in 2016. We can’t even begin to speculate what we’d’ve done without her in 2017!!!!

In addition to her role as shift lead on Monday mornings at the barn, Caren routinely jumps in to help when a chore crew comes up short, and is nearly a daily presence at SAFE to help wherever needed. She operates as a right hand to Facilities Manager Jeanne Stine, helping to wire electric fences, hang gates, haul manure, build a Noble shelter or install hay racks. Barn managers Lori and Lisa call her “a great assistant.”

Caren joined SAFE’s Monday morning chores team in April 2014, a couple of weeks after she retired from her job as a graphic designer for CBRE. “A dear friend had read an article mentioning SAFE as one of the top volunteer organizations in the area,” she says, “and thought it might be a good fit for me. Bingo!”

She says it had been quite awhile since she had mucked out a stall, let alone five or six. “After a time, I wanted to know more about the group, so I signed up for a few committees (facilities, marketing and alumni). Expanding into these other areas has given me the opportunity to get a much broader picture of what’s involved in running such a complex organization.”

Friendships grew and developed, sharing the common bond of the love for the horses. “Friendships that have been, are, and will continue to be, very special to me,” she adds. “My favorite horse? Why, Stevie, of course! But, there was/is also Phoenix, Ben, Prince and King. I ride an iron horse now which, quite frankly, seems to be the safer choice!”

Caren is a tremendous SAFE volunteer in many capacities, not only physical. Her graphic design talent is evident in some of SAFE’s marketing materials and certificates. She’s a delightful force around the barn, always sporting a friendly, upbeat attitude. SAFE has benefited greatly from Caren’s time and energy.

November Volunteers of the Month: Ian and Bran Lefae

SAFE Names Ian and Bran Lefae as November Volunteers of the Month

9Ian and Bran Lefae jumped right in to the Save A Forgotten Equine family this year and immediately started showing their willingness to work hard and play hard. They not only took on training Shasta and Sunny D, but also turn out to help at special events and work parties. With thanks for all that they do and for sharing their passion for learning and teaching new things, SAFE honors Ian and Bran as Volunteers of the Month for November.

A Seattle native, Ian discovered SAFE when he left a stressful job and decided it was time to get back in touch with horses. Bran, having lived in upstate New York and Minnesota before moving to Seattle, joined Ian to work with the minis because she loves and is a champion for tiny things. The couple now lives in Mountlake Terrace.

“We both really love the SAFE community,” Bran says. “Ian loves all the sweet horses and working with the excellent horsemen and women he has met when volunteering there. I enjoy learning about natural horsemanship and spending time around all of the horses, especially the minis,” she continues.

While both have special affection for Shasta and Sunny D, Ian says he loves Bridgit because she’s playful, intelligent and loving, while Bran likes Stella because of her funny “sniff the hand – no, don’t touch me” game.

When not horsing around at SAFE, Ian is an artist and Bran is a medical writer for Seattle Genetics, a cancer research company.

October Volunteer of the Month: Lexee Navarre

Lexee Welcomes guests with a smile!
Lexee Welcomes guests with a smile!

Lexee Navarre is one of the best neighbors, friends and volunteers SAFE has ever had. Selected as October’s Volunteer of the Month, Lexee regularly pitches in to do nightcheck, pinch hits on short shifts, and on Day of Caring in September, led a team of adult engineers from Allytics on a construction project, prompting the Allytics CEO to describe her as “amazing.” She has been on our official volunteer roll for four years, although she and her family, who live next door to SAFE, have been helping out since SAFE moved to our current site.

Lexee says that when she and her family moved in next door to Safe Harbor Stables, then a for-profit riding stable, she knew she wanted to do something with the horses. “And so, for my seventh birthday, my Mom had me start riding lessons, and horses and I have been inseparable ever since.”

Lexee now owns Duke, a chestnut Anglo-Arabian, and Hunter, a half Thoroughbred, half Appaloosa. She shows Duke in English pleasure classes and rides Hunter on trails, because “he gets quite bored in an arena but take him out on the trail, he’ll climb any hill, cross through rivers, and jump over logs.”

She says she loves volunteering for SAFE because, “I know I’m helping good people and horses who need all the help they can get. I love to help others and I love horses so being involved with a rescue is a no-brainer.

“It’s hard for me to pick a favorite SAFE horse, but a horse I have always loved is Ben. He’s such a wonderful horse and seeing the progress he’s been making with Lisa has been incredible to watch. I can’t wait for him to find his forever home and transform into the fantastic horse he’s meant to be.”

When she’s not spending time with friends and family, riding or helping out at SAFE, Lexee is a fulltime college student working toward a degree in civil engineering.

Thanks, Lexee, for all you do for SAFE rescue horses.

September Volunteer of the Month: Dave Wesche

One of Dave's favorites, Oscar.
One of Dave’s favorites, Oscar.


SAFE’s history is full of inspiring horse stories and the horses inspire volunteers in different ways. What is not always apparent is how volunteers inspire other volunteers. Our September Volunteer of the month, Dave Wesche, has found inspiration and community here at SAFE. He writes about what brought him to us and what keeps him coming back in a genuinely touching way:

“I primarily grew up in Portland OR and moved to various places throughout Oregon over the last 20 years, mostly following career opportunities. I moved to WA almost 3 years ago, and have lived in Woodinville for the past year and a half. I’ve always preferred the country, but my career seems to pull towards the city. Woodinville is a great compromise that allows easy access to the mountains as well as my job. I’ve loved animals and the outdoors all my life, and when my latest companion passed away, my lab Roscoe of 14 years, I started looking into ways to help with animals since my apartment isn’t a good place to start with a puppy.

I stumbled over SAFE online and a huge love interest was rekindled that I had long thought burned out. I’ve always loved horses, but realized I was a neophyte on any sort of horsemanship. The prospect always seemed so out of reach for my life path so I didn’t really pursue it. I rode all I could at summer camps as a kid, and trail rides since, but never really learned to care for them or work with them. SAFE seemed it could provide a means to do that for an incredibly good cause. Rescuing animals is a huge passion and I was enthralled to have the chance to learn about horses from the ground up (literally) – willing to start anywhere. What a great cause!

The more I got involved and got to know others with the same passion I realized I had found a community affiliation that fulfilled a long overlooked passion for helping others, as well as animals. Without so much experience with horses, I found that I had other skills to contribute to the same cause while still spending time learning about horses.  The facilities assistant position offered me a way to do this. I love working around the stables and just being in the rural environment. Being around the horses and all the volunteers is so uplifting that it’s now one of the main aspects of my life.

I always make rounds to say hi to all the horses every time I set foot at SAFE stables.  It’s incredible to see the horses come in ragged, then grow into beautiful healthy animals. Getting to know the horses as they come and go can be bitter sweet, but ultimately feels amazing since I know they’re in good hands. In my time there, I miss Phoenix the most. I stopped by to see him along the road two or three times a week as I rambled around the area. I also loved seeing Anakin each week, he was the ultimate “gentleman” of a horse, especially with his incredible story. Of the newbies, I love Stevie. He always seems to have something to say. Another that stands out in particular, Oscar, who I caught impatiently waiting for breakfast when I showed up early one morning – (see the video). He reminded me of my dog with his chew toys.  However, I love to see them all as they get better and move on. And, I love working with so many other enthusiastic people for such a great cause.”

Thank you Dave, for sharing your skills and passion with us. We are grateful for your time and efforts, lucky to have your talents, and honored to be your community.