Volunteers of the Month
SAFE is incredibly fortunate to have such amazing volunteers. Each month, we select two exceptional volunteers to honor as our Volunteers of the Month. We ask them to share their stories, including why they decided to start volunteering at SAFE and who their favorite SAFE horses are. It’s a unique insight into what its like to volunteer here. Click here if you’d like to learn more about our volunteer program.
Hillary Dixon, past shift lead, current groom, and Bingo caller extraordinaire!
How and when did you first get involved with horses? Do you have one now you want to tell us about? My first time I was involved with horses was when I was four years old and had my first pony ride at the Woodland Park Zoo. It was all down hill from there. I signed up for the 4H club at the Woodland Park Zoo on my tenth birthday, but couldn’t start until I was twelve years old. I worked at the zoo for three years and learned everything about horses. During my childhood, I went to horse camps as well. When I graduated high school, I worked at Sun Mountain Lodge in Winthrop during the summer, helping run the ranch of 45 horses and taking tourists on horseback rides. Those three months were the best time of my life.
What do you like most about volunteering with SAFE? I like the peace I feel being around the horses. It’s been so fulfilling to me and I needed that kind of healing in my life, along with the horses who need healing as well.
Do you have a favorite SAFE horse? If so, why? Emmy was my first favorite when I started, then Slim, then Moon. They were all kind.
What do you do when you are not horsing around with us? I play pool, camp or just get out into nature, be with great family and friends, and of course work too much to pay the bills.
Warren Nolder, Thursday AM rock star, facilities powerhouse, and best neighbor ever!
How and when did you first get involved with horses? Do you have one now you want to tell us about? I began working with SAFE last year in March, with absolutely no prior horse experience. Having lived next to the horse facility (that SAFE moved into) for years, I noticed a sudden increase in activity: fences being mended, massive weeding and mowing taking place, things getting pressure washed, new gravel getting laid out, painting happening all over, and old and discarded piles of junk being sorted out and dealt with. I would peak over periodically to check on the progress at the stables and one day, met Jeanne Stine who introduced herself, the SAFE organization, and their goals for the property. We talked off and on for the next few months, and it was always a positive and uplifting conversation regarding the horses and work efforts. I was continuously amazed at the number of people showing up to help out and the amount of work being done. At some point, I just felt the need to be part of that effort, and started volunteering soon after. The commute has been very pleasurable and the work has been very rewarding 😊
What do you like most about volunteering with SAFE? There are many things which stand out regarding what makes SAFE such a great place to volunteer for. The people involved with SAFE (volunteers, leads, etc.) have a genuine interest in the well-being of all the horses that come here. And that shows in their work as well as their words. The horses are fantastic, but not in the way most people think about horses. Every horse here has a story, many of which are very sad to hear. But the resilience of these animals is amazing to watch, and they each have something to teach us and share. The hands-on experience that can be gained as a volunteer is crazy good. Want to learn how to mend a fence? Boom, here is an opportunity. Want to help feed horses? We got that multiple times a day. Want to train horses? Tons of possibilities there as well. Every day I work at SAFE, I walk away feeling like I’ve actually helped move this effort forward, no matter how small or insignificant the task might seem that I completed. Thank you SAFE for this great opportunity.
Do you have a favorite SAFE horse? If so, why? When I first started I had favorites. Stormy was my very first favorite. She is blind, but was taught voice commands so she could navigate uneven ground. She was the first horse I ever led out to pasture and was incredibly gentle. People would say,” Stormy will be here the rest of her life.” But miraculously, she found a great home. And that’s kind of how it is around here. Horse miracles are constantly happening. Now I focus less on ‘favorites’ and more on seeing what is unique and special about each horse and what we can learn from each other.
What do you do when you are not horsing around with us? I’m retired now, but always seem to have very full, action packed days. Besides volunteering at SAFE, I maintain our acre lot, actively ride bikes to keep in shape (for working at SAFE), camp, hike and backpack with my kids, take German language classes, attend occasional dance courses with my wife Kerstin, do weekly wine tasting, and spend long vacations in Germany where half of our family is from.
Do you have family or special people in your life who support your volunteer work that you would want us to mention in your write up? Kerstin and our kids and our friends are very supportive of the volunteer work I do at SAFE. They are always enthralled by the latest horse news and adventures.
We are so fortunate to have outstanding volunteers. In fact, it makes for a difficult choice every month when we pick two volunteers to spotlight. This month we would like to highlight two barn chore volunteers who rock our world with their sweet natures, work ethic, and dependability. Thank you, Alissa and Beth, for all of your hard work and dedication to the horses and people of SAFE. Congratulations on being named October Volunteers of the month!
Alissa Ralston, Tuesday AM Shift Lead Super Star
How and when did you first get involved with horses? Do you have one now you want to tell us about? I have always loved horses and started taking riding lessons at around 10 years old. I found SAFE when I moved to Washington and started volunteering May of last year. I have one very handsome quarter horse named Bonc that lives on my family’s farm in Arkansas with his favorite horse friend Friday.
Beth Erkel, Sunday PM Rock Star
This summer we have been so fortunate to have the inspiring support of two special volunteers. These women bring a smile to the farm every day they are here (and let me tell you, it is more than once a week). They spread sunshine and love to all of the humans and horses of SAFE. I’m talking about Ginni Guest and Sarah Vecchi.
Ginni not only works a chore shift, but she keeps our garden and landscaping looking like like we have a master gardner on staff (we basically do with Ginni around). Ginni helps with events like the SAFE Benefit Horse Show, where she thoroughly enjoyed working the main ring and handing out ribbons to our winning competitors. Ginni happily greets guests when they arrive at our Open House events, and is always happy to make her barn mates a cup of coffee and enjoy a chat after a long shift.
Sarah has been a powerhouse for SAFE this summer, helping on chores, facilities, with the Fall City Forty, and basically picking up any slack she sees. Sarah is new to SAFE this year, and she didn’t waste any time getting to know what we do and how she could help. She does it all with a kindness and openness that makes others feel welcome. Sarah and Ginni, SAFE would not be the beautiful, welcoming place it is for horses and people without you. Thank you for all you do and congratulations on being named September 2019 volunteers of the Month!
More about Ginni: How & when did you first get involved with horses? Do you have one now you want to tell us about?
I have always loved horses. In fact, my mother swears that my first word was “horsey”. When I was about 4 years old I asked my mother what Hirohito’s (Emperor of Japan during WW2) phone number was. She asked me why I wanted it and I told her that I wanted to call and ask if he would sell his big wh
ite horse to me! I do not have a horse now but I have had a few horses that have a place in my heart. After I retired I looked for someplace that had horses and volunteers. I contacted SAFE as soon as I heard about their story and here I am!
What do you like most about volunteering with SAFE? What I like about SAFE is that I can be around horses and help do what I can to help them to feel loved, happy, safe and to bring them back to health. I just like to walk through the barn and greet each one of them and talk with them for a little while. It makes my heart sing with their strong spirit. The last few years of my life have been very difficult but SAFE has helped me have a Happy Heart again!
Do you have a favorite SAFE horse? If so, why? I love ALL of them as they each have their own personalities. I love to watch Anderson since I saw a picture that Jessica took with his mane, forelock and tail flying, he had a part of my heart. However, dear sweet Mina is so loving and she likes to be petted and talked to and she was such a good Mommy! Truly, I just love them all.
What do you do when you are not horsing around with us? I am a Watercolor and Acrylic artist and the last 13 years I have belonged to a group of professional artists that meet every Tuesday and paint together. Plus, I belong to Seattle Co Arts which has been in existence for 60+ years. I also love to garden as most of you know by now. My front yard is ALL flowers – no lawn so naturally I couldn’t help myself to start working on the SAFE flower beds.
Do you have family or special people in your life who supports your volunteer work that you would want us to mention? My whole family is thrilled that I found SAFE. My youngest son Pat and his family have attended our Open Houses and our Christmas one. They all think SAFE is an ”Amazing Place.” Pat helped on our yearly big clean (work party) by helping me bring a truck load of compost for our garden and he spread it all amongst the shrubs and flowers. I thanked him for the help and he told me that he knew how much SAFE means to me so he was more than happy to help and to donate it.
More about Sarah: How and when did you first get involved with horses? Do you have one now you want to tell us about? I started riding when I was six, and grew up doing 4-H, taking lessons, volunteering at a therapeutic riding stable, working at various barns, and had my own pony and then horse before high school. I don’t have my own horse at the moment, but I’m hoping to adopt some time in the next year, once I’ve paid off my grad school loans (and the right horse comes along). For now, I’m taking lessons with a semi-retired event horse named Arnie, and love spending time at SAFE, learning to become a better horsewoman.
What do you like most about volunteering with SAFE? THE PEOPLE. For years when we lived elsewhere, I was desperate for horsey friends and now I am surrounded by this amazing community of like-minded, hilarious, caring, interesting, and fun folks who’ve became some of my absolute favorite people in a relatively short amount of time.
Do you have a favorite SAFE horse? If so, why? My favorite is Cyrus. I’m a sucker for tall, sweet geldings, so it’s a no-brainer. I’ve really loved watching him blossom from a rack of bones who could only think about the hay in front of him to a stunning and lively gelding who’s so curious about the world. I also love the goofy faces he makes when I’ve found the itchiest spot.
What do you do when you are not horsing around with us? I’m the school librarian at Louisa May Alcott Elementary School in Redmond where they actually PAY me to read books and hang out with kids all day (well, and do other stuff, too)! My husband, Jeremy, and I live with our cat, Munsef, in Bellevue. I love being outside, playing with dogs, getting laps in at the pool, and reading.
Do you have family or special people in your life who support your volunteer work that you would want us to mention in your write up? Jeremy, my wonderful husband of 15 years, is not a horse person but he knows how happy it makes me to be with the horses and people at SAFE and is incredibly supportive. My parents are also non-horsey folks who nevertheless dragged me to lessons, the barn, etc and indulged my love of horses as much as they could.
Volunteers are the heart of our organization. Our mission would be nothing but lofty goals without the boots on the ground that make this mission a reality. We have two special volunteers to recognize this month. They are enthusiastic SAFE supporters, hard working barn chore volunteers, and the kind of people who make other people want to come back to SAFE. Allison and Maile give their free time to SAFE while juggling full time work and full lives. Thank you for all you do for SAFE and congratulations on being chosen August Volunteers of the Month!
How and when did you first get involved with horses? Do you have one now you want to tell us about? When I was a kid, my great-aunt had a small farm with a few horses in Sulfur, OK. I spent some summers there learning what it takes to have horses as a part of your family. After my great-aunt passed, I still wanted to be around horses so I went to various horse camps around Oklahoma. My family had always had animals, from dogs and cats to the random turtle, but when I moved from Oklahoma City to Seattle a few years ago, I couldn’t have any because my roommate/cousin is very allergic. I really missed being around animals so I started looking for places I could volunteer with animals too big for me to bring home. Before starting with SAFE, it had probably been about 10 years since I’d been around a horse but I’m so glad I found SAFE.
What do you like most about volunteering with SAFE? As much as I love living in Seattle, I love being able to get out of the city and being around horses. I love the community that this has provided for me and the feeling of peace you can get when chores are done and it’s just you and the horses in the paddocks. I also work a high stress job so this is kind of like my “me” time where I can destress, get out of my head, and not have to worry about anything for a few hours.
Do you have a favorite SAFE horse? If so, why? I don’t really have a favorite horse because, depending on the day, I may feel a connection to one horse one day and a different horse the next.
What do you do when you are not horsing around with us? I do work a full time but when I’m not at work I like to go to the gym, garden, hang out with friends, and go see movies. I’m also an avid cross-stitcher, which ends up taking up a lot of my time.
Do you have family or special people in your life who support your volunteer work that you would want us to mention in your write up? I just want to thank all of my friends and family that have encouraged and supported me with volunteering at SAFE.
Cue the fireworks!! Blast the trumpets! We have two amazingly dedicated volunteers to celebrate! People like Chase Wilson and Marcy Kubbs make SAFE’s mission possible. These steadfast volunteers provide service on chore shifts, at events, and go above and beyond for SAFE. We could not do this without them. Chase’s Shift Lead, Sam, relates that Chase is a reliable hard worker, good with the horses, and helps train other volunteers. Volunteers helping volunteers is one of the things that makes SAFE a special place. Marcy is another one of those people who makes SAFE special for volunteers. She is warm and friendly, endlessly patient, and happy to guide new people on her shift. Chase and Marcy have interesting stories about how they came to be SAFE Volunteers and what they enjoy about their time with us. You can read about them below. Congratulations on being named July 2019 Volunteers of the Month, Chase & Marcy. And thank you for all you do!
Chase Wilson: Saturday PM Chore Volunteer, Kind-hearted Hard Worker
How and when did you first get involved with horses? Do you have one now you want to tell us about? I knew nothing about horses prior to volunteering at SAFE. When I moved to Redmond from San Francisco I knew I wanted to volunteer with either kids or animals, and being from a large city, it was crazy to me that there were horses in the same city that I lived in, so I had to give it a try.
How and when did you first got involved with horses? Do you have one now you want to tell us about? My first memory of horses is as a young child being thrown up on a farm horse that promptly took off with me. Fortunately, someone told me about hanging on to the mane! Later as a teen I was fortunate enough to start riding lessons which continued off and on since then. I am considering getting a horse, but in the meantime am enjoying my lessons on Silhouette, a lovely TB / Andalusian cross.
What do you like about volunteering with SAFE? Several things, but especially the community of people committed to improving the lives of horses and the horses themselves who have taught me much.
Do you have a favorite SAFE horse? If so, why? Yes, but this is a hard question as it varies from week to week! I suppose Cameo who was one of the first horses I met when I started volunteering at SAFE. She is of course beautiful but more than that, I love her sensitivity – when she is “with you”, you know it.
What do you do when you are not horsing around with us? I have recently retired, so besides enjoying sleeping in, I am spending more time in my garden and at the gym. I also play music, and am in a band that plays for contra dances around the Northwest. This month I am headed to fiddle camp which should be fun!
Do you have family or special people in your life who support your volunteer work that you would want us to mention in your write up? I would just like to say a special thank you to all my friends and family who patiently listen as I excitedly tell them about my horse adventures.
Superstars in the outside world often lead flashy lives and are immediately identified by their flair or outspokenness. At our barn, being a superstar is a more modest gig. SAFE superstars are here every week, rain or shine. They blend in to the rhythm of life here, doing chores with a smile and not calling attention to themselves. This is why we try to shine the spotlight on our dedicated volunteers and thank them regularly. Beck Wren and Monique Goodrich are two of our chore shift superstars. We thank them for all they do for SAFE and congratulate them on being chosen as the June Volunteers of the Month for 2019!
How and when did you first get involved with horses? “Horse” was my very first word. When I was four years old, my mother thought that a summer of riding lessons would cure me of the horse-kid bug. Horses were large, scary animals, she reasoned, and surely, I, too, would realize that if I just spent a little more time around them. That plan backfired spectacularly. I rode dressage growing up and started learning to jump after college. Going forward, I am most interested in eventing. I am not interested in showing or competitive riding, just going out and having fun with my horse.
Do you currently have a horse? I am currently “between horses.” I had to put down my last horse, Mikey, due to a degenerative spinal defect. He was only four years old. It was a sad situation, and it took a few years of healing until I was ready to be with horses again. I am pretty sure my next horse will be a SAFE horse, but the right one hasn’t come along quite yet.
How did you find SAFE? I found SAFE in 2008, when I was looking for a horse to purchase. Although none of the SAFE horses at that time were right for me, I was impressed with SAFE’s commitment to rehabilitation and training–which has only deepened since then. In 2017, when I felt ready to get involved with horses again, I immediately thought of SAFE. I began volunteering shortly after SAFE moved to Redmond; I don’t drive a car, and riding my bike up the hill to the old Woodinville location was too brutal!
What do you like most about volunteering with SAFE? I love too much about volunteering to pick just one thing! I live in the heart of the city. My time at the barn every week gives me a connection to the rhythms of the natural world. I love watching the horses rebuild their trust in humans. I love the dedication of my fellow volunteers; we all work hard for the horses.
Do you have a favorite SAFE horse? My favorite SAFE horse was Nashville. I am so happy she has found her forever home, but I miss her already.
What do you do when you are not horsing around with us? I am a writer, and a big science fiction/fantasy nerd. I also knit and am learning to play mandolin.
Do you have family or special people in your life who support your volunteer work? My partners, Jonathan and Natalie, are both very supportive. They never complain when I show up late to events after my chores shift, smelling vaguely of horse.
“Hi, my name is Monique Goodrich and I live in Kirkland. I’ve been a massage therapist since 1993 and I love my job. It keeps me out of trouble. Before SAFE, I’d been feeling like something was missing. One day I was in PCC and saw the volunteer notice for SAFE on their bulletin board. Now, over a year and a half of SAFE volunteering later, I know what I missed: the smell of horse poop! Horse poop brings me a feeling of home. Horses started early in my life and it was the main connection to my mom. My mom is also named Monique, she was born and raised in Morocco. She was short, spoke with a French accent, cursed like a merchant marine, and would come after you like a Bantam hen. When I was younger we lived in Tucson, and my mother started a long friendship with Gerry and Ronald Searles, brothers and owners of a cattle ranch. Our life was full as the years and horses flowed by. We went on cattle drives, group rides, and we showed horses. My favorite memory is riding is side-by-side with mom. I remember loping long desert roads, the sun setting as the warm sage air whipped our hair.
“My first horse was a Mexican hat mustang with beautiful blue eyes. My next horse was Peanut, a palomino Arabian, one of the stinkers that my mom raised and trained for riding. Marta reminds me of him with that little jig when you take her out. Try riding that for a couple of hours!
“My mom passed in 2011 from cancer. She was diagnosed one minute and gone two months later. Having to give away her two last horses broke her heart. Believe it or not, the second day she was in hospice there happened to be a couple with a therapy horse and pony who visited her. She got to say her last goodbye to horses after all. Only in Tucson.
“I love all the horses at SAFE, I love the work and people, if they can stick around. Soon I hope to retire from massage and work some other days at SAFE. I want to know the horses better than a couple of minutes on turn out, but for now the smell of horse poop is good enough for me.”
Skye, Monique’s co-lead on Monday nights, had this to say about her being chosen as a June Volunteer of the Month: “Yay Monique!! She totally deserves it. She’s only missed one day in her almost two years of volunteering. Plus she is such a fun, positive person and a great co-lead.”
Scott Bailey, Horsemanship volunteer and more!
Scott Bailey can be in jeans saddling up his favorite horse Justin one day, and waltz into the Heart of the Horse auction looking dapper in a suit the next. Scott mainly works horses in the Horsemanship program now, but he started on a chore shift and has spent plenty of time cleaning stalls. In addition, he is always eager to pitch in and help when we need him, from running errands for the auction committee to shoveling snow. Since August of 2017, Scott has been wowing us with his commitment.
Our Operations Director, Terry Phelps eloquently sums up the many reasons we have chosen Scott Bailey as a May Volunteer of the Month:
“Scott’s commitment and passion for helping the SAFE horses in all aspects of their rehabilitation and training has been invaluable. He cares deeply about the horse’s wellbeing and finding clear ways to communicate with them. Scott has ended up working a few of our more troubled geldings and has done a remarkable job helping them become more gentle and prepared for adoption. Scott is always willing to lend a helping hand and on top of helping in our Horsemanship program, he often is found filling in on chores and facilities needs. I was very thankful for his help and height during the snow storm clean up, as he cleared snow, ice and debris from our roofs.”
Scott lives in Rainier Beach with his life partner, Stephanie Levine. Scott says he feels lucky that Stephanie not only supports his work with SAFE, but encourages it. Scott works in technology and loves the combination of skills he uses in his job. “My work is at the intersection of people and technology. I work with sales teams implementing best practices using systems and cloud software tools to improve sales processes. I’m delighted to be starting a brand-new role with Egencia, the corporate travel division of Expedia!”
Scott moved to Bellevue, WA from Washington DC when he was 13, and the move west led him to his first interactions with horses. “I think I was about 10 when I took my first riding lesson. A horse was all I ever wanted and asked for one constantly. When my parents moved to Bellevue, they bought an acre, built a house and barn and bought me a horse at 14. Our house bordered the trail system that led into Bridle Trails Park where I spent countless hours riding my Appaloosa-Arab. Being part Appaloosa, Washakie had been named after a great Nez Perce Indian chief. He was a wonderful horse for me, especially being in my backyard. He would whinny to me when I came home from school. He would kick his barn door madly on weekends when I was trying to sleep in and was upset that I hadn’t fed him yet. He loved to flip the light switch on and off that was installed to closely to his stall door and would get me in trouble for failing to turn out the lights when I came up to the house from the barn each evening. Sadly, I had to sell him when I went off to college at 18.”
As an adult, Scott was searching for a place where he could get involved with horses again and also give back. He was referred to SAFE by a good friend. “I looked at a variety of options and places and SAFE looked like it would be a good fit for me.” Scott’s current SAFE buddy is Justin. “I have really connected with him and I feel he has connected with me. I really appreciate how much he tries. He is so smart and such a kind horse. I always feel such peace within myself after a training session with Justin.”
Scott is deeply touched by his work with SAFE. “I always feel as if I get back more than I give. I love the community that has been built and continues to be nurtured at SAFE. I so admire the many strong, passionate and loving women at SAFE. There are so many amazing role models for young women to follow and learn from at SAFE. As a father of two awesome daughters, I am always looking for great women that my daughters can learn from and be mentored by. SAFE is full of these women and I love that!! I don’t feel deserving of volunteer of the month but I am appreciative of the recognition. I want to thank Terry, Jolene, and Joel for all they have taught me about horsemanship. I have learned so much and will remain eternally grateful. The more I learn, the more I feel I must give back to SAFE and our herd. Personally, I think these amazing horses are helping me more than I am helping them.”
André Cabrera, Night Checker Extraordinaire!
Attention to detail, follow through, reliability, clear communication; all attributes of a rock-star volunteer, and André Cabrera has them in spades. André has been with SAFE since January of 2018. She has spent time on a chore shift and as a shift lead, as well as well as being a super help of at the 2018 horse show. André’s schedule is such that she is now most available to do night check, and she truly excels at this task. Night check is all about details and making sure everything is off, away, locked up, closed, safe, quiet, and that the horses are all looking good. André keeps the horses safe and the farm on track with her work on night check.
Born and raised in St. Louis, Missouri, André is a hometown girl and a die-hard Cardinals fan and lover of the Clydesdales. She currently lives in Redmond Ridge with her other half, Jorge, but is moving to Woodinville soon. Outside of baseball, André spends lots of time with her two Bernese Mountain Dogs, Pippa and Truman. She’s been doing agility with both of them just for fun for about 5 years, and they all love it.
André also loves to travel, ski, garden, workout and read, but much of the time spent on these things has taken a back seat to Jimi Hendrix, her special horse. Here she tells the story of Jimi. “I spend a big chunk of my time with him. I go to the barn every day without fail because that is the commitment that I made to Jimi when I adopted him. Jimi Hendrix came into my life about 3 ½ years ago. I met him at a retired racehorse rescue where I was volunteering, and we were instantly drawn to each other. He’d had a successful two-year racing career (just to be clear, I am absolutely not a fan of the track) at Emerald Downs and Golden Gate Fields until the tragic accident that left him with a fractured knee. That was the end of his racing career.
“As with many track horses, Jimi has a vice, and his just happens to be cribbing. Sadly, the man who owned the farm where the rescue ran its operation blamed Jimi for ruining his fence line and he actually threatened to take a gun to Jimi’s head. He was only 5 years old at the time and there was no way that I was going to let that happen. I had no plans of getting another horse, but fate took the reins and before you know it, I adopted Jimi and we’ve been together for almost 3 years now.
“After giving Jimi time to let down from the track and heal his wounded knee, I was able to turn Jimi out with a gelding herd, which has had an amazing impact on his demeanor. I’ve been working with my trainer on in-hand dressage work and occasionally liberty. We are preparing Jimi so that I may start riding him this summer.
“About 7 months ago I started working on Saturdays at Topline Equestrian Centre, where I board Jimi. Over the course of time, I have had many philosophical discussions with the owner of Topline, and we realized that we have a mutual interest in sustaining the sanctuary for horses and people that Topline has become over the past couple of decades. Recently she decided she was ready to retire and sell Topline, and I found my new career path as the owner and manager of Topline (effective May 1st). If I hadn’t adopted Jimi, this career-changing, life-altering opportunity never would have come about. I’m a great believer that everything happens for a reason.”
According to André, her passion for horses goes back to her very early childhood when she first learned to ride on her aunt and uncle’s farm. She took Hunter / Jumper lessons, eventually earned a spot on the Murray State University Equestrian Team, and acquired her first off-the-track Thoroughbred, Silent Partner. She says they had a magical partnership and accomplished great things in the Hunter / Jumper ring during their 5 years together before his premature and unexpected passing.
André feels that for the neglected and abused horses that are lucky enough to wind up at SAFE, she loves being a part of giving each and every one of them a new chance at a better life than the one they left behind. And, for the horses that were relinquished to SAFE due to financial or health circumstances, she just wants to contribute to helping them transition to their new surroundings and help give them a sense of security and caring in their environment. She loves all of the SAFE horses, but has a soft spot for baby Rae.
For André, Night Check is the best shift, she says, “it’s really my favorite shift and I feel fortunate to be one of just a handful that gets to experience this shift. It’s such a treat because I get to interact with every single one of the horses and learn their individual personalities.” Her husband, Jorge, comes with her to the barn in the evenings and she says they make a great team and enjoy tucking the horses in for the night.
Thank you Scott and André, for all you do to support SAFE! Congratulations on being named May Volunteers of the Month, and good luck on your new career adventures.
Maintaining the facility here at SAFE is a big responsibility. We have an amazing Facilities Team that works hard to create a healthy, safe environment for the horses and people of SAFE. Sometimes they receive assistance from generous members of the community, looking to use their skills and resources to benefit our nonprofit. We would like to thank two such individuals: John Hansen and Derek Lapp.
In 2017, John Hansen of NW Land Management donated his services and cleared acres of blackberry bushes and overgrowth so we could reclaim the land. John came to our aid again in 2018 to create a gravel road leading out to the mares’ paddock, keeping our volunteers and horses from having to walk through deep mud on their way to turnout. John is a master of heavy equipment and he generously supports our mission. Thank you, John, for helping us with the heavy lifting!
Derek Lapp is a professional electrician who was introduced to SAFE through friends. Derek used his skills to install new lights in many locations across the property to help keep us safe, especially during the dark winter months. Additionally, he installed a new exterior outlet so we could heat-wrap our water main to prevent freezing. Without his help, we would quite literally be in the dark. Thank you, Derek, for using your talents to help SAFE!
No joke, no April fooling, these gals do a ton behind the scenes to help keep SAFE programs running. With an organization like SAFE there a million little details to attend to, no one volunteer or staff person has time to make all of these things happen, which is why we rely on the talents of so many. This month we are celebrating some volunteers whose names and faces you might not know because they do their work from home, or at times when the barn is quiet. We value every minute of our volunteers’ time and energy and so we are happy to tell you about our April Volunteers of the Month: Mary Jones and Suzette Mendoza.
Mary is the fashion wonder behind Sunny and Shasta’s public appearances. Whenever these tiny ambassadors have an event, Mary comes ahead of time to groom them, be-ribbon their manes and tails, and maybe even paint their hooves! Mary patiently and lovingly makes sure they shine and look adorable so as to present the best face for SAFE. Even though Sunny and Shasta will be in the spotlight, Mary’s isn’t the glamour job. In truth, the minis don’t adore standing around for their beauty routine, but Mary makes is nice for them with special hay in their basket and plenty of scratches and pats. Mary has helped out in other capacities too, particularly the horse show last summer where she kept the main arena moving on schedule.
SAFE Foster Coordinator Laura McCorkle and trainer introduced Mary to SAFE last year. Mary is a native Washingtonian, born in Olympia and now residing in Kenmore with her husband Ken. Mary rode as a child but did not get her first horse until she was an adult. Mary owns a big, black beauty of a Percheron named Kyrie, who she has had for 12 years. She spends as much time as she can riding Kyrie, playing with her grandchildren Jayda and Jamison, and walking her dog Sarg. Mary also volunteers for her church and enjoys spending time with her children Sara and Austin. Mary also loves to travel.
Mary loves volunteering for SAFE because she has so much heart for what we do for unfortunate horses. She loves all of the horses that come in, but obviously has a soft spot for Shasta and Sunny, who she spends most of her time with. Thank you, Mary, for your patience and attention to detail. You help us put our best hoof forward! Congratulations on being named an April Volunteer of the Month.
SAFE’s Alumni program is something that makes us stand out as a rescue. We commit volunteer resources to making sure that all of our adopted horses are still doing well in their new homes. The Alumni program coordinates site checks with adopters, goes to visit each horse every year on or around the anniversary of their adoption, sends newsletters to SAFE Alumni, and assists when SAFE horses need to be rehomed for any reason. We make a promise to each horse we take in to make sure they are safe for life. Our Alumni volunteers keep that promise. Another behind the scenes superstar is Suzette Mendoza, who is the right-hand girl for our Alumni Coordinator, Sharman Conner. Here is what Shar has to say about Suzette:
“Suzette does so much great work for both the SAFE Adoption Program and the Alumni Program. She is a busy, working, mother but seems to always be able to find time to help with things like pre-adoption reference calls. I really appreciate her support and partnership!”
Suzette came to SAFE over a year ago hoping to volunteer in the barn. Not long after she became pregnant, and was unable to do barn chores. Thankfully for us, she took us up on the offer of behind the scenes volunteer work and began working with Shar to support the alumni and adoption program. Suzette coordinates visits, communicates with SAFE Alumni, and sends out the Alumni Newsletter for us. She also checks references on potential adopters and coordinates pre-adoption site visits. This is vital work to our mission and it comes with zero perks, meaning no interaction with the horses. Suzette works mostly alone in her tasks. We think this is super inspiring, for someone to help us in the trenches and without ever being seen by the majority of our other volunteers.
Suzette is from Lima, Peru and now makes Bellevue her home with her husband and their little boy. Suzette had never been around horses, but was curious to see if she could be of service here. She enjoys hearing about the horses as they make their way through the adoption process. She reads about them on the website and says: “Unfortunately, I don’t get to actually spend time with the horses but I read their stories and they all make me happy that SAFE exists and that there are good people in the world who make it their life mission to help and take in other beings who have been mistreated.”
Suzette is a busy wife and mom who also works full time. We are fortunate she uses some of her free time to help us behind the scenes. Thank you, Suzette. We see the work you do. Congratulations on being named an April Volunteer of the Month!
“Heather is extremely upbeat, hard working and adds so much fun to our crew. She loves all of the horses. You see it in how she looks forward to taking them out, talking to them and taking time with each of them. Love having her as a co-lead!”–Leigh M.
Heather Newton is a busy mom of three small children and yet finds time to co-lead an AM chore shift here at SAFE. We have been privileged to have her with us since January of 2017, just before our move. Heather never shies away from hard, dirty work. She leads with grace and kindness, welcoming new members onto her team with congeniality. We are so fortunate she shares her passion and energy with us.
Heather is a Pacific Northwest Native, hailing from Mercer Island originally, and residing in Sammamish for the past 20 years. She says she was lucky her mom’s friend had horses growing up, so she had an early introduction to the majesty of horses. She started riding when she was three years old, and continued to be around horses thanks to her friends and neighbors. Her early years put her in contact with Arabian horses, and she would travel to Arabian shows with her friend. Heather developed a love for the breed that would eventually lead her to lease one as an adult. Heather enjoyed this partnership immensely, exploring nearby trails with her horse, who she says was always up for adventure.
Heather’s busy life as a mom made it hard for her to be around animals, and that eventually led her to SAFE. “I’m a huge animal lover so 2 years ago I was really having a need to volunteer with either dogs or horses and decided horse would be safer since I can’t bring any home with me. I found SAFE’s website and read about their mission. I brought my kids to the holiday open house at the old location in Woodinville, got the photo with Sunny and Shasta of course and was hooked. I really liked the people and the obvious professionalism of the organization.” When asked what she loves about SAFE, she replied, “The horses, the energy, the smell, the sounds. I love being around other like minded people who love horses and enjoy working hard. The Wednesday AM crew is the best! The horses are so well cared for, I love being a part of it.”
Heather loves all of the SAFE horses, but has a soft spot for a few of our geldings. “Honestly, my favorite horse is Valor. He’s such a gentleman. He has a great attitude and sense of humor and is always welcoming in the morning. I also really like Justin, he’s a sweetheart and loves attention. He comes out of his shell more every time I see him.”
SAFE Barn Manager, Lori, had this to say about Heather: “She’s a delight, a real asset to SAFE. She is a hard worker with a great attitude. She is always willing to help with anything we need, and more. She wants those extra tasks. She also is a good leader and has good rapport with her team. I love her!”
When she isn’t being our barn buddy, Heather likes to ski and mountain bike. We are so grateful she spends her free time with us. Her dedication and care is inspiring. Thank you, Heather, we appreciate you!
Kimi Wagoner: Gentle, sweet, humble Sunday AM chore shift volunteer
Some of you may not have had the pleasure of meeting Sunday AM crew member, Kimi Wagoner. Although Kimi has been with SAFE since September of 2016, she is quiet and unassuming as she goes about her chores. Kimi is often in the background getting things done and does not enter the spotlight with flourish. Kimi is an amazing hard worker with the tenderest of hearts for all living creatures. Her shift lead Brandee had so many kind things to say about Kimi:
“She has a “great sense of humor and as you pointed out sweet and upbeat all the time, heart of gold especially when it comes to animals and never leaves the barn without making the rounds to pet/scratch/talk to all the horses first. We often tease her about all of her geese, baby birds, etc. on the property. She personally invested in those nubby gloves that scratch horse butt really well and Amelia has been her most appreciative client. Dependable and always willing to jump in and help with any activity… she focuses on doing a top notch job no matter what it is. I look forward to every Sunday just because Kimi will be there to banter and laugh with.”- Brandee W.
Weekend Barn Manager, Lexee has this to say: “Kimi is such a hardworking and kind volunteer. She always does her work with a smile, and she and I both have some sass, so every shift is a good time with lots of laughs shared. Every so often she brings her grooming gloves, and the horses know when she walks up to the fence, she’s got some good neck and body rubs coming for them! She always asks who I think needs some extra love, and I tell her, and as I watch from afar, I can see how happy the horses are as she reaches through the fence and gets “the spot” for each of them.”
Kimi grew up in Longview and did not have opportunities to be around horses as a young person. She lives in Shoreline now, and she found SAFE online. “I searched for animal rescue organizations in Washington State and found SAFE’s website. I never imagined my search would lead me to SAFE. I had zero horse experience and thought that would have been a negative aspect to volunteering, but it was the exact opposite. I’m very fortunate to work with a fabulous crew on Sunday morning. I’m grateful for Shar staying after our shift and grooming Mason while I groomed Stormy. I appreciate Brandee because from my first day at Woodinville SAFE up to now, she has taught me how to pick stalls, handle the horses, and is always willing to answer all my horse-related questions.”
Kimi truly enjoys getting to know all of the horses and their funny ways. She is a close observer of their behavior and finds their good itchy spots. She has had some favorites over the years. “My first favorite horse was Stormy because she was so gentle and kind. She was very patient with me and taught me all my equine skills. When she was adopted, I formed a bond with Raven. After my shift I would spend some time giving her love and grooming her with my “Raven Gloves.” She would turn one side to me and then eventually the other. She loved her butt scratched! Lately I’ve been grooming Amelia and attending to her itchy spots.”
Kimi has her own little place with her husband and their dog, cats, chickens, and rabbits. She and her husband are avid sports fans and like to root for the Huskies and the Sounders. Kimi also likes to go to the driving range. SAFE is a kind, welcoming place, thanks, in part to Kimi. Thank you, Kimi, and congratulations on being a Volunteer of the Month.