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.